Feeling A Bit Down

Song: “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits

Mood: 5.5

Today has been one of those days where all I wanted to do was go back to bed. It was a struggle to do almost anything. I managed to force myself to keep mostly to my daily routine, however, and I even spent some time in the garage tidying up. The day went on forever.

I put together the next batch of triops eggs to see if they’ll grow. I used different water source and a different container. Hopefully I’ll see something in the next couple of days.

I heard from FA and we’re going to get together on Friday, which is good news. She bought some old shellac records at a garage sale and we’re going to see if they’ll play on my turntable. Hopefully they run at either 33 or 45.

J and I watched A Fistful of Dollars this evening. Ah, to live in the old days when all you needed to do was make sure you found food and didn’t die of dysentery or exposure. We watched it once a while ago but on the second time through it made a lot more sense.

It’s been dark and gloomy here all day. Got some rain and a few booms of thunder but that was about it. It’s supposed to be in the 30s on the weekend, though.

Tomorrow I have appointments with both Dr C and Dr W. I need to make sure I get up a little earlier than normal so I don’t miss anything.

Other than that, not much is going on.

Stay safe!

A Decent Monday

Song: “B.C.” by Sparks

Mood: 6.5

Today was a pretty good day. I slept pretty well last night and felt quite refreshed when I got up. I’m not sure if I’ve said it here before, but the CPAP machine is a wonderful invention.

I kept quite busy today. I did some laundry (which I’m still way behind on), puttered around the house a bit, did some meditating and mindfulness exercises, and listened to a lot of music. It felt good to be active – everything was easy to do today, which was a nice treat.

I could see no trace of any triops in their little container and it was starting to smell odd so I dumped the water and will try again. I only used about half the package on my first attempt; maybe I’ll have more luck tomorrow when I start another batch. I really hope they work out – it’ll be neat to see something that can be traced back in the fossil record by 300 million years. Kind of like if we had a coelacanth in the living room aquarium.

I’m still thinking a lot about work. J has told me that there is no question about it – I will not be going back to my old job. Dr C and Dr W both agree. I’m afraid that somehow returning to my old job will become the only option. I don’t know why I keep thinking about it and I really wish I could stop. Fortunately, I have an appointment with both Dr C and Dr W on Wednesday so maybe they may be able to help me out.

I gave my folks a call this evening and had a really enjoyable conversation with them. I hadn’t talked to them in a couple of days and it was nice to catch up and see how they were doing. The time flew by, too – we were on the phone for almost an hour.

I have two young nephews who live quite far away and I’ve been thinking of sending them letters every once in a while about different kinds of science. Maybe send them a Sea Monkey kit and enclose a letter about biology, or send them a pair of inexpensive binoculars and tell them about birds or astronomy or something. I’d like to give them examples of different sciences to see if they’re interested in anything. If not, no problem, but I thought it might be fun for both me and them. Now that I think about it, I should probably speak with their parents first…

J and I are also trying to figure out what show we’re going to watch next, now that we’ve finished Community. To be honest, I would be perfectly happy starting Community all over again but it’s probably a good idea to put something else in there for variety. I think we’re going to have a movie night tomorrow and possibly watch another Western.

Stay safe!

I Am Not Weak

My mother-in-law sent me an email a while ago when I was feeling pretty down. She told me she wished I’d stop beating up on myself and remember that I’m sick, not weak.

She was right.

On my down days it’s difficult to get out of bed, difficult to shower, difficult to feed myself and difficult to take my medication. It can feel like I’m taking steps backward in my recovery. It took me a long time to realize that that feeling of slipping backwards is part of my recovery – every day can’t be rainbows, unicorns, and sprinkle-covered donuts.

Mental illness is just that – an illness. The brain is a very complex machine and we don’t understand a lot of what makes it do different things. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and neurologists are getting better at it all the time, though.

We are living in good times. People are no longer locked away in asylums for the rest of their lives, militaries are starting to recognize that PTSD is not “cowardice”, lobotomies are no longer suggested as the only way to “cure” patients, and Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT) is a precise and safe tool – far removed from the old brute force electroshock days.

There are many antidepressant, antipsychotic, and panic-relieving drugs available. Combine that with new psychological treatments like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and it becomes apparent that we are very lucky to be living in this age of psychiatric and psychological treatment.

