Welcome To The Weekend

After the problems I had sleeping back on Wednesday evening, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I slept pretty well last night. I woke up at about 4AM from a vivid, terrifying nightmare that took a little while to calm down from, but when I was asleep, I slept very well.

When I woke up this morning, J was getting ready for work and my cold hadn’t gone away. A CPAP mask feels weird enough, but coughing and sneezing into one is even weirder (and much more disgusting). I got up, had some breakfast, and got ready for the day.

I did some writing for a while, then headed to the basement and watched Interstellar. I found it to be a fantastic movie with kind of a weak ending. It was long, too – over two and a half hours – but it did its job of grabbing my attention and keeping it for the duration. I don’t know what I’d do if I was an astronaut, alone in another galaxy. Part of me thinks I’d jump up and down in glee, but the majority of my brain just can’t process that kind of loneliness.

After the movie was over I played around with my Raspberry Pi computers and installed SETI@Home on a couple of them. They’ll take forever to do the calculations but at they use very little power and that way they’re doing something. Who knows – maybe my little Pis will find some alien signal.

Once I was done playing with the computers, I went back to writing. I find that when I’m in the mood, stuff just pours out of my brain, into my fingers, and onto the keyboard. I like writing all kinds of stuff. Short and medium-length stories, primarily sci-fi or mystery, that sort of thing. I’ve got three stories on the go right now and pick one to work on that matches my mood.

After that, it was more Mass Effect. I sure do like that game. I get a kick out of the bickering between companions when we’re driving around on some God-forsaken alien planet.

After J got home, we had supper and then talked for a while. J went to get some of her evening stuff done and I sat down at the table with a canvas and paints and spent over an hour painting another masterpiece. This time it was a pier going out into the sea. Dr C has a picture like that on the wall of her office and I did my best to emulate it. Of course, I’m not a painter… but I still enjoyed myself.

I think I’m probably going to spend the rest of my evening blowing my nose and watching some more episodes of Community. That’s a good way to start the weekend.

Stay safe!

Don’t Wait

I was a bit of a strange kid. I’d always stay awake during trips in case something happened, I’d always be the designated driver, and when I was in university I’d always be the one who helped (and sometimes carried) the drunk people up to their dorm rooms and check in on them. It wasn’t fun but I always felt like I had to be the responsible person in the room.

Fast forward some years to when I started working in my current job. I was responsible for ensuring business continuity in the event of a disaster. Disaster planning became one of my specialties – at the time I didn’t realize it, but I was feeding my OCD and using it to help me be a better planner. Other people would send me their disaster recovery plans and I’d always find something that they’d missed, regardless of how unlikely it was.

Then, in 2012, management changed. I could no longer get spare parts for the equipment that I was responsible for and had to start cannibalizing redundant systems. Management didn’t seem to understand or care how important the systems were. I was starting to spin out of control, my OCD and anxiety opening the door to panic attacks and severe depression.

All along, J was trying to get me to go and see someone about what was going on. I was sure I could handle it myself – I figured all I needed to do was put my head down and work harder. I started getting headaches every day. I was grinding my teeth in my sleep. I was not pleasant to talk to. Eventually, I realized I wasn’t able to get angry anymore, I just felt dull irritation and resignation to everything.

J was very patient and supportive of me, and when I finally started to listen to her and looked around for a therapist, she was 150% onboard. My first session was very difficult. I wasn’t sure how things went, and to be honest, I wasn’t completely sure I needed to be there. It didn’t take long, though, for Dr C to figure out what was going on. My OCD had taken over and I was spiralling downwards like a bird with a broken wing. She suggested I speak with my GP about medications, which, while terrible at the time, paved the way for me to meet Dr W and get the proper medications.

Could I have avoided a lot of these problems and heartache if I’d just listened to J and went to a therapist before I was already in deep trouble? I’m pretty sure the answer to that is yes. Maybe not all of them, but it would have helped. Even just the grounding techniques that Dr C taught me were invaluable and, if I’d known them earlier, would have helped me tremendously at work. I don’t think I would have ended up in the psych ward twice, and, with luck, I wouldn’t have experienced suicidal ideations or auditory hallucinations.

