Not That Great

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

I’ve been feeling pretty anxious and down today. A lot of it has to do with what happened Sunday night with the storms, but most of it is something more profound.

See, I used to really enjoy thunderstorms. When I was a kid, I’d open the patio door, shake my fist at the sky, and yell, “IS THAT ALL YOU GOT?”, which horrified my rather religious mother. I loved thinking about the enormous amount of energy that’s bottled up in a thunderstorm and how it can make the cutlery rattle in the kitchen and pictures bump against the walls.

Sunday night, I was terrified by the storms. I wasn’t home, but I was somewhere safe, with a good friend snoring away in his room. I had light, I had music, but I couldn’t control my panic – it grew and ebbed with the storms that rumbled their way through the area.

It really bothers me that the storms freaked me out. It’s just one more thing that my mental illness has wrecked for me, and that sucks. I can no longer watch movies that I used to really enjoy (Alien, Cloverfield, and Predator, to name a few) because they send me into an anxiety and panic spiral. After I turn off the show, take my PRN, and do some grounding and breathing exercises, the depression surfaces. WHY can’t I do simple things like enjoy the weather anymore? WHY can’t I handle watching a scary movie? WHY can’t I handle things like the wail of an ambulance siren? WHY can’t I get out of bed some days? WHY can I look at the dandelions and tall grass on the lawn but can’t gather the willpower to go outside and mow? WHY am I afraid to put oil and coolant back in my motorcycle even though I was the one who took them out last week?


I feel like a little kid. No – not a little kid. Little kids are much more brave than I am. They’re not afraid to try stuff or do stuff they already know how to do.

God, this is frustrating. And humiliating.

Stay safe.

Overdid It A Bit

On Saturday evening, DA sent me a text asking if I wanted to go to his cabin from Sunday morning to Monday evening. I felt both excitement and dread at the prospect and asked J if she could be my voice of reason. I hadn’t been outside of the city in over a year and that scared the heck out of me, but DA is a good guy and his cabin is way in the sticks and very relaxing to be at. After a lot of discussion, I texted DA back, let him know my limitations, and if he was ok with that, I’d go.

He’s known me long enough (and has been kept up to speed on my illness enough) that he was fine with my limitations and so he would be by at 10AM the next morning. I talked a lot more with J about it and she said that if I got into trouble, she’d come and pick me up or meet DA halfway – whatever it took. I packed most of my stuff that evening.

The next morning, J and I went to the grocery store to pick up some stuff for the trip. We got home, I finished packing, and we waited for DA to arrive. I was quite nervous.

DA arrived and we took off toward his cabin. It’s almost a two hour drive from home and we used the time to catch up (we hadn’t seen each other in several months). I was nervous all the way, but it was at a level that I could handle pretty well.

Once we got there, DA said, “Are you okay?” When I said I was, he replied, “Okay, that’s the last time I’m going to ask you. If you need anything or just need to sit down or go for a walk, feel free and no pressure.” I appreciated the gesture and took him up on it a couple of times.

We spent the day fixing up his dirt bike and quad and then cleared deadfall from one of his dirtbike trails. It was good work and kept me focused and not dwelling on my anxiety. Chopping up and loading the dead tree for firewood was particularly good for that… and it showed me just how out of shape I am.

That evening DA cooked chicken for supper and it was excellent. We hung out, listening to music and talked about how our lives are going. Before I was moved into a different section, I worked for DA for about twelve years. We know each other pretty well. He talked about how work was going, which brought back a flood of anxiety but I did okay and quickly changed the subject. He asked a lot of questions about what it was like at the hospital and I was happy to fill him in.

We called it a night at about midnight. As I was getting my sleeping bag ready on the couch, a flash of light caught my eye – a thunderstorm off in the distance but on its way. I was exhausted but excited – I grew up out in the country and I love a good thunderstorm.