There’s still a long way to go, however. Too many people still view mental illness as a weakness or a failure on the part of the sufferer. Too many employers either don’t recognize mental illness as a problem or don’t follow their own mental illness program. Other employers have a mental illness program but have byzantine requirements in place to access it. Insurance companies hate paying out money so they’ll put applicants who are having difficulty functioning through the wringer to try and avoid it.

It’s very important to remember that mental illness IS an illness. I certainly didn’t ask for it, and I’d really like to return to a somewhat normal state as soon as possible. It may take years, but I’m going to do my best. I’m sick, not weak.

You’re not weak, either.

Stay safe!

The Weekend Has Gone Well…

Song: “Bumble Boogie” by B. Bumble & the Stingers

Mood: 6.5

J is on her way home as I type this, and I will be very glad when she’s back. This weekend went pretty well, though.

I finished the main story of Mass Effect: Andromeda and fortunately, the game lets you go back and finish all the side quests after the game is “over”, too. I think it’s a pretty good game. Maybe not quite as good as the first three ME games but quite good all the same.

I also listened to a lot of records and watch a few of my favourite episodes of Community. J and I watched the series finale and I found myself quite sad that it was all over. The acting was great, the writing was great, and the characters were great. I guess one of the good things about having the DVDs is that you can go back and watch it all over again whenever you want. We kind of did the same thing with Scrubs – another great show.

I was feeling pretty good so I was able to do a couple of hours of mindfulness exercises. Some days they’re a lot easier to do than others, and it was very easy to clear my mind and get into it this weekend. I find that it’s very important for me to do mindfulness exercises regularly – it helps a lot when I can figure out where particular thoughts are coming from and deal with the cause, not just the thought.

Yesterday, I could see a little tiny translucent triop swimming around. It looked like a tiny little stingray doing loops and dives in the container. Unfortunately, I can’t find it at all today. Maybe it’s hiding in the sediment, maybe it died… I’ll give it a few more days before I toss the water out and try again.

I may be going record shopping tomorrow morning with WG. I’m not 100% sure at this point but we spoke last week and were hoping to get to the record store. We always go on Mondays because that’s when the “new” records are put out. I usually give them a quick look before heading to the dollar shelf and going through that.

J just got home so I’m going to end this here. I hope everyone had a decent weekend!

Stay safe!

Good Friends Make For A Good Day

Song: “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen

Mood: 8

I had some difficulties last night after I posted – I got quite anxious and was having trouble keeping it under control. I ended up taking a PRN lorazepam to help me calm down.

I slept well, though, and felt pretty good when I finally got up.

I spent the morning puttering around the house and doing some more tidying up. Again, it felt good to be busy. The excess anxiety from last night was gone, thank goodness.

At about 2PM FA arrived. She came in and we had a good chat for a little while and then headed off to the hardware store. We had coupons that would save $15 if we spent $75 so we took our time going through the store, trying to find things that were justifiably useful enough to buy (which usually isn’t a problem at that store). They have a really neat surplus area where you can find all kinds of neat stuff and some pretty ratty junk, too.

It was good to hang out with FA. I appreciate that she’s my friend and doesn’t judge or expect me to be anything other than I am. She’s a really good friend and I have fun doing stuff with her.

As we were doing our second run-through of the store, we ran into J, who just happened to be in the same store looking for a garden hose hanger. The three of us chatted away as we walked through the store toward the cashiers and had a couple of laughs.

FA had some other business to get to so when we got back to the house we said goodbye and she left. J and I then sat down and talked about our days and I showed her what I’d bought. We had supper and then sat in the living room for a while. I’m pretty tired right now – I’m not used to spending that much time wandering around – but it’s a good tired. One of those I-think-I’m-going-to-sleep-really-well-tonight kinds of tired.

This evening I think J and I are going to watch a couple more episodes of Community (we’re getting close to the end now) and maybe listen to a record or two.

J leaves tomorrow morning and I need to plan what I’m going to do while she’s gone. It shouldn’t be too difficult – I’ve got a lot of things that I’d like to do.

Stay safe!

Busy Today

Song: “Rasputin” by Boney M.

Mood: 6.5

It took me a while to fall asleep last night but I think for the most part I slept well. I got up with J and had some breakfast, then went back to bed for another hour or so. When I got up I puttered around the house, tidying things and then setting up a little container to (hopefully) hatch some triops over the next day or two. I did some writing and listened to some music, then did a load of laundry and some online shopping. I tested my new laptop battery to make sure it would hold a charge and it looks like it’s working properly. I ran a load of dishes through the dishwasher and started on supper just as J got home. I also texted back and forth with FA and it looks like we’re going to get together tomorrow afternoon.

