Working On A Plan

Song: “Snowbird” by Anne Murray

Mood: 6

Nightmares: 0

Ghosts: Lots

This is going to be a very short post – I really need to get to bed.

Dad texted me today with some questions and thoughts and we ended up talking about particle-wave duality, classical vs quantum computing, lasers, quantum entanglement… it was quite the chat to have by text and I enjoyed it. Got me thinking a lot.

Had my Dr C appointment and spent almost the entire thing talking about the stuff that’s been butting me a lot this week. No 100% solution, but I’ve been giving it some thought and I think I know what I’m going to do. Just need to do a bit of research, some more thinking, and then talk with J or Dr C to make sure I’m not going overboard or anything like that.

Finished that Spirograph set for my nephews today! I was tweaking the settings between runs and some of the pieces look a little different but hey – I made it very clear that I’m still getting used to this and the parts may not look 100% but they’re sincere…

FA is coming over tomorrow! It will be wonderful to see her again! I’m not 100% sure what we have planned yet but I’m hoping to ask her some questions about 3D printing (she’s been doing it for a while now) and it would be great if we could get in some Carcassonne or something!

Stay safe.

Finally Made Something!

Song: “Midnight In Moscow” by Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen

Mood: 6.5

Nightmares: 1

Not a great sleep last night either, but it could’ve been worse. Only one nightmare, but it had me sitting on the edge of the bed with my face in my hands, trying really hard to not wake J up.

My day went alright. Had a couple of conversations through text with people and got a couple of really funny pictures from one of my friends.

My sister called today and we had a good talk. My nephew is really enjoying playing hockey and his team has yet to be defeated this season. My sister is super busy (I have no idea how she does it) so I appreciate the time she takes out of her schedule to chat with me for 45-60 minutes each week.

Got a call from Dr W’s office today – he’s sick so my appointment today was cancelled. I hope he feels better very soon, but to be honest I wasn’t too unhappy about not having to go today.

The big news today was that I finally forced myself to make something with the new cloth that J picked up for me the other night – a towel. It took about five hours in total (and a couple of rounds of flop sweat) but the next one will go much faster than that. I lost some time because I washed the towel material last night but didn’t secure the edges so they fell apart, which required that I cut two new straight likes and remove the frayed areas. Of course the material is much larger than my desk so I needed to spread it out on the bed to get a look at it. Then I needed to fold it in half and then adjust so the frayed parts ended at the same place on both ends. Then I needed to mark it but I couldn’t figure out how to do that with the tape measure I had. A quick trip downstairs for the drywall square and I had two nice straight lines.

I measured again, this time for the first hem. I held it in place, ironed it, and then pinned it, moving along four inches at a time. Then I put it into the machine and carefully started sewing. It went pretty well and didn’t take me too long to get to the end. When I held it up to look at it, I realized that the hem was waaaay too big. So, I got out my seam ripper, fully intending to remove the stitching and do it over with a smaller hem. Unfortunately, I saw this:

Can't Find Thread In HemSee the white thread in there? ME NEITHER.

I did my best to remove the stitches for about 20 minutes and then gave up and hacked that part off and started again. It went better the second time, and, being happy with the way that hem went, I flipped the towel over and did the other side. So, here’s how it turned out:

First Completed Towel!The edges are a little wavy but I think that’s because they got stretched a bit while I was sewing them and I’m hoping they’ll shrink a bit when I give the towel another trip through the washer and dryer.

So… not bad for a first try, I think. A little woogly and it’s also kind of a weird size: 48”x21”. It was supposed to be closer to 23” but I lost some when I cut that strip off. Hopefully when I donate the stuff to a shelter they’ll still be able to use it if it looks a little odd or isn’t made to standard towel dimensions.

Over all, I enjoyed doing this today. It took a lot of time but I was getting used to how things worked. The sewing machine performed beautifully and I didn’t end up with any thread tumbleweeds or missing stitches or anything like that. Tomorrow I will either make another towel or some facecloths. Or something else entirely. I’m not sure yet.

I’m glad I tried this sewing stuff out. It’s a good hobby that tolerates interruptions well (and there were a lot of them today), and I already feel good about making a single weird towel to donate to someone who needs it.

No appointments tomorrow so I will crank up the music again and get some more stuff done!

Oh, and there is now yellow thread loaded in the machine for tomorrow. Should be easier to find if I want to remove some stitches.