I guess what I’m saying is that if you have family or friends who are worried about you, or you’re worried about yourself, don’t wait to see someone. There are resources out there you can access, people who want to help you, and people who are paid to help you. Don’t wait until you feel like there’s no way out or nobody who you can talk to. Millions of people experience the same feelings – you are not alone. Nip mental illness in the bud by talking to someone before things get out of control!

Stay safe!

It’s Going Around

I didn’t sleep very well last night. Between worrying about those government changes and the reduction in my Zopiclone, I couldn’t fall asleep. Usually it takes about two hours for the medication to kick in and start to slow me down in the evening but I think I was somewhere around five hours in before I fell asleep. The sleep I did get, though, was very good. That new mattress pad works wonders. It feels kind of weird when I first sit on it but it helps my back out a tremendous amount.

J had today off so we split up around 11:30AM. I headed off to my appointment with Dr C and J headed off to the Honda dealership to get the summer tires put back on. My appointment went quite well – I think we’re starting to get close to cracking the source of some of my problems. That would be fantastic but boy, is it tiring. I always surprise myself with how mentally tired I am after a session. There’s an awful lot of thinking and listening to my mind involved and I still sometimes find it hard to accept that I need or deserve help. To top if off, I forgot the cheque today. Dr C was fine with that but I still felt pretty bad about it. I’m glad she knows that I’m not trying to rip her off.

After my appointment, I met J at the dealership and we went to Canadian Tire to pick up some seeds, lawn bags, and deck waterproofing stain. Midway through our walk through the store, I started to feel quite tired. By the time we got back into the truck, my throat had begun to hurt. By the time I got home I had a headache and my skin hurt.

I’ve caught the cold that’s going around. Wonderful.

I went and plopped myself down on the couch in the basement, pulled a blanket up to my neck, and tried to get comfortable. I think I snoozed for a little while but I wasn’t very comfortable so I ended up going up to bed and getting an hour or so of sleep. Some Tylenol helped my aches so things weren’t too bad, but I feel like I’ve been dragged behind a gravel truck. Hopefully I kick the bug quickly and am back to feeling well.

This evening J and I are going to watch some more episodes of Community and putter around the house a bit. There’s always something that needs cleaning up or fixing!

Stay safe!

Feeling A Little Stressed Out

Today went quite well. I slept not too badly, had a good morning, and got a fair amount of stuff done around the house. I’ve been playing with a Raspberry Pi and seeing if I can turn it into a little personal webserver. I’m not particularly enjoying it but in some ways it feels good to sit down and play with a little computer again.

I had a really good chat with my parents this morning. We talked about all kinds of stuff, and Dad is very interested in coming out here to help me set up a raised garden in the back yard and maybe even do a couple of other little projects around the house. I know I’ve said it before, but I’m really lucky that my entire family is so supportive of J and I. I couldn’t ask for better parents or in-laws.

This afternoon I had my appointment with Dr W. Things went well – my zopiclone dose has been cut in half – that’s three weeks of reductions in a row! He was also happy to hear that I’d made it to the group session yesterday, both from the perspective of attending a group and that it was the farthest destination I’ve been able to drive to since I got sick. I really like Dr W – he’s a straight arrow and a really nice guy. I think that it’s really important to be able to get along with your doctor, possibly even moreso when it comes to psychiatry.

The government released a new budget a little while ago and I had a chance to ask Dr W how it was going to affect care around town. His answer wasn’t particularly encouraging but he cautioned me, saying that government moves at the speed of… well, government, and there’s always a chance nothing will happen. Or even the opposite of what they say. Regardless, I’m going to try to put together a letter to send to my local government representative. I find change difficult and I’m not looking forward to any that may be coming my way.

Other than that, J and I watched a couple of episodes of the first season of Community. It’s a great show that can make me laugh even when I’m a little stressed out.

Stay safe!