I’m not sure if it was because I was in unfamiliar surroundings or because I didn’t have a good way to get in touch with J (the cellular reception out there is just this side of nonexistent) and didn’t want to wake her up, but the storm really did a number on me. I was terrified. I turned on my flashlight and pointed it at the ceiling so I could see where I was but it didn’t help. I took some PRN lorazepam and quetiapine but they didn’t seem to help. One storm would blow through and I would have a HUGE panic attack, then it would quiet down for a little while before the next one blew through. There was so much lightning that I could have gone outside and read a book.

A little over four panicked and extremely long hours later, I managed to fall asleep.

When I got up, I tried to put the previous night out of my head but the anxiety was still there, along with a good heaping of embarrassment. Fortunately, I was able to keep myself quiet enough that it didn’t disturb DA in his room but it was still really embarrassing for me. I’m over 40 and suddenly scared of some thunder and lightning. What else will cause me to panic, and when will I find them out? In the middle of a shopping mall? At home by myself? Out at a restaurant with J?

Anyway, DA and I had blueberry bagels with cream cheese for breakfast and then got back to work clearing the bike trails around his property. I was tired, but things were going along pretty well until I was driving his quad while towing the little log trailer he just finished refurbishing and I got hung up on a tree by the trailer. It was so loud – BAM! – that I was sure I’d broken something. Another panic attack hit me, right in front of DA. I tried to keep it from showing but I could hear myself saying. “I’m so sorry, whatever the damage is I’ll pay for it” over and over.

Only after DA checked out the trailer and quad and I did a bunch of grounding exercises did the panic start to dissipate. In its place was – once again – embarrassment. At least I wasn’t walking around, waving my arms and crying like sometimes happens when I’m panicking.

We cleared three more trails and stacked the logs back at the cabin. Around 3PM we started to clean up and get ready to head home. Still embarrassed about everything, I didn’t talk much but we got everything ready pretty quickly and got on the road. DA did most of the talking but thankfully he didn’t seem upset about anything. He’s a good friend and a good guy.

He dropped me off at home at about 6:45 and when I got inside I got a huge hug from J. It was so good to see her again and to be home. I took a quick shower and checked for ticks and then we sat down and had supper. It was so good to be home.

I just re-read this and it looks like I’m an ungrateful guest. I’m not – I really appreciated DA asking if I wanted to go to his cabin and really enjoyed hanging out with him. The only problem was that I don’t think I was ready to be away from home overnight. The experience gave me things to think about and showed me several things that I still need to work on, so that’s a good thing.

If DA asks me if I want to go out to his cabin again soon, will I? I don’t know. I think it’s something I need to talk to Dr C, Dr W, and J about, but I do know one thing – if I do go, it’ll have to be for the right reasons. Not because I think I have to or because I feel I owe someone something, but because I WANT to go.

Stay safe!


On most days, I find meditation to be very helpful for anxiety and I try to include a time for it every day. I’m not really into the “ommm” type of meditation; instead, I usually focus on my breathing or progressive muscle relaxation to do the trick.

There are times when meditation doesn’t work well for me. For example, when I’m hearing voices, meditation can be problematic (and even tortuous). Similarly, if I’m in over my head with anxiety, it can be difficult to calm the crowd in my head enough to get any benefits.

When it does work, however, I find it works well. It’s like a cool mist settling down over a raging forest fire – it doesn’t put out the flames, but it makes them more manageable, which can help tip the balance towards a good day instead of a bad one.

I find that to meditate successfully, I must be in a room where the light is pretty constant and there is very little sound or some white noise. The sound of a distant thunderstorm is nice, too, but in the city it’s difficult to separate that from other sounds like traffic, construction, or lawnmowers.

Even if I can’t completely get into the meditation, I find that sitting still with my eyes closed for a while helps recharge my batteries – as long as the anxiety or voices don’t come storming in.

The Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba (ADAM) has downloadable audio files that I have found helpful for both breathing and muscle relaxation exercises. You can find them here: (

Stay safe!