Stay safe.

Healthcare Visit Template

I do not like having to go to the doctor. I am very lucky that Dr H is a fantastic GP, but I find appointments are difficult for a few of reasons, some of which are:

  • It’s very difficult to leave the house,
  • I don’t like talking to people about my problems,
  • I have trouble remembering things,
  • I know they’re professionals but appointments can be embarrassing,
  • I don’t like other people touching me, and
  • All I want to do is get out of there and be back home.

Before I went to the walk-in a couple of weeks ago, I was worried that I was going to be sitting there, fishing for words or trying to remember a relevant, important point. So, the night before I went to the clinic, I sat down and typed out a page of information so I had something I could either read from or pass to the clinician.

It helped me because I didn’t need to worry that I’d forgotten something and it was a lot easier to type out the embarrassing stuff beforehand. Maybe it will help you.

Here are ready-to-print copies Healthcare Visit Template (pdf) and Healthcare Visit Template (doc).

Here’s an example of how I’d fill one out:

Template SampleLike it says at the bottom of the document, please feel free to modify it to fit your needs – everyone is different and what works for me may not work for you.

Feel free to drop me a comment and let me know if you think of a way I can improve the template!

Stay safe.

Videos I Find Relaxing

It seems like everything today is competing for attention. Commercials, TV shows, healthy living trends, real estate agents, political candidates/parties, monster trucks… I’m not saying any of it is bad, but some days it can seem pretty relentless.

Every once in a while, I run across something that – instead of demanding my attention and trying to stretch my mind – I find to be quiet and calming. Some of the videos are designed to be relaxing, while there are others that probably aren’t intended to be that way but end up relaxing me anyway. Maybe you will find some of them useful to help unpack your brain at the end of a stressful day or perhaps they will help take your mind off of something that’s bothering you.

Some of the following videos are very long and I haven’t watched or listened to the whole thing so I can’t be sure there isn’t an interruption or something surprising in them somewhere. Watcher beware, I guess.

Riding Light

This amazing video by Alphonse Swinehart is a 45 minute journey at the speed of light through the solar system. It starts at the sun and ends just past the orbit of Jupiter. The music is good, the graphics are impressive, and it even shows the orbits of the planets as you get far enough from the sun for them to be put into perspective. You can download the video, too, and put it on your tablet or phone and watch/listen to it whenever or wherever you want.

Dan Gibson – Thunderstorm In The Wilderness

We have several of the Solitudes series of CDs by Dan Gibson. There are a couple of tracks that I really like but I think this one is my favourite out of all of them. It’s a thunderstorm, but it’s relaxing – slow rolling thunder and some rain falling at a pond or perhaps a creek. It’s not a wild ride with hail and crashing booms and coyotes blowing through the air. This is one of the two tracks I have been experimenting with listening to (along with a track of waves at a beach) to help blot out the real world when I’m doing my mindfulness and worry exercises. Seems to be working so far.

Guinea Pig Muffin Sleeping

I like guinea pigs. They’re cute, they each have their own personality, and (for the most part) they love snuggling up to their humans. This video here shows a very relaxed pig, ears twitching and mouth moving while it dreams. It’s not a very long video, but it makes me wish I was zonked out on a comfy bed, having pleasant dreams.

Beautiful Coral Reef Fish – Relaxing Aquarium and White Sounds 1080p HD

I have always found it relaxing to watch fish as they slowly wander around in the water. Sometimes I’ll pull up a chair to Lloyd’s aquarium and watch him and Buddy leisurely go about their days. There are a lot of relaxing fish videos out there but most of them are set to music and I prefer the water sounds. You may want to turn the volume down a bit for this one – I like the sound but find it a little loud.

11 hrs. Healing Sea #1 – No Music – Gentle Ocean Waves – Soothing Sound Of Ocean

A camera perched on an empty beach, watching the waves roll in. The sound of the waves rushing up the sand and breaking. No beach umbrellas, no dune buggies, no water skiers. Just the sand and the water and the air.

I hope you find some of these videos useful and/or enjoyable!

Stay safe.

Should’ve Brought An Anxiety Toy To My Appointments

Last week I had two appointments – Dr W on Wednesday and Dr P on Thursday. I get very anxious at the appointments and wring my hands a lot. This week, however, I wrung my hands a bit too much and ended up with this:

Bring An Anxiety ToyYep, rubbed the skin enough to give me a blister and then I tore right through it, too. I didn’t notice I was doing it until just before the end of my appointment on Thursday.

