Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Project: Unintended Benefits

I started a new project a little over a week ago. Basically all I am doing is recording my time spent and on what. Really simple. The ultimate goal (which is evolving) is to have a genuine appreciation of  the positive efforts in my life. I want to be able to ignore my poor self esteem based on observable facts. I can't trust my ill mind to judge my behavior objectively enough to function like a "normal" human being without discrediting any effort I make to be me and happy.

Getting Started

I already had a note book, pen, and clock so the project in and of itself took nothing at all to start. Well, nothing but effort, but that is actually an unintended benefit. I was worried I wouldn't have the ambition to complete my log regularly. And I was right! It is not something I have succeeded with everyday since I started. I have, however, managed to log several days worth of activity.

What Did I Learn?

I don't grant myself the patience and attention to log my time unless I am alone. I don't even engage myself in any measurable activity unless I am alone. This includes the time my significant other spends at home. I freeze up. All ambition leaves me and I simply exist. Nothing spectacular but I survive so there is that :-/

I also learned that I spend most of my time that seems "lost", on twitter. I don't think I needed to record my time spent on twitter to be aware of the time I spend there but the amount is a little absurd. I try to rationalize this by saying this is my source for most news, socialization, networking on healing... yea. I think honing in some allowable twitter time in my day is appropriate once I start making changes.

For now I am not making any changes. Honestly, I am lacking energy so most days having any sort of plan is out the window before it even starts but I want to get back to feeling productive. Making lists, crossing things off. You know what I mean. I want to decide to do something and be able to say I've done it!

Unintended Benefit

When I'm alone it's very easy to sink into an immobile lump in the duvet and spend my day reading blogs or tweets. Many days I forget to eat all together. Seriously sounds infantile but I forget to feed and water myself regulariuly. Then I binge on sugary food in the evening then I sleep poorly. What a shocker.

What I hadn't thought would be a benefit to logging my time spent on this or that is I am actually noticing myself held accountable for self care. If I see a list of activities like "An hour cuddling kitty" and "an hour on twitter" alternating back and forth I see my lack of self care. Not seeing any time spent on self care reminds me, I need to be taken care of! I'm holding myself more accountable for the bare minimums and its become less of an effort on those days when I notice. It's less a feeling of effort and more a feeling pro-active automatic reaction.

So, What Next?

I'm not sure if what I've noticed or what this may become is all too remarkable. It does have me thinking though. I feel incapable of taking care of myself many days. With logging my time and wanting the feeling of being engaged with my day this gives me an opportunity to map how my time effects my mood. If I manage to set up intentions for 2012 and log my time it seems within reason I can logistically plan success. I'll eventually target and limit behavior that leaves me feeling poorly and focus on behavior that leaves me feeling good about myself. Like feeding and watering myself. I know it's only nourishment but c'mon folks. Bitches gotta eat.

Pharmacy Phuck-ups

I called my pharmacy to have a prescription refilled. It was brought to my attention that I was calling 13 days early, however by my count I was calling 5 days early.I had 2 pill scripts needing re-filling.
  • I was accused of over medicating. 
  • My family/ housemates were implied as possibly having taken them by the pharmacy tech.
This was frustrating and my first encounter with a pharmacy problem. These accusations knocked the wind right out of me. I called them back to explain there was no error on my end after having awkwardly confronting my family. The tech told me that pill 1 count on their records show correct and pill 2 count shows as over by 5. They acknowledged an error on their end but refused to attribute it to my prescription shortage.

I was willing to cut my loses. I don't handle confrontation well and figured a weeks worth of pills wasn't worth the argument I was clearly in for as no accountability was offered from the pharmacies end.

The next week I went in for the refill. I asked for the the pharmacies manager card so I could send them an email about what had happened the previous week. I didn't want the pills. I wanted someone to know what was going on in their pharmacy.

I got my script home and counted the pills because of the previous weeks realization that my script had been shorted. When I counted the pills one of them was off by half. I was irate. That's a huge mistake! After how I had been treated the previous week I was not willing to let this one go. Someone had to be accountable for this pharmacies errors.