Good Friends Are Priceless

I didn’t sleep all that well last night and I couldn’t sleep in because FA was coming over. I hauled myself out of bed when J got up and we had breakfast together before she left for work. I tidied up the kitchen and sat down for a couple of minutes to close my eyes. I woke up half an hour later and in a bit of a panic. I texted FA to ask if we could meet 30 minutes later and she replied that that worked well for her.

She arrived and we sat down in the living room to chat. We were going to work on her Raspberry Pi camera project but she’d forgotten it at home. Not a big deal, we always have lots to talk about. As we talked, I could feel my spirits lifting. With FA, there’s no judgment or attempts to dig into things. She is a great friend through and through and hanging out with her is a treat.

We talked for about two hours and then went to the local burrito place for lunch. For the first time since I got out of the hospital, I drove. The restaurant was quite loud so I had some trouble with nerves and locked myself out of my credit card. After we sat down to eat, the place started to empty out; between that and some grounding techniques, I was able to cope ok.

After lunch, we went to the nearby hardware store and did an aisle crawl. This particular store is really quite amazing – there’s always something different on the shelves every time we go. Lots of surplus stuff that FA and I look at and try to think of uses for. I picked up some rope to hang my welding screens, a couple of notebooks, a spray bottle, and some socket holders for my garage tool box.

When we were done there, we headed to the nearest Canadian Tire store and did an aisle crawl there, too. When we were both going to university, we were in the same residence and would frequently go to Canadian Tire to get away from the books and unwind for a little while. Some people go to the bar, some people go to the movies, FA and I went to Canadian Tire. We found a few neat things there but only picked up a windshield wiper blade refill for FA’s car.

By the time we got back to the house, we’d been out for over six hours and J was home. I invited FA in again and she and J had a good little chat before FA had to go.

Man, I was EXHAUSTED. I haven’t been on my feet and done that much walking in… I don’t know. Years? But I had a wonderful time and my mood has finally lifted!

This evening J read a book while I took a nap on the couch, and then we played some cribbage, each of us winning one game. I think we’ll have to play the tiebreaker tomorrow. I enjoy playing crib with J, it’s fun and we don’t take it too seriously. It’s also nice to get away from the computer or tablet or phone screen for a while and play something that’s kind of old school.

I really want to do some welding but I need to get the motorcycle filled back up with the proper juices and put off to the side before I can do that. I’m hoping to finish the bike up tomorrow afternoon and maybe do some welding on Sunday. Fingers crossed!

Have a good weekend and stay safe!

A Little Better Today

When I woke up this morning, I tried as hard as I could but I just couldn’t get out of bed. I stayed there from about 7:00AM until I finally managed to get moving at about 12:30PM.

I felt awful. All I wanted to do was go back to bed and pretend I was invisible. I can definitely hear voices again. They’re not at the front of my mind, but they’re there, the same two as before, muttering abuse and demanding I provide some paperwork that I’d do if I were still at work. I don’t think I’ve been sleeping all that well lately; with luck, that’s what’s causing it and a couple of good nights will solve things.

I forced myself to go for a shower, then headed off to my Dr C appointment. It was very nice outside today, probably around 20C or so with blue skies and just the barest breath of wind. I drove with the air conditioning on all the way just to see how well it was working and it’s definitely fixed.

My appointment with Dr C was difficult at the start. I can’t really hide things from her – she’s able to see when I’m uncomfortable with something and she got how I was feeling out of me. I guess it’s good that she’s able to do that, but I sometimes find it difficult and unpleasant to talk about my feelings. After that, we worked on a “safe place” exercise where I focused on a place where I feel comfortable and happy and then do breathing and mindfulness exercises. Here’s my safe place:

I found the first time through quite difficult – I realized that I may never be able to physically go back there again – but the second time was quite a bit easier.

One of the things I find very interesting about therapy is that it can dig down past the level where I normally “feel” things and find other emotions or thoughts simmering below the surface. Poking at those emotions and thoughts can be very unpleasant but I find that I feel better after addressing them.