I’ve had blisters on my hands from wringing them before, but this is the first time I wore my skin down to the point where I was bleeding. I think it was worse this time because I had both appointments one day right after the other, and my Dr W appointment went longer than usual. It may also be because it’s warmer out now so my hands are a little clammier and sticky than they were in the winter.

So, to prevent this from happening again, I need to do one of two things: stop wringing my hands, or find something else to channel my anxiety into when I’m at my appointments. Since it’s extremely unlikely that I’ll be able to just tell myself to stop wringing my hands, I’ll need to find something to fuss with instead of my own skin. Whatever it is, I’ll be taking it to appointments so it has to fit the following criteria:

  • It has to be small enough to fit in a pocket or my hand,
  • It can’t make noise, and
  • It can’t require a distracting amount of thought to use.

Fidget spinners are popular nowadays (I have two) but I think they’re probably a little bit too loud and distracting to use when I’m in a session. I also have several large toys that can be formed to make different shapes, but they’re too large and would distract me from what I’m supposed to be doing during the sessions. J made me two large skeleton keys with beads hanging from them that I use a lot at home when I’m having a rough day, but I think they’re a bit too big to do the trick.

I’ve been adding things to my Stress Box since I posted about it last year. I opened it up and found three things that I think will fit the bill:

Bring An Anxiety ToyOn the left is a little beanbag that J’s cousin made for me. This is the second iteration of the beanbag – I wore through the original ones she made pretty quickly so she used extra thick fabric this time. I haven’t worn through any of the new ones yet. It makes the barest whisper of sound when I use it.

In the middle is the good old fashioned stress squeeze ball that my sister gave me. This is a little big to fit comfortably into a pants pocket but I can carry it around in my hand with no problem. I think there’s sand inside of it and it makes some noise when I squeeze it.

The third item is this weird little ring that I got from my sister:

Bring An Anxiety ToyIt is made of a piece of spring that stretches when you put it on your finger but is quite tight. The spring is formed into ridges that press into your finger skin while you roll it up and down your finger. It feels very strange when it rolls around and is completely silent. The only downside to this is that it’s small (so it might be easy to lose) and it’s a very different kind of action with my hands than I usually do. I wonder if I’ll put the ring on and then go wringing my hands anyway.

I think I’m going to start with the beanbag. It will keep both of my hands occupied, is almost silent, and will easily fit into my pocket.

What kind of objects do you use to direct your nervous energies into?

Stay safe.

Hobby Focus: Journalling

Hobby: Journalling

Cost: Zero if you’ve got a pen and some paper or an empty book lying around

Time Required: Completely up to you

I never used to keep a journal. It always seemed like a lot of effort to write down things that I’d probably never read again. Some people are really into it, though, and buy special books and paper and keep meticulous records of their days. There are entire books and websites dedicated to the art of journalling and how to keep track of your day. Some of the journal sites out there have pictures of amazingly decorated and very precise lettered books, but don’t feel pressured to do that. Make your journal your own.

J bought me a very nice lined book just after I started therapy, and I decided to try writing about my day. I was surprised by what it did for me.

Firstly, I found it to be a good mental exercise to jot down my experiences and thoughts from the day. I first felt a little bit of pressure to fill a whole page every day, but after a little while I realized that it was perfectly fine to have entries that were just a few lines long. It was also fine to have entries that spanned two or more pages, depending on the day, how I felt, and what was going on.

I also found that thinking about and writing down how my day went is helpful to wind down and get ready for bed. I sometimes put on some music while I’m writing and the whole process is quite relaxing. I don’t care about writing something amazing, I’m just writing for me. I don’t fret about spelling, grammar, or punctuation.

On bad days, it seems like every task is insurmountable and I can’t possibly accomplish anything. Sometimes I feel like I’ll never be able to relax or be happy again. Right now I’m having trouble with my OCD again and I sometimes feel like I’m never going to be able to beat it. Reading my past journal entries from when I’ve had good days proves to me that I have had days where my anxiety, depression, and OCD aren’t trying to push me around, and I can have them again.

It also helps me keep track of anything new I’ve learned. Things like techniques and tools, what works and what doesn’t, that sort of thing. I know that some therapies work for me for some things but not for others. I can always go back and see which one’s helped me the most and when so I can put the things I’ve learned to the best use.