I called and spoke to the pharmacy manager and shared my experience (negating the need to email him at all). He sounded sincerely sorry and offered to count their stock and get their inventory count and compare. This was frustrating as when it happened on Thursday the counts were off and offered no resolution. Every job has policies and procedures to follow so I accepted his due diligence and waited for him to call back.

When no one called me back after 2 hours I called and was told I was wrong. Their counts were on except the 5 I knew about from last week. He was willing to offer those to me as a courtesy. This wasn't good enough for me. There was no admission of error, implied drug abuse and implicating my family as abusing my script was more than enough to push me to my limits.

He continually said "There is no proof of error on our end". Finally I said "look, I am not accusing your staff of stealing but if they were of course the are going to try their best to keep counts correct as not to get caught." He offered to call head office and get their advice. Feeling helpless I agreed to speak with him the next day.

When he called he said that he had spoken to my psychiatrists supervisor and his head office, as a good will gesture they were willing to give me the 30 pills I was shorted when I received half the prescription amount. I wanted my meds so I gratefully thanked him for finding a way to to get me what I wanted.

I then asked what agency I could report his pharmacy to for mistakes. Her again, said there is no proof of error on their end. He did provide me the information to the agency responsible for complaints in my area- The College of Pharmacists for Nova Scotia, Canada. I'm still waiting on a call back to log my complaint. I've left 2 messages, one this week and one last.

This blog post seems more important to me than any other I've written for a few reasons.
  •  Just because I am mentally ill I will not be bullied into being the victim. 
  • Back to back mistakes of being shorted the same medication from the same pharmacy seems phishy. If nothing else I need to protect my peers from similar issues.
  • I stood up for myself and got the result I needed. We can all do that. This is one example of not backing down in the face of difficulty.
I've got to say that the #TwitterPsychWard was out in full swing providing me support, advice and laughter. I am forever indebted to the crew on twitter who have become my support base. Thank you so much to everyone who helped.

How have you challenged that status quo to get what you need in health care?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pity Party!!

 I am certain there are many other people who are depressed and can relate to my tweet earlier this morning (left). Yet when I sent this tweet this morning I felt totally alone with this awful feeling of endless desperation. I was in a shit storm allowing myself to feel as crappy as possible. I was curling up with my awful feelings and preparing to deal with agony alone. I'm someone who isolates as a way of dealing with the symptoms of my illness. I won't be able to leave the house today. I won't even be able to go and check the mail. Even describing these limitations via my blog has my stomach in knots. I feel like I'm on a roller coaster, barely holding back breakfast, which was actually only a glass of water.

 Feeling completely alone and frustrated I forgot the army of people surviving this shit everyday. "They" say 1/4 have a mental illness. How could I be so naive as to think I am alone in my feelings of despair? It only took one quick reminder (right) and I was no longer a table for one. I was a bonafide pity party. I started to write a blog post how miserable and awful everything in my life is and I just felt terrible about writing that way. I have so much to be grateful for, how dare I take that for granted?! I must be a terrible person for wallowing in my self pity.... right? NO WAY.

The more I reach out and connect with others in my plight to find happiness and health the less my spirit resonates with pity and more with party. Kind people, who become friends, crawl out of the nooks and crannies of the Twitterverse and remind me of some important but easily forgotten facts.

This is my blog! I can write what I want. I don't have a boss breathing down my next telling me what is acceptable and what is not. I don't have deadlines or duties beyond those to myself and in this medium exploring the pain along with the pleasure will help me present myself more holistically to my readers (is there anyone reading?) and to myself. This is more or less an online journal. Sometimes journals have some not so fun stuff. That's okay. It's just life.

And sometimes self pity is a good thing. I didn't share all my pity points but it really was good to get the words out (right).

I really am lucky to have such a fabulous group of folks to follow. Alone, depression seems like an impossible battle. Together, depression is just the background noise to an otherwise tolerable mishap.