I left Dr C’s office feeling considerably better than when I’d arrived. Still not great, but better – and I’ll certainly take better over the same (or worse). Next week we’re going to really get into the EMDR stuff. I’m both dreading and looking forward to digging down into my psyche to find the various bad memories I’ve collected over the years and re-filing them properly so they don’t bother me as much.

Once I got home, I cranked up some good high-tempo music and read a couple of articles out of a motorcycling magazine that J picked up for me the other day (thank you!). I found I had the energy and brainpower to make supper so I started in on it and had it ready just as J got home.

I fell asleep on the couch after supper, which also makes me think I’m not sleeping as well at night. I am still having nightmares that wake me up and sometimes it’s a lot harder to get back to sleep – especially when my mind keeps hitting the EMERGENCY button when there’s nothing wrong.

This evening I need to tidy the house up a bit because FA is coming over tomorrow morning. I’m really looking forward to her visit, I have a lot of fun hanging out with her and going on capers.

So I think I can say that I’m feeling better than I have the last few days. I still don’t feel normal, but things are a lot better. I can live with that.

Stay safe!

Tales From The Ward, Part II

Day 8

Didn’t get quite as much sleep last night – there was yelling and thumping at about 11PM that woke me up. I was able to get back to sleep and finally woke up at around 6:20AM. Makes for about seven and a half hours of sleep. Not too bad.

My eyes feel like someone poured salty sand into them this morning. Plus, I have a giant pimple on my forehead. Ouch.

Had some nightmares last night – all about work. Need to talk to someone about that I think.

A is my nurse again this morning. That’s good.

Sounds like a lot of people are back from passes. Much louder and more bustle around here this morning.

Another freak-out by that same guy. I must admit that those incidents bother me quite a bit.

Having some bad thoughts. Spoke with A, she was very helpful as always.

Group this morning was about what we wanted to challenge ourselves with this week. I said I’d like to recognize panic attacks sooner so I can stop them.

Feeling pretty down today. Looking forward to J and Mom visiting.

Pollock for lunch. Choked half of it down. Man, I hate fish. I can always ask them to put me on a no-fish diet but I’ll try it for a bit longer.

Group this afternoon was about the KonMari method of organizing. Worth a look!

The guy doing all the yelling lately was transferred out during group. I hope he gets the help he needs.

Supper was veal, mashed potato, peas, and mango pieces for dessert.

Meeting with Dr W went well. He says I need to get the work stuff figured out. I agree.

Feeling quite down.

Evening nurse is P. Seems pretty laid-back.

Had a difficult but very good visit with J and Mom. Spent most of it crying but it was so good to talk and the hugs were very therapeutic. I’m so lucky to have such a supportive family!


Stay safe!

It’s Going To Get Better

Today was pretty rough and much like yesterday. I woke up from two nightmares last night that had me sitting on the edge of the bed, doing my best to fight off waves of panic and not wake J. It’s been a while since I’ve had two nightmares that were that vivid in a single night.

I think I’m also starting to hear things again. It’s just out in my periphery but there’s definitely something there that wasn’t there a few days ago. Voices used to be a problem for me so I’m really REALLY hoping this just goes away on its own.

I managed to take the truck to the neighbourhood auto shop this morning and they fixed the air conditioner. I’ve never been there before so I gave the guy a test – I told him to take a look around the truck and if he saw anything else that needed doing to let me know. All he did was the A/C and said he didn’t find anything wrong with the truck. That’s good.

I feel pretty rotten. Tough to do anything today. I have my Dr C appointment tomorrow, maybe she’ll be able to figure out what’s going on with me.

Stay safe!

Feeling Rough

I’m sorry but this is going to be a short post. I’m still feeling pretty bad – very anxious like I’m a spring being wound tighter and tighter. I didn’t sleep very well last night and had no luck taking a nap today either. I had my Dr W appointment today and it was much more difficult than usual but on the way out to the elevator, the patient care manager that I sent that letter to stopped me in the hallway and thanked me for it, which was nice.