Even something as simple as keeping track of events can be useful. Everything from the dates of all of my hospital admissions, when things have gone really well or really badly, and when and how my medications have changed is good information to know. Sometimes there will be a pattern that emerges that can help predict how I’m going to feel in a particular situation.

Since J got me that first book, I’ve kept journalling. It’s been almost two years now. While I was in the hospital, I filled up two more books. When I started this blog, I decided that I would switch to writing about my days online. It’s still a relaxing and useful activity.

Nobody’s telling me how much I have to write, what I’m supposed to write about, what format or medium I should be writing in, or that I need to write every day. I can write about my day on a legal pad, on a computer, or even buy and decorate a special book. I can show other people my journal or keep it completely private. It’s all up to me.

Journalling has helped me feel better about myself and is a great way to keep track of my recovery (and prove to myself that I am getting better). If you’ve never tried it, I recommend giving it a shot. It doesn’t take much time, you can do it whenever you want, and you can use it to help yourself in many different ways.

Stay safe.

A Letter To Myself

When I had emerged from a nasty low last year, Dr C encouraged me to write myself a letter to read when I was stuck in a rut again and having a rough time. My first effort came across as way too glib and saccharine, so I made another attempt some months later. It was quite a bit better but I think it was still off the mark.

Since I just clawed my way out of a rough rut and am feeling pretty good, I figure that this would be a good time to write myself another letter. Maybe I’ll hit all the right chords this time. Here goes…


Dear Mark,

I’m writing this to remind you that things are going pretty well right now. Your medications and therapy are doing the trick and you’re feeling good.

You were stuck on the couch for quite a while there, and it was really tough to do anything. Even simple things like brushing your teeth felt out of reach on some days. Remember when you’re having days like that that it’s not your fault or you being lazy, it’s the illness talking.

Keep in mind how much better you felt on the days when you’d go for a walk. Not only did you get some exercise, you got outside and off the property and pushed your comfort zone a little bit. Even the days when you sat in front of the computer or electronics bench, things were better.

Hanging out with friends is really important, too. Getting together with DA or going to the record store with WG is fun, and hanging out with FA is always a treat with a bunch of laughs built in. Plus, the trips to the hardware store get you on your feet and out of the house, too.

You’ve got family all over the country who care about you and want you to feel better. Your parents, sister, uncles and aunts, in-laws – everyone is just a phone call, text, or email away and they’ll always take time to talk if you’re feeling down.

You’ve got the best wife in the world. She’s your best friend and your coach. She makes you laugh, she dries your tears, she understands and encourages you, and she’ll stick with you through anything – she’s already proven that. You’re a very lucky guy.

Somehow, you’ve managed to luck into a great group of professionals, too. Dr C, Dr P, and Dr W are all fantastic and you’re always less than a week away from your next appointment. If you have to go back to the hospital for a tune-up, you can – and the staff there is fantastic, too.

Family, friends, professionals… there are so many people who want nothing more than for you to feel better. You have a great support structure in place – don’t be afraid to use it.

When you’re feeling down, remember your mindfulness exercises and try to stay active. You’ve been through rough patches before and have always made it out the other side – remember that.

Take it easy,



There are few things in my recovery that have been more difficult for me to accept than the idea of self-compassion. Each time I was in the hospital, I felt like I didn’t deserve to be there. Whenever a nurse would sit down with me and talk to me when I was upset, I worried that I was wasting their time. Every day when we would talk, I would feel guilty about taking up Dr W’s time when he had so many other patients to see. Even when working with Dr C, I worried that there were other people who deserved or needed a therapist more than I did and I shouldn’t be bothering her. I felt like I was a burden to everyone who knew me, whether it was J, my family, friends, the staff at the hospital, or my therapist.

While on the ward, I would occasionally hear another patient crying or upset and my heart would break for them. I wanted everyone to get better and have a normal, enjoyable life. Nights were the worst for this sort of thing – sometimes I could hear a single voice crying softly somewhere on the ward and it was difficult for me to handle.

I met a lot of good people while I was in the hospital and some of them had been dealt a really bad hand in life and I would worry about what was going to happen to them once they were discharged. I shouldn’t say “would” – I still worry about them and hope they’re doing well.