I can always count on my twitter folks to remind me:

Where is My Mind?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Turkey Time Self Care

A big delicious slice of dead turkey. Yum yum. I've been a vegetarian who cheats for at least two years now. That means at potlucks or family get togethers I eat what is offered rather than be a 'fuss'. In other words, I was a people pleaser not a me pleaser.

Now don't get me wrong, I love a turkey sandwich with crispy bacon. Well, I used to. That's the thing. I called myself a vegetarian who cheats because I'd have that plate of turkey at Christmas or a burger when on the run & in a hurry.

Lately I can't even stand the smell of cooking meat and to bite in makes me literally gag. It's only been within the last 3 months that I've been having this physical aversion to eating meat. I'm kind of nervous to avoid the non-vegetarian offerings over the holiday. It is time though.

There's nothing wrong with not eating what is served as long as what you can eat, you do. It's not impolite to have morals and standards that I hold myself to without the judgement of others. One of them, for me, is not eating meat.

Christmas eve the meal options are always sea food chowder or beef chili. So I am bringing some pre made veggie bean chili and cornbread. I won't cause a fuss and will be contributing to the meal with the cornbread.

The longer I've been depressed the more it is sinking in, if I don't take care of making me feel good- who will?

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My New Project

I am becoming a little more ambitious. It's been a really long time since I've wanted to do anything other then get through the day alive, not moving and barely breathing. I still feel that way many days. I try to take care of myself throughout the day whether it's feed myself, shower or get a drink. Some times I can't do all those things in the same day.

Some times I'm lucky and not only do I do all those things but I also manage to get some laundry or other household duty done. That's a big deal. I mostly just exist amongst remnants of someone else's life. A me I don't know anymore.

Lately I've been having a day or two here or there where I actually wanted to be *moving doing feeling*.

On those days I'm so disoriented from this feeling which is new. Not feeling hollow and numb is confusing and disorienting. I'm not used to it. So I've mostly squandered the energy bouncing from different activities to nothing- nervous of when this energy and contentedness will leave. Because it does leave, often quite suddenly without warning.

I know it will get better and I will become more aware of possible triggers. As I learn to dance with my disorders I won't spend as much time tripping over myself. And oh boy do I ever fall hard.

I tend to discount the positive and magnify the negative in my life. This creates ammunition for my poor self esteem to kick me when I'm already down.

Facts. I need facts. If I can't trust my mind to judge my behavior objectively enough to function like a "normal" human being... well, then I need data to review and physically see the truth.

I used to work labor jobs before I got into the bank (where I am on leave). Anyways- I used to have to create these "work orders" and log exactly how much time I spent on what activity so the big bad boss lady knew what to charge.

So now I am sort of doing that tracking with my days. I'm my own client and I want to reward (not charge, haha) my success as though that is my emotional currency.

It's a project that still needs a few details to make it as fun and easy as possible. Im working on that! I've started a log segmented in half hour increments and I'm just jotting down how I've spent my time. No big deal, it takes a couple seconds.

Sometimes seeing how I've really spent my time makes me sad. I feel like I'm mourning lost time and opportunity. I try to think as positively as I can muster when looking at my log or it can be discouraging at times. Thinking positive, lost time usually is really well spent rest and recoup time, as an example.

Now! I must reward myself for blogging as I've been blogging for a half hour :)

Do you have any suggestions or idea's on how to improve on this very small and simple yet powerful project of mine?

PS Sorry for formatting, typing, grammar errors. Blogging on my phone is tricky!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mission: Do Stuff

Mission Complete!

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
- Nelson Mandela

A Typical Day

Normally I don't leave the house. Open spaces, nonrhythmic noise and groups of people trigger panic attacks that are crippling. As a result I more or less isolate myself. I stay home and only leave when I have a doc appointment. I try to do any out of the house errands at the same time so it's one outing per week. I'm not going to pretend that's the healthy way to deal with my anxiety or phobia's. I'm just saying that's what I normally do. Normally.