It felt good to be busy. If I keep my mind occupied I don’t think about things like work or insurance. The music helped a lot, too.

I don’t know if I mentioned this already but J is going out to her parents’ place this weekend. It will be the first time I’ve been by myself (other than when J is working) since my last hospital admission. I will miss her but I don’t think there will be any problems. I’m hoping to get a lot of things done this weekend and with luck we will both have a good time.

Stay safe!

When The Wheels Fell Off, Part III

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

A few months ago, DA invited me out to his cabin for the weekend to help him get some stuff ready for the summer. I only thought briefly about it before saying yes. I’ve always enjoyed myself at his cabin and enjoy working, riding bikes, or just hanging out. This time, the main focus was to clear deadfall from the dirtbike trails he maintains on his property. Lots of hard work, and hard work helps me feel better. It seemed like a great test for how I was doing.

He picked me up at 10AM and we headed to his cabin. As soon as we arrived, we got to work. We finished putting his dirtbike back together, changed the oil in his quad, and started in on the deadfall. Everything was going well. We worked until dark, then had supper.

After supper, we listened to music and talked about all kinds of things. At around 1130PM, he headed off to his room and I unbundled my sleeping bag and started to get ready for bed. A flash caught my eye – lightning in the distance. Not a big deal, I thought – I’ve enjoyed thunderstorms since I was a little kid watching them through the window with my mom.

The lightning and thunder came closer. I thought about how I wouldn’t be home until the next day; the thought made me uncomfortable. Discomfort changed to anxiety as the storm started to boom around the cabin, shaking the walls. Anxiety started to turn to panic, which caught me completely off guard. I should have been enjoying myself with the storm raging outside – after all, I was dry and safe. I turned on my little tripod flashlight and shone it at the ceiling to light up the area a bit (I can start to panic if I forget where I am) but it didn’t help. For the next four and a half hours, I was either terrified or outright panicking. My nighttime medications weren’t even putting a dent into it, either. I was wide awake and scared. Storm after storm rumbled through and all I wanted was to be at home, hiding in the basement with J. Being afraid of the storm was so foreign to me that it fed into my panic, too – what had I done that had broken that part of me?

Eventually, the storms died out into the distance and I fell into a nightmare-filled sleep. I woke up a few hours later feeling drained and anxious. Talking with DA and getting back to clearing trails helped a lot, but I just couldn’t shake both the anxiety and the shame I felt.

After we finished the deadfall, DA and I cleaned up and headed home. He dropped me off at home and instead of the instant relief I expected to feel, I still felt anxious and scared. Talking to J helped a lot but I just couldn’t shake it.

Over the next few nights, nightmares kept me from getting much sleep and I fell deeper into my anxiety and panic. I finally realized that I needed some extra help. J got in touch with Dr W and he had a bed ready for me 24 hours later. Ten days after that, I was out and feeling much better.

I think the problem was that I took on too much stuff at once. I hadn’t been away from home prior to that, and staying overnight was probably too much. The added stress from staying overnight probably didn’t help me deal with the storm, and the lack of sleep over the next while magnified all of the negative things going on and leaving me in really bad shape.

We haven’t had a good storm at home yet this summer, so I’m not sure if I’m going to enjoy it or want to hide out under the furniture in the basement. I’m interested to see what’s going to happen.

Dr C and Dr W wanted me to make sure that I realized that – even though it was really rough – I went out to DA’s cabin and stayed overnight. It was quite an accomplishment for someone who’s uncomfortable leaving the house. They’re right, but I sure could’ve done without all the drama.

DA has some more projects that he was asking if I could give him a hand with, and J has offered to drive out and pick me up in the evening so I didn’t have to stay overnight. I’m not sure what’s going to happen but I hope that I’ll be able to help him out.

Stay safe!

It’s Been A Good Day

Song: Theme from Knight Rider, by Stu Phillips and Glen A. Larson

Mood: 6.5

I woke up twice last night from nightmares but was able to get back to sleep. The second one was particularly bad but fortunately I was able to calm down and relax without needing any medication.

This morning I drove to the clinic to get my blood drawn for a test. Not a big deal, and it seems that getting there at about 11AM is much better than arriving when they open – I was in and out in less than half an hour. After I got out I drove around for a little while before heading home. I must admit, even though it’s much more dangerous, I think I’m more comfortable riding the motorcycle than I am driving the truck. I’m not sure why – it’s just a feeling in my stomach.

Some packages arrived, too. A new battery for my netbook, a phone holder for the truck, and the triops have arrived! I did a bit more reading and realized that it would probably be a bad idea to have both the shrimp and the triops in the same tank so this evening J and I moved the shrimp into the main aquarium. Probably a good thing, too – there’s more algae in there right now than the shrimp there could eat, so adding two more will probably be a good thing.

I think I’m going to start the triops tomorrow morning. It’ll be a good little project to set everything up. Keep me busy for a while.

J took me to my Dr W appointment this afternoon and it went quite well. We arrived pretty early so we each bought a drink and had a good chat in the cafeteria before going to Dr W’s office. The appointment was fine – Dr W told me to stop thinking and worrying about work. He is on the same page as pretty much everyone I’ve talked to about this stuff – I can not return to my old job. I just can’t do it. I don’t even think I can return to the same building. I don’t know how far away I am from working again, but I hope it’s not too long.

This evening, J and I had a really good chicken Caesar salad for supper. Normally I’m not big on salads (although my mother-in-law makes really good ones) but J and I are trying to fit more of them into our dinner rotation. Healthy body, healthy mind, right?

Stay safe!

Today’s Been Okay

Song: “Eastbound and Down” by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes

Mood: 6

Today’s been an okay day. Nothing particularly good happened; nothing particularly bad happened. I got a few things done around the house and did something I haven’t done for the first time in ages – watch TV. We’ve only got an antenna so we get four channels, but I thought what the heck, daytime television must be better than the last time I watched it, right? After about twenty minutes I remembered why we got rid of cable and bought an antenna. Unless I want to watch the news, TV is pretty boring. I guess that’s also why J and I just buy the DVD sets of shows that we’ve heard good things about or see on the Roku.

After that, I did some laundry (which was more interesting than what was on TV) and spent some time writing. I was able to concentrate pretty well and it felt good to write today. I also signed J and I up for an online grocery shopping service where you shop online and then show up at the store and it’s all bagged up and ready to go. I think it’s going to work out well because then I can do the “shopping” and J can pick it up on her way home from work.

My triop eggs have shipped and should be arriving tomorrow. I’m trying to figure out whether I can grow them in my little aquarium with the cleaner shrimp or if someone is going to get eaten. If that’s the case, I’ll just move the cleaner shrimp into the main tank in the living room and grow the triops in my little tank. I’m looking forward to watching them grow and see how they behave.

It’s getting quite a bit warmer outside now and is supposed to stay like that for a while. I would like to make some bread but I think I’ll wait until we get a bit of a cool spell so I’m not heating up the house with the oven. I enjoy making bread by hand – I find it relaxing and gratifying when things turn out well.

Other than that, not a lot is going on. J and I are going to watch some more Community shortly. What a good show.

Stay Safe!

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help

One of the hardest things I’ve ever done was pick up the phone and call a psychologist’s office and tell them I needed to talk to someone. J had been suggesting it for a couple of years, and even when I was in free-fall it was difficult to accept that I needed help.

Another really difficult thing was talking to my GP and telling him that I was in trouble and needed help.

I’d waited too long, though, and ended up in the hospital for three months after nearly ending it all. While I was there, I felt very guilty about asking the nurses or Dr W for anything. You know what happened? Every single one of the health care professionals I dealt with told me to not be afraid to ask if I needed anything, and that’s why they were there. One of the nurses even helped teach me that it was okay to be a little assertive if there was something I needed.

I often felt guilty about taking up a space in the ward, too. The answer I would always get back was that I deserved to be there just as much as anyone else and if they thought I was okay to go home, they’d kick me out. I was there because I needed to be there.

It took me a long time to accept that, but it’s true, and if it’s true for me, it’s true for you, too. If you’re having troubles, go ahead and ask someone for help. There are people out there who want to help you. You don’t have to face your problems alone.

Let me repeat that – YOU DON’T HAVE TO FACE YOUR PROBLEMS ALONE. It can seem daunting, but all you need to do is tell someone that you need help. Talk to your doctor, go to your local emergency room, call your local mental health crisis line – just reach out a little bit and people will help you.

If I broke my leg, would I call someone? You bet I would. Mental illness shouldn’t be any different and should be treated as seriously as a broken leg or an infection.

So, if you’re having a really tough time, please pick up the phone and call someone. Start getting the help you need and deserve.

Stay safe!