Tales From The Ward, Part I

I kept a journal from the times when I was in the hospital so I figured that I’d post excerpts from some of the entries every once in a while. I can’t name or even describe people or their actions, so everything is going to be limited to me and what I went through.

Okay, here we go…

 

Day 1

I arrived in the evening, after being in the ER at one hospital for a physical evaluation, a Crisis Centre for my initial psych evaluation, and spending overnight at another hospital’s psych unit. The staff at the front desk were very friendly and patient with me. They got me hospital clothes and socks and locked all of my regular clothes up. I met my psychiatrist, Dr W. He seems OK.

I’m in Room 17. It’s got three walls, a curtain, a little desk with no chair, a hospital bed, and some shelving. I wonder how I go about getting a chair. Maybe it takes time before I can have one.

Dr W wants to change the medications I’m on. That’s what – 3 changes now at least? At least I’m not on things I don’t need anymore. It seems my GP didn’t know what he was doing. Might need to change doctors once I’m out of here.

I’m a little frightened. The staff is great but the environment is strange and many of the residents are quite ill. I’ve tried saying hello several times but have mostly been ignored or only given the briefest of glances.

My nurse this evening is C. She’s very nice (like the other staff). She’ll be the one who gives me my medication this evening. I’ve got to admit – I have no idea how to act or what to say around the others.

I hope things go well.

 

Stay safe!

A Decent Day

I didn’t sleep all that well last night but I still felt pretty good when I got up. I had cereal for breakfast and chatted with J until she headed off to work. I thought about taking a nap but instead I sat at my desk, brainstorming about work and education and time. I didn’t come to any conclusions but I did write out a couple of pages of ideas. Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to get closer to where I want to be the next time I look at it.

I think about work a lot. Having time off is really allowing me to get better, but I want to help people and be a positive contributor to society. I’m following all of the instructions I get from Dr W and Dr C and I can feel a general trend upward but I’m still scared that I’ll have a really down day (like a two or a three) or have a bunch of panic attacks. Plus, I still can’t drive very far and I can’t answer the phone.

This afternoon I went to my first group session outside of a hospital. I took a few wrong turns but I got there. It was very interesting and the facilitators were very good. As it’s like Fight Club, I can’t go into much more detail but I think I’m going to try it again next week and see how it goes, then talk to Dr W and Dr C and see if this should be something I pursue.

On a happy note, driving to the group session marked the farthest I’ve driven from home since I went into the hospital on May of last year! In some ways I’m proud of myself, but in others I’m still embarrassed and disappointed in myself for not being able to drive wherever and whenever I want.

This evening, J and I had a wonderful dinner and then went downstairs to start putting the room we call the “laboratory” back together. It had turned into a dumping ground for stuff we were sorting through but we’d really like a clean, functional room so we started there. All of my Spongebob memorabilia went into a box for later opening or getting rid of. I really like the early Spongebob cartoons (yes, I realize I’m 40+) and my family and friends got me a lot of Spongebob loot over the years.

This evening I started to set up a little webserver at home using a Raspberry Pi. I’m pretty rusty with this stuff so it’s taking a lot more thinking than I’d expected.

In just a short while J and I are going to head to the rec room and watch some TV – probably a few episodes of Community. All in all, the day was quite successful and I’m feeling pretty good, probably around a six or six and a half.

Stay safe!

My Worry Time

I have a lot of anxiety. I’m taking medication for it and undergoing therapy for it, but I’ve always been an anxious person. You know the type – the guy who’d rather get to the airport three hours early and go through security right away just in case? That’s me. Whenever I hear sirens, my first thoughts are that I did something wrong or one of my family or friends is in trouble. Once I became ill, my anxiety shot through the roof and was making me do all kinds of strange things. I’d pace back and forth with my arms moving around like someone else was running them, stutter or lose words mid-sentence, and be completely unable to relax.

One of the more difficult but rewarding tools that Dr C has taught me is how to compartmentalize my worry. I found the idea kind of silly at first but now I’m a firm believer. The idea is to reserve a specific block of time each day where you can sit down and concentrate on all the things that are worrying you. It can be everything from OCD matters to family issues, to the irrational fears that tell you you’re never going to get better. You concentrate hard on those worries and think through them one at a time.

Once you’re done, you set aside the worries and go about your day. Now, it would be ridiculous to think that just because you’ve worried for an hour you won’t have any worries the rest of the day, but now you can tell them that you’ll get to them again tomorrow. Sometimes I treat the worries like bullies and tell them in my mind (and sometimes out loud) to get lost. Other times I tell them to go ahead and say whatever they want but I’m going to ignore them for now.

I’m still not very good at it, but with the practice I’ve had so far it’s definitely helping. My worry time is from 9 to 10AM every day (unless something else comes up), which makes sure I’m awake and alert and am ready to worry my face off. I think it’s important to set aside a specific time so that I can tell the worries that I’ll talk to them at 9AM tomorrow. That way, it feels less like a therapy tool and more like some kind of strange office meeting.

What do I worry about? Well, pretty much every aspect of my life. Am I getting better? When will I be able to go back to work? Is J getting tired of me having crisis after crisis and is thinking of leaving? What’s going to happen if J loses her job? Am I going to be of any use in a crisis situation, like one of my parents getting sick or worse? Is the house okay? Are DA, FA, and WG still going to be my friends in a year? What the hell am I going to do if we get bedbugs?

That’s just a small sample. Like I said, I worry about pretty much everything. At the end of the hour, I say to myself that the worry period is over and will begin again tomorrow at 9AM and all of the worries are invited back. I hope they don’t come back, but if they do, I’ll deal with them then.

I have also found that this takes some of the bite out of the worries for the rest of the day. Being able to tell myself I’ve already worked on it helps a great deal.

This is another very useful technique that I’m going to keep in my tool box. Maybe someday I will be able to use less than an hour. That would be great!

Stay safe!

A Good Day

Today was a good day. I slept very well last night and don’t even remember having any bad dreams. J and I had a good chat before she left for work, and then I puttered around the house for a while before driving to WG’s place and meeting up with him to go to the record store.

That’s where we started, anyway. After the record store we drove around looking for a decent restaurant that was open today, had lunch, and went to a bunch of other thrift stores and pawn shops to see what they had for records. I picked up a few records over the course of our travels; the most interesting one was a red vinyl 10” that’s from the late 1950s. I’m looking forward to giving them a listen over the next few days. I also got a cassette-to-8-track converter that was in the junk pile. I’ve seen CD to cassette converters, but never an 8-track converter. Pretty cool stuff.

We were out for almost five hours and it was great! I only had trouble twice – once when a police car was driving by the record store with sirens wailing, and in one of the thrift stores where their alarm kept going off. I almost had to go outside for that one. By the time I got home I was exhausted but feeling pretty good. I had a great time and we’re going to try and make this a regular thing. I’m very lucky to have such good friends!

When I got home, I put my new finds in the basement, put up a post, and then lumbered over to the couch for a quick nap. J got home and we talked for a little while before I fell asleep again (sorry about that) and then we had supper. After supper, I played a bit of Mass Effect and did a bit of web browsing. I’m still avoiding the news sites. J and I are going to sit down and watch a movie or something shortly.

With luck, tomorrow will be good like today. I’m hoping to get to that group in the afternoon and give it a try. It would be great if it works out – even if I only go once a month or sporadically, it will be good to be in an environment with other people who share some of the same mental health experiences that I have.

Stay safe!

My Problem With The Phone

Trigger Warning: this post may contain content that can trigger a shift in mood, comfort, or mental status. Proceed at your own risk.

One of the things that really bothers me about my illness is how it’s got its tendrils wrapped around almost every aspect of my life, making normally simple tasks difficult or impossible. One of the best examples of this is answering the phone, or rather, how I’m unable to.

It started happening while I was still at work. At first I was just dreading getting phone calls. Then I would sit there and stare at the call display and be unable to answer the phone unless I was sure I knew who it was. It finally got to the point where the phone would ring and I would get up and leave my office because I was afraid of who was calling or what they may have wanted. The same thing was happening at home – the phone would ring and I would try to ignore it or wait until it was done ringing and then check the call display log to see who called.

Here’s what happens when the phone rings: my pulse and breathing speed up, I start to sweat, and there’s an uncomfortable feeling in my chest that reminds me that a panic attack is probably on the way. All I can think about while the phone is ringing is that someone’s calling to call me back into work, wants to question the legitimacy of my illness, or has terrible, world-shattering news to tell me. I feel like a frightened little kid who wants to hide under a piece of heavy furniture – just because the phone is ringing! It’s embarrassing and frustrating at the same time.

I have tried Exposure Response but as I have no control over when the phone rings, it’s difficult to get myself ready for it. I’ve tried changing the ringer volume and sound but that hasn’t helped either. I’m not sure what the best course of action is at this point but I think this is something I need to work on with Dr C. If I ever want to get back to work (and I do want to get back to work), I really need to be able to reliably answer the phone.

Even typing the previous sentence out makes me feel silly. I’m a 40+ year old man who gets scared whenever the phone rings. I understand that mental illness has a lot of manifestations, but of all of them that I’ve experienced so far, this one has to be right up there with the most embarrassing.

I am hopeful, though. Dr C and Dr W have guided me through many dark and scary corners of my mind and I’m able to do a lot more than I used to. Hopefully this will be no different.

Stay safe!

Turned The Corner

Things started to look better on Saturday evening. I began to feel like I wanted to do things instead of spending all of my time in bed. Today things are even better, and just in time, too. I have a very busy week ahead of me: going record shopping with WG on Monday, group on Tuesday, Dr W appointment on Wednesday, Dr C appointment on Thursday, hanging out with FA on Friday. It’s going to be good.

I’m quite curious about how the group will go. I’ve never been to one outside of the hospital and I hope this one is as open and friendly as those ones were. I got a lot out of them and they really helped me when I was in bad shape. I’m a little nervous about driving to it but I think I’ll practice tomorrow and see how well it goes. J has the buses all figured out so if I need to go that route I can.

J and I may have solved another problem that’s been bothering me lately – my back has been really sore when I’ve been sleeping. So much that it wakes me up between 3 and 4AM and it’s very difficult to find a comfortable position to get back to sleep. It’s my whole back, too – from the base of my neck to my hips. I was worried one of the medications were causing it, but it turns out that since I got my CPAP machine I’ve been sleeping on my back a lot. Before the CPAP, I would sleep on my sides or stomach so it looks like I’m just not used to sleeping on my back for hours at a time. We put some a couple of large pillows on the bed last night and I slept on them and my back this morning was fine, so it looks like a mattress pad is in order. That’s an easy fix and a bit of a relief – I was worried it was one or more of the medications I’m taking that was the cause.

The plants are doing well. All eight tomato plants are about 3-4 inches tall at this point, the beans are about a foot tall, and lots of peppers and some of the herbs are coming up. I talked to my dad this morning and asked him if he’d be interested in helping me build a raised garden and he jumped at the idea. It shouldn’t take too long – the slowest task will probably be filling it up with soil and putting in the plants. I’m tempted to keep some of the herbs inside this year because every summer caterpillars demolish the parsley.

Oh, man, I’m feeling SO much better than I did earlier this week. The downs aren’t fun, but coming out of them sure feels good. I have J to thank for a lot of that. Even though I wasn’t a ball of fun to be around, she hung out and kept talking to me and was very supportive. She made an Easter cake last night that looked like the back half of a bunny and it was delicious. Then today she made steaks for supper and they were so good I was sad when they were gone. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I’m really very lucky to have such a wonderful, supportive wife. Somehow she can stand me on the days that I can’t stand myself.

All in all, the weekend was pretty good. I didn’t accomplish an awful lot, but I think that feeling better today than I have for the last six days is a pretty good accomplishment.

Stay safe!