I felt guilty and hated myself for being a burden when J or my parents or friends stopped by the hospital for a visit. They all had other things to do and the hospital was quite a bit out of the way for everyone. I really appreciated the visits, I just felt bad that people had to go out of their way to see me.

With all of the effort that I spent worrying about other people, I never spent any time extending the same courtesy to myself.

I was introduced to the concept of self-compassion early in my first hospital stay by one of the therapists during a group session. It seemed like something so simple, yet so strange: take time for yourself and be kind to yourself. The nurses and Dr W repeated the message over and over again. I don’t know how many times Dr W and the nurses told me that I was in the right place and if I wasn’t supposed to be there, they’d discharge me. They also repeated that I needed to be easier on myself and not berate myself for taking up a bed in the hospital.

It took quite a while but I finally started to go easier on myself. With lots of self-compassion exercises in the group sessions, the therapists were always coming up with ways to help people be nicer to themselves. Things as simple as taking time for a two-minute breathing break, to going off the ward for a walk outside, to understanding that everyone was supporting me and just wanted me to get better slowly made me feel better about myself and broke down some of the barriers to my recovery.

Nowadays, instead of worrying that I’m wasting someone’s time or being a burden, I do my best to make sure to thank them for their time instead. I also make sure that I take some time to sit down and try to clear my head and relax each day. I try to remind myself that I’m just as deserving of being well and happy as everyone else is, and I count my blessings every day. Sometimes more than once.

It’s easy for me to fall back into bad habits if I’m not careful, though. I still slip up, and on bad days I find it very hard to understand why anyone would want to help me or even talk to me. When that happens, I try to think about all of the people who I care for and what I would tell them if our situations were reversed. Of course they’d deserve treatment, caring, and love.

And so do I. Even if it sometimes doesn’t feel like it.

Stay safe.

Taking a Mindfulness Walk

Last week I was having a rough time. At my Dr P appointment, he suggested we take what he called a “mindfulness walk”. We went outside and he spent the majority of our session guiding me through the walk and giving me pointers on it.

I felt noticeably better than I did when I’d arrived at his office, so I’ve added this to my list of tools that I can use to help myself when I’m feeling down.

Here’s what we did.

The weather was pleasant so we went outside of the building and started walking around the neighbourhood. Dr P asked me some questions and got me to pay attention to what was going on around me.

What kinds of smells were there outside? I was able to smell the earthy scent of fallen leaves and the pleasant smell of freshly cut grass.

How did the wind feel as it moved against my skin, hair, and clothing? Did it feel cool? Did it leave me feeling any different? How did it feel as I breathed it in and back out?

What could I see? The different colours in the leaves, the difference in leaves between different kinds of trees, the erratic patterns of the cracks in the pavement, the differing colour of the houses and their lawn ornaments, even the drastic differences in the colour between the different vehicles parked along the street. Geese flying up above, squirrels running along tree limbs, and even other people we passed by. Brightly coloured and mottled fish going slowly about their day at the base of a fountain, slight flicks of their tails propelling them lazily through the water.

What could I hear? Traffic from the next block over that sounded almost like constant static instead of individual moving cars. The chatter of water falling from the fountain where the fish lived, the whoosh of a car as it approached and then moved away, the wavering sound of a lawn mower in the distance up ahead. The honking geese and chittering squirrels.

We picked up some leaves and spent some time concentrating on them – their colour, shape, texture, and how quickly they warmed up in our hands. Some of the plants were a surprise and didn’t feel anything like I expected them to based on how they looked.

There is an incredible amount of stuff out there to pay attention to. Don’t judge anything as being good or bad, it’s just something to experience. It’s easy enough to say, “Wow, those cracks in the road are terrible,” but it’s more important to just concentrate on the cracks themselves. Are there plants or moss growing out of them? Are they jagged or pretty straight? Do they branch off a lot? Just look at everything for what it is.

Autumn is here and the weather is now grey and gloomy. I think I’m going to try going to one of the large grocery stores in the area one day when it’s not busy and see if I can do a mindfulness walk in there. If I can, then I’ll be able to do that no matter how cold, hot, or rainy it is outside. A grocery store would be interesting – there are a lot of sights, smells, textures, and sounds in there.

Doing walks like this helps me concentrate on the present – the world around me. If I concentrate on the present, it helps to put the things I’m worrying about or have no control over on the back burner, at least for a little while. Sometimes a bit of a break can do wonders.

Stay safe.

My Motivation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe.