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!

First Post

I’ve tried starting this blog a couple of times now and haven’t had a lot of luck. I’m hoping this time I can stick to it, and try to treat it as something of a journal of sorts. Maybe someone else will see it and will understand it, or maybe someone will see it and see something of themselves reflected in it.

Around four years ago, a significant change in my life was the trigger for an exponential increase in the daily anxiety I felt. Originally, I was able to ignore it; later, I could no longer ignore it but was able to work through it. Eventually, I could no longer do even that and things reached the point where my family, friends, and co-workers were able to see that something was wrong.

I was slowly turning inward, unable to make decisions or handle any changes or disruptions to my schedule. The effort of pushing through the day was exhausting, leaving my wonderful and understanding wife to bear the brunt of my illness in the evenings. I couldn’t sleep and would lie awake in the dark, wondering if the chest pains and shortness of breath I was experiencing were a heart attack. I began having trouble doing anything without ritualizing things, like making sure doors were locked, the stove was turned off, or the different sets of keys were on particular hooks before I could go to bed.

I found it difficult, humiliating, and frightening to admit that I was no longer the person I was just a few years ago. My wife had been suggesting I see someone about it for a while; I finally agreed with her when things reached a breaking point a few months ago. After a couple of sessions with a therapist, I finally began to understand what was happening to me. Unfortunately, psychiatry was not my GP’s strong suit and what he prescribed made it almost impossible to sleep. Two months later, I ended up in the psychiatric ward after nearly committing suicide. I got out three months later with medication, some really good coping tools, and a diagnosis.

I suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, anxiety, depression, panic disorder, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms.

It is hard to explain how difficult that is to type out. It would be so much easier if I could say that I had broken an arm or had a kidney stone or something like that. There’s a stigma around mental illness that makes it so hard to talk to people about it. Maybe it’s because of the way it’s portrayed in books, TV, and movies. Maybe it’s because it’s something that doesn’t show up on an x-ray or blood tests. Maybe it’s because it can happen to anyone and that frightens people. Maybe it’s because many people were brought up with the “can do” attitude that mutated into more of a “man up and walk it off, sissy” attitude. I don’t know.

Part of my therapy is to force myself to do something that I used to enjoy but no longer do because of my illness. Writing is one of those things. I hope that if you’re reading this and suffer from the same issues that you know that you’re not alone – what you’re feeling is not uncommon. It feels horrible, but you’re not alone. There are people and medicines that can help. You just need to gather up the courage to ask for help.

I guess I should just say one last thing. While I am suffering from mental illness, I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist, physician, therapist, or have any knowledge whatsoever of evaluation or treatments. I am only writing out my experiences, so please, PLEASE do not take any of the information on this site as psychological or medical advice. I apologize for the boldface but it is very important that everyone understands that. No forum, chat room, or group of friends can take the place of a professional.

Stay Safe!