I had to dip into my PRN lorazepam supply today. I always feel guilty about that because it feels like a step backwards but I have to remember that it’s okay to have bad days and it’s okay to take PRNs – that’s what they’re for. With luck, I’ll be able to get a good sleep tonight and tomorrow will be a better day.

Stay safe!

An Anxious Day

I’ve been feeling anxious and jumpy all day. I had two small panic attacks this afternoon and I can’t stop thinking about who I am, who I should be, and how to make sure that I’m a good person. I wasn’t getting anywhere with it so I tried to put it out of my head but I haven’t had much luck. I can feel myself winding up, tighter and tighter. I hate it.

J took me to the nearby hospital early in the morning for a CT scan appointment so now that’s done and over with. They injected a contrast that made me feel like I’d just wet myself; fortunately, they warned me about it first. After that, we headed home. J is still not feeling very well so she took today off and we hung out for a lot of the day.

The air conditioner in the truck isn’t working. I did some troubleshooting today and figured out enough to say I need to take it into a shop to get a professional to look at it. The fuses and everything look good but the clutch isn’t engaging to turn on the compressor. Could be that there’s not enough refrigerant left in the system, could be that there’s something wrong with the clutch solenoid or the clutch itself. On the upside, I spent about an hour out in the beautiful sunshine we had today.

J signed us both up for a pointillism class next week. It’s just a one evening thing but it will be nice to get out of the house and do something different.

Argh… I hate how I’m feeling right now. I may have to break down and take one of my PRN medications if it gets any worse. Mass Effect didn’t divert my attention enough (which is weird) – maybe I’ll go downstairs and listen to some music. Hopefully that will help.

Stay safe!

Doing A Lot Of Thinking

I spent a lot of the weekend thinking about where I am and where I want to be. I’ve been off work for over a year and my stomach still twists whenever I think about that. I can’t go back to my old job – there’s no way I can do that anymore and preserve my mental health (regardless of the state it’s in). I keep thinking to myself that this is an opportunity to reinvent myself, but reinvent myself as what? I’m over 40 and have pretty specialized training and experience – unfortunately, it’s training and experience in what I can no longer do. I need to get away from IM/IT work and do something else.

I really enjoy welding, but who is going to hire a 40+ year old apprentice welder when there are tons of 18 or 19 year olds trying for the same jobs? It would be the same with pretty much any trade. I have supervisory experience, but that pretty much dried up in 2012, so I don’t have anything recent. I enjoy writing, but there’s not a lot of technical writing work out there and I don’t have specific training in it anyway.

I’ve heard some people say that there’s a job out there that’s a perfect match, you just have to find it. Well, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and looking and I have yet to find anything that I think would work. Compounding the issue is that even thinking about that stuff makes me feel like I’m going to throw up.

J has been really helpful, both bouncing ideas off me and telling me that I should stop thinking about this stuff and keep working on getting better. It’s hard for me to not think about work – I want, more than anything, to help people – but I feel like I’m balancing on the edge of a cliff, and I really, REALLY don’t want to fall again.

Another thing I’m wondering about is how can I tell when I’m ready to go back to work? What about if I’m ready to volunteer somewhere one day a week? What about take a course or two? I’m hamstrung by how my brain is working right now. Some days I feel like I’m ready to try, but other days I can’t pull myself out of bed. Who is going to hire a 40+ year old apprentice anything who will have bad days but can’t tell what the pattern or magnitude will be?

When I was still working, I felt trapped – stuck in a job that was slowly grinding me down to nothing. I still feel trapped because I’m really scared that I’ll have to go back to where I was, and where nothing has changed. I just can’t do it.

How do I reinvent myself? How can I go to bed and not be scared that the insurance company is going to call tomorrow and tell me I have to go back to work?

God, I hate having this stuff hanging over my head. I don’t even know where to begin to fix it. Baby steps, I guess.

Stay safe!