A Good Start To The Week

I’ve been sleeping a lot better lately thanks to my CPAP machine and some medication. So much better that I’m spending a lot of time sleeping on my back, which I never used to be able to do. The upside to this is that it means I’m having a good sleep (nightmares aside), while the downside is that my back is quite sore in the morning. It’s a small price to pay, though – I’d rather be awake with a sore back instead of exhausted with a happy back.

Today I got up, had breakfast, did my exercises, and sat down to do more writing. Whether it’s a short story or blog post or technical document, I really enjoy writing – it feels good to put information in an order that’s easier to understand. I’m really enjoying writing in this blog in particular. I find it therapeutic to sit down at the end of the day and type out my adventures, thoughts, and ideas.

After I was done writing, I sat down with some paints and a piece of canvas and my tablet and tried to follow along with Bob Ross on one of the episodes of The Joy of Painting. I think it went pretty well for my first try:

Parts of my painting look okay (the trees in the distance and the shoreline) but the clouds and water really aren’t that good. I’m going to try again soon, though – even though I’m no Renoir, I really enjoyed doing it and I think this will become one of my regular hobbies.

I’m pretty excited this evening – J saw me having trouble with my computer and bought me a new one. It should arrive tomorrow and I can’t wait to see it! It was very nice of her to do that. I feel a little guilty as my current computer still does 80% of the stuff I want, but it’s old and has been pretty rock solid. It really doesn’t owe anybody anything and deserves a pleasant retirement.

I think the fact that I’m excited about something is a sign that I’m getting better. I used to have only two emotions – not caring about anything, or panicking about everything. It’s also a plus that I’m excited about a computer. When I first got home from the hospital, I didn’t even want to see a computer, never mind use one. The fact that I’m able to use my home machine to do things like gaming and writing I think is another good sign. You have to be able to use a computer for pretty much any job nowadays, so being able to sit down at one without my stomach lurching is a definite plus.

It was very pleasant outside today too – finally warm enough to open a window for a while and let the fresh air in. As J said this evening, it’s nice to be breathing air that’s not from October.

I’m not sure if I mentioned this earlier but I have a three gallon aquarium on my desk with some little shrimp in it. There are three “cleaner” shrimp (Larry, Moe, and Curly) and one ghost shrimp (Stanley). They zip around and eat like little machines. I don’t like shrimp (or any seafood for that matter), but as pets they’re pretty cool. Plus, you can see a lot of their internal machinery because their skin is pretty transparent. Anyway, today I was moving a plant from my aquarium to the bigger fish aquarium in the living room. I shooed two of the Stooges off the plant but didn’t see the third. I grabbed the plant and the third Stooge hopped onto my finger. I like them, but I like them much more when they’re not on me.

Other than that, my day was pretty standard. I’ll give it a seven point five I think. I hope you had a good day too!

Stay Safe!

A Pretty Good Weekend

This weekend went by very quickly. J and I had a good time and managed to get a lot of stuff done around the house in addition to watching a couple of movies. As I mentioned on Friday, I planted a bunch of seeds a week or so ago but the only plants that have sprouted so far are the tomatoes. Today I moved them and their peat pots into yogurt containers to give them a little more room:

Tomato Plants

I also planted some yellow beans and hot peppers as well as parsley, basil, and dill. J and I are discussing whether we want to have a raised garden in the yard or grow things in pots on the deck. Both have advantages and disadvantages but it’s still cool enough that we have a while still before we really need to decide. We don’t want an in-ground garden because we used treated lumber on the fence and deck and don’t want to take any chance that the plants would pick up some of the chemical.

I was going to make bread but found out that I didn’t have enough margarine. I probably should have gone to the store but I think I will do that tomorrow. I also didn’t get any welding done – there’s a bunch of cardboard and plastic in there from the treadmill and as much as I love welding, I really don’t want to burn the garage down around me.

It occurred to me this evening that it has now been a year since I’ve been off work. Of that time, I spent four months in the hospital. I still feel awful about leaving so suddenly – I just told one of my co-workers “My stomach is upset, I’m going home” before lunch on a Friday and I haven’t been back. I feel a lot of guilt for leaving but the thought of returning makes me physically ill, even now.

I also feel bad because there’s very little to show for the eight months I’ve spent at home. J, Dr C, and Dr W all remind me that it’s been my job to get better (and I get that), but I really wish I had something I could hold up and say, “Look! I’m getting better!” I guess that being able to drive the truck is an accomplishment even if I can’t go far, and I can go to stores by myself and usually handle it okay. Still, if I had a cast or surgical scars or something like that, it’d be a lot easier to show improvements.

I apologize if this post rambles or is uneven, I already took my night medications and should’ve done the post before I got all fuzzy.

Stay safe!

And Another Day Goes By

Overall, today went pretty well. I’m almost caught up on laundry and this evening J and I cleaned the fish tank and gave the kitchen a good once over. Being a big fan of the Mass Effect series, I bought and started downloading Mass Effect: Andromeda, which I was very excited to play. I say “was” because when I went to play it, my computer started the game, ran it very poorly for a couple of minutes, then coughed and died. I knew my computer didn’t meet the minimum requirements but I didn’t expect it to be that out of date. Ah, well. Someday I will get a new machine and will be able to play it. I’m still using the machine I bought to play the original Mass Effect back in 2011 so it’s had a pretty good run.

But enough about that. The rest of my day went quite well. In addition to the laundry, I put some stuff away, organized some other stuff, and gave a lot of thought to an electronics problem that a friend of mine has. I also went out of my comfort zone and spent a couple of hours setting up Internet radio on a Raspberry Pi (still have a ways to go before it’s practical but I’m encouraged with what I’ve got so far). FA sent me a text asking what I was up to so I hope maybe we can get together sometime next week. It’s always fun when we go on capers (as she calls them).

I am certain now that the medication reductions Dr W did last Wednesday are kicking in. I’m still quite sedated in the mornings, but I am much more alert in the evenings than I was before. I was worried that it would make it harder to fall asleep but that doesn’t seem to be the case – my evening medications take care of that quite nicely. I’m looking forward to further reductions. I’m not having many problems with side-effects, I just don’t want to be taking stuff I don’t need.

The weather here has been really quite nice for the last few days, up around +10C in the afternoons. I am really looking forward to a +13C or +15C day so I can open all the windows and enjoy the fresh spring air. I have been thinking of how nice it would be to ride my motorcycle again, but I’m worried that it’s just going to sit there unused for another year. I have enough difficulty driving a four-wheeled vehicle – riding unprotected on two wheels seems almost impossible.

I’ve got a lot of things planned for the weekend. I planted some seeds last week and some of the tomatoes have sprouted so I think I’m going to move them into bigger pots to give them room to grow. I also want to make some bread and maybe walk over to the grocery store to pick up some stuff. I’d also like to get outside and clean the garage and maybe do some welding. That would be a nice treat!

Stay safe!

Not Too Bad

I slept pretty well last night. Only woke up once from a nightmare but was able to get back to sleep pretty quickly and without disturbing J. When I woke up this morning, I was pleased to find my mood had lifted quite a bit and I was looking forward to the day. I exercised, listened to more records, and wrote the previous post.

I wonder why mood changes while I sleep. Some days I go to bed feeling down and wake up feeling great, while other days I can go to bed feeling great and wake up feeling down. What causes that? Dreams? The quality of sleep? Or is it just something that happens to everyone and nobody knows why? I’ve seen videos of brains in an fMRI machine – I wonder if anyone has tried to sleep all night in one. It would be interesting to see what parts of a brain are lit up when someone is happy or sad or cranky.

I’ve been working on writing a letter of appreciation to the Patient Care Manager at the hospital that fixed me up twice. It’s been difficult, though. For one, I’ve got so many people to thank that it’s going to be hard to keep it to a manageable length. It’s also difficult to write it in a way that’s professional and thankful instead of all wishy-washy. I just need to take it slow and not overthink it.

My appointment with Dr C today went well. Now that I’m not showing up with a different crisis every week, it’s really nice to be able to work on something for a couple of sessions in a row. Right now we’re working on thickening my skin and making me more resilient when bad things happen or I’m in a situation that has one (or more) of the triggers that really get to me. I’m going to try to deal with the anxiety and negative thoughts as if they were a person. So I’m planning on saying to the thoughts that they’re welcome to keep blathering on, but the rest of me isn’t going to be paying attention to them anymore. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

I’m also grappling with a bunch of other questions. The two that cause me the most consternation are “how can I be significant and insignificant at the same time?” and “What makes a good person?” The significance question bothers me because I have a direct effect on the people around me but at the same time if I weren’t here, the world would still turn and the sun would still shine. The good person question bothers me the most because I really want to be a good person and have the opportunity to do that while I’m putting myself back together. I just need to figure out what qualities good people have. It’s harder than it sounds – a quality that is positive in one person may not be in another. I’m a little worried these are the kinds of questions that you need to meditate on for years to answer, but I’m going to try.

J had an exam this morning and to celebrate her doing well we had pizza and watched Dr Strange. It was a pretty good movie. The effects were really done well and any movie that has Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton in it has to be good. Good company, good pizza, and a good movie makes for a good evening.

Stay safe!

Nice Weather, Poor Mood

I woke up today feeling much the same as yesterday. It was difficult to get excited or even interested in anything. After J went to work, I went back to bed and slept for another two hours or so. I got up again, had a fruit smoothie for breakfast, and wandered around the house, trying to figure out what to do. I put up the Anxiety post (it was already written), and tried to do something. Computer game? No interest. Make bread? Couldn’t be bothered. Play bass guitar? Nope. I went back to bed and spent the next three hours dozing and staring at the ceiling, wishing I was doing something – anything – instead of being a useless lump.

Finally, I managed to summon the willpower to pull myself out of bed and go for a walk on the treadmill downstairs. All I could think about was going back to bed even though it was the afternoon. I did half an hour and then caught myself before I could go back upstairs to bed. Listening to records often cheers me up and the bag with the records I’d bought on Monday was sitting on the floor right in front of me. I picked one of the 10” oldies, put it on the turntable, and gave it a bit of a cleaning. When I started it up, the blues poured out of the speakers in much better quality than I could have ever hoped for from vinyl pressed in 1952.

I sat down in the reclining chair in front of the speakers, turned up the volume, and let the music flow over me and sink in. After that record was done, I put on Boots by Nancy Sinatra. I could feel my mood lifting. Not a lot, mind you – but enough that I wasn’t thinking of going back to bed anymore. James Last’s Beach Party was next on the turntable and despite how cheese-tastic the music was, I found myself tapping my foot to it.

With my mood having gone from a four to a six, I got cleaned up and went back to the records, listening to them while waiting for J to come home so she could take me to my appointment with Dr W (my psychiatrist). She arrived a short time later and we talked for a little while before heading out to the hospital. It was gorgeous out – at least +10C and the air smelled and felt fresh. Between the weather and conversation with J, it was a very pleasant drive.

While I was in Dr W’s waiting room, I saw a couple of the staff that had taken care of me while I was in the psych ward. I felt a curious mixture of being happy to see them and not wanting to see them as we waved at each other. Then a fellow who I became friends with while in the hospital walked over and we had a good chat about how we were doing. It was very good to see him – I’d been curious as to how he was and it was great to see him smiling and hear that things were going well. I hope things continue to go well for him.

My appointment with Dr W went well and turned today into an important day for me. I’d been tired lately – not just feeling down, but actually tired. I’d been sleeping well, so I wasn’t sure what was going on. After discussing it with Dr W, he suggested we start lowering the dosage of some of my medications. Now that I think about it, it’s a significant event – if I don’t need as much medication, I must be getting better! He decreased two of them (Lorazepam and Quetiapine) and explained the need to take it slowly by saying it was like we’re in a car on an icy road. We have to be careful or we’ll end up in the ditch. I think I’ve already started to notice a difference – I don’t feel as tired as I usually am in the evening and with all the good stuff that happened this afternoon, I’m in a considerably better mood than I was this morning. Probably about a seven or so.

It also feels good to write this stuff down. It’s therapeutic in its own way.

Call it seven and a half.

Stay safe!

Aaaaand… There’s The Down

I knew something was different when I woke up this morning. It was harder to get out of bed, very tempting to not shower or put on clean clothes, more difficult to leave the house for my appointment. Upon getting home from my appointment, I just wanted to go back to bed or sit in a chair and stare at the wall. I gave my parents a call to talk and that helped a bit, but I’m still feeling quite down compared to the last few days.

It sucks, but I have to keep reminding myself that it’s normal. You can’t enjoy the good days if you don’t have the not-so-good days. Nobody has a great day every single day – even without depression, it’s normal to have days where you feel kind of bummed.

On one of my first appointments with Dr C, she drew a diagram that compares how people with mental illness would like to recover versus what it’s really like:

008-Daily-1Life is a series of ups and downs. Recovery is no different. It’s important to remember that. I may be having a bad day now, but I’m still light-years ahead of where even my good days used to be a year ago. It helps a bit just knowing that.

I keep that diagram at the front of my binder for easy reference (I’m the one who wrote “REMEMBER THIS” at the top).

It’s also important to remember that just because I’m having a bad day, it doesn’t mean I’m sliding backwards. Even several bad days in a row doesn’t mean that I’m in trouble. Turning things around could be as simple as doing some anxiety-relieving exercises or watching a movie or knocking something off a To Do list.

I use a scale of 1-10 to indicate how my mood is:
– 10: complete and utter bliss (very, very few days fit in here)
– 9: Doing great
– 8: Feeling well
– 7: I’m okay
– 6: Not at my best
– 5: Feeling a little down, difficult to motivate myself
– 4: Feeling very down, difficult to get out of bed, eat, drink, or take a shower
– 3: Feeling very down and having bad thoughts **Talk to a professional or Crisis Centre**
– 2: Feeling awful and planning a way out **Go to the hospital**
– 1: Pure, unfettered misery and wanting to act on the plan **CALL SOMEONE AND GET TO THE HOSPITAL NOW**

The last few days I was running an 8 or 9. Right now I’m sitting around a 5.

So what changed?

I have no idea. I didn’t get any bad news yesterday or today – in fact, my appointment with Dr H this morning went very well. It’s cloudy today but I don’t think that’s it. Have I been doing too much over the last few days and I’m just tired?

Maybe my brain got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.

Has that ever happened to you?

Stay safe!

Record Shopping And Other Important Things

Turns out I had no reason to be anxious about going to the record store with WG. We met up and it was just like no time had passed. We talked about everything from how he was doing, to what movies we’d seen lately or like to see, to records and bands, to how I was doing. I really enjoyed hanging out with him again and am relieved we’re still good friends.

The record store worked out quite well too. Besides WG and myself, there were probably only about five other people in the store, which was great. Plus, they were playing good music over the speakers. WG and I both headed over to the new records bins and then I wandered over to the dollar shelves. And boy, did I hit the jackpot! I picked up 14 new records, but the gems of the day were these three 10” records from 1954, 1951, and 1952, respectively:

They’re in great shape – with a bit of cleaning they should play just fine. I like listening to old records and thinking about whether any of the musicians are still around or what they did, what was their world like, what did they think of disco, that sort of thing.

WG had to get back to work so with record bags under our arms, we headed back to his car and had another good chat. I really enjoyed getting together with him and hope to do it again soon. Maybe I’ll see if I can have him over for lunch or something. It would be nice if we kept in touch more than once every couple of months!

The rest of my day went well. I spent some time cleaning up the house a bit, watering the plants, and trying to figure out what the horrifying thing in my little aquarium was. Turns out one of the shrimp had moulted overnight and its old skin was just floating around the tank like some kind of ethereal bug/shrimp/skeleton. Blargh.

Today has been another good day. Tomorrow I have an appointment with my GP, Dr H, and then I plan to try to do some painting while listening to crappy records. Paper/canvas painting, not house/wall painting.

Another thing I need to do is figure out a daily schedule. Since I got out of the hospital, I’ve been skipping from one thing to the next as the mood strikes me, but if I’m having a bad day it’ll be hard enough to get out of bed, nevermind keep my mind engaged and feet moving around. Having a schedule that lists what I should do (and when) should make it easier to focus when I’m down and hopefully help me to push the dark clouds back.

Stay Safe!

A Little Anxious This Morning

So today I’m going to meet up with WG and we’re going to go to the record store. I’m a little nervous because I haven’t seen WG in months and I need to drive to our rendezvous point. I really hope things go well – I really value WG’s friendship and don’t want to ruin it. He’s the one who got me into record collecting and really expanded the musical world for me. Late ’70s UK punk is not something I had ever given any thought to, but he introduced me to it and now I really enjoy it.

As an aside, If you’ve never heard of The Undertones, I strongly recommend listening to almost any song from their first two albums. “Get Over You” is a great song. It’s one of the songs I turn way up and immerse myself in whenever I’m feeling bad. It usually helps cheer me up.

So anyway, I’m really hoping things go well today. WG is pretty laid back but you just never know. People change, right? I know I’m not the same person I was a year ago. Wish me luck!

Stay safe!

Another Good Day

Today has been another good day. J (my wife) and I went to Walmart and I picked up a new pair of shoes so I can do time on the treadmill in the basement. I’m actually looking forward to it. Back in the hospital, I would get out and use the gym a lot. It felt good to breathe different air and see different things. Plus, I find that walking with some music playing is a good way to clear my mind and keep bad thoughts at bay.

It was good to get out – it takes a lot of effort to get out of bed and keep busy but it’s very important that I do. After a session a few months ago, Dr C (my therapist) suggested I write down a list of the hobbies I used to enjoy and then pick one at a time and force myself to do it. Things slowed down around Christmas when I started to have troubles again, but I want to get back to it. I’ve got a ton of hobbies, like:
– Welding
– Astronomy
– Biology
– Bass guitar
– Lock picking
– Painting
– Colouring
– Making bread by hand the old fashioned way
– Electronics
– Writing (which, incidentally, I’m doing here)
– Record collecting and listening
– Watching movies
– Computer games
– Photography
– Motorcycle riding and maintenance
– Listening to music

Those are just the ones off the top of my head. I have the list I made for Dr C around here somewhere – it had quite a few more items on it.

There are also a couple of things that I really should do soon. The staff at the hospital were fantastic so I want to send a letter of appreciation. I also want to go to a nice restaurant with J and get together with some of my friends to catch up on how they’re doing. I also want to build a little cabinet with some of the scrap steel I have lying around in the garage. I’m sure it’s going to be a lot harder than I’m expecting, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while.

Driving is another thing I need to work on. I think there’s probably enough there for an entire post so I’ll talk about that later.

One last (quite exciting) thing – I got a call today from WG, a good friend of mine. I haven’t seen him in months so it will be very good to get together for a bit. We’re going to meet up tomorrow and then go to the record store where he will head to the “new this week” shelf and I’m going to go to the $1 shelf, after which WG will make fun of my choices and I will make fun of his. I haven’t been to the record store in almost a year and I think it will be good to get back into that and pick up some really bad records to listen to.

Stay safe!

Riding High

I’m still riding the high from being discharged from the hospital two days ago. It was my second stay in the psych ward – this time it was five weeks long.

It sure feels good to be out. When I went in, I was a trembling mess that could barely even talk in coherent sentences. Other than for food and hygiene, I didn’t leave my room. I hated myself for making my family and friends worry. I hated myself for taking up a spot in the medical system that I didn’t feel I deserved. I hated myself because this was the second time in the psych ward. I hated feeling like a burden to my wife, family, friends, nurses, aides, therapists, psychiatrists, and doctors. I hated myself because I felt like I was letting everyone down by needing to go back. I begged the nurses to not let me leave the ward because I was certain that if I got out, that would be the end of me.

I tell you, though – the staff in the psych ward I was in was phenomenal. After a lot of talking (and crying) to the nurses, a medication tweak, and a session with my therapist, I started to feel better. By the second week, I was attending groups. By the third week, I was spending time outside my room just because I could. By the fourth week, I was going on passes with my wife and having a good time. At the start of the fifth week, I was going to the gym, going on passes, and doing almost anything I could to get off the ward.

It was time to go home.

It’s only been two days, but I still feel better than I have in quite some time. I feel like I’ve managed to get my feet under me again and I can go back to working on getting better.

What caused this recent mental crisis? That’s a good question. The Christmas season is always stressful for me (as it is with a lot of people), and because of my illness, my wife and family had to change how they did Christmas for the first time in 17 years. I felt terribly guilty for that and was sure everyone was disappointed in me. That hung over me for weeks.

Another trigger was knowing how much the people I care for were changing their schedules and going out of their way to help me out. Lots of guilt there, too.

I think the straw that broke the camel’s back was when the insurance company called to interview me for my disability insurance. It was not an easy conversation. My wife had to step in several times to help me answer the questions. I was sure they didn’t believe us and couldn’t stop thinking that they’d cut off my support and my wife and I would be out on the street soon. I was winding up tighter and tighter.

The wheels finally came off when I was at an appointment with my therapist. I barely remember anything except falling apart and talking with my wife in the hall. My therapist wouldn’t let me leave her office until someone came to get me, and by the time my wife had arrived, she’d been in touch with my psychiatrist and he was getting ready to admit me.

I have little doubt that if my therapist had let me go, I wouldn’t be here to type this. So, Dr C, if you’re reading this – thank you a million times over.

But… with every up comes a down. I’m still waiting for that to happen. It won’t be another end-of-the-world down, but it’s coming. I need to keep positive and keep myself busy.

Stay safe!