Your Mission Should You Choose to Accept

I woke up yesterday morning determined to do something. I'm on disability (not working) and had cancelled my therapist the night before so really I had the whole day to do whatever I wanted. I shouldn't have canceled my therapist appointment but that's a whole other story. Rather than just surviving I decided I would push through the anxiety. I was going to leave the house without any plan other than to do stuff outside my home. Okay brain, "Let's Do This!"

Do What?

I caught the bus and rode a few blocks until I was out of my area and hopped off. I was walking casually listening to my ipod when the sickening feeling of irrational fear was creeping up. I had to escape and had no where to go. I started to sweat and my heart was thumping so hard it hurt. PANIC PANIC PANIC!

Wild eyed and shaking I retreated to a little coffee shop and ordered myself some lunch. Just the act of taking care of myself (resting, nourishment) was enough to settle the anxiety a bit as to venture back out into the world. This small success of going out into the world alone, then properly caring for myself non medicinally during panic was enough to start the momentum I needed to keep on keeping on.

Positive Momentum

After I finished my lunch I took a stroll. How long has it been since I just went out strolling? I couldn't tell you but it was very nice yesterday. The air was cool as winter has arrived but the sun was warm and the air smelled delightful. Thrilled that I conquered my apprehension of being outside for a walk I decided to go downtown and grab a few odds and ends that the kitchen needs.

Knowing my Limits

It may not seem like a big deal- I am extremely proud of these small successes I've had. I know, I just know I will get back into enjoying the space outside my home. I'll enjoy meeting people and going places but right now I don't. I'm "re-learning" to live a social life. It would have been wise to accept my success at this point and turn back pleased with my results however I don't know my limit. If I feel a little good I tend burn myself into the ground. Like I did yesterday!

Uh-Oh, What Happened?

I messaged my O.H. to let him know I was downtown if he wanted to meet up and he decide to take the rest of the day off. We went about a few shops together and decided we wanted to head to *hangs head in shame* Walmart. On our way into Walmart I very seriously explained if he was going to be with me I needed him to be kind an supportive. I knew being in a crowded box store would be enough to set me off but maybe with his support I would be okay.

10 minutes in he decided to publicly scorn me. Yea, he caused a scene. Wanna know what it was over? I saw some good hampers, said I was getting one and said I hated that it was always my responsibility to get stuff like that for the house. He went off saying if I'm going to be giving him a hard tie I can fuck off, he's sick of my shit and blah blah blah. It was so rude and out of place that patrons turning to walk down our isle stopped, looked and turned around again.AWKWARD.

Do NOT treat me like an abused child in public- no,  at ALL!! EVER!

I calmly turned and walked away from him.

I went to the most uncrowded corner of the store and had a nice hard heavy ugly cry.

Shaking with anxiety and sadness I bought underwear and yoga pants with tears streaming down my face. I know its really nothing for me to be humiliated over but once there's a leak in the damn the whole thing can give away and well... that was me. Picking out a pretty new blue bra between blowing globs of snot from my face and wiping thick silent streams of tears from my face.

I did what I set out to do though. I had a full and spontaneous day. Hey- still a success, right?

"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do."
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Monday, December 19, 2011

I remember when...

When I describe my symptoms to a mental health care provider, the first question is almost always, "When did this start?". My symptoms didn't just magically appear out of thin air in my 29th year of life. Like a beautiful musical progression my mental health woes came to symphony in my 29th year. It was a long time coming.

 When did your symptoms start?

Most of my symptoms have been present since childhood. I can remember being as young as 7 expressing grave concern over a tent being put up. I was mid presentation of the dangerous possibilities of collapse and smothering us to death when suddenly my sharp tonged mother hissed, "Stop worrying about everything, for Christs sakes!". I shut up and put up in a hurry. I learned to keep my worries to myself. If I had a problem it was my problem, and mine alone to fix it. Perhaps not so ironic I had asked for a globe that year as my spring gift. I cherished that globe. The world is awfully huge at 7 years old.

Worrying isn't a Mental Illness

Worrying can be a bad habit but as a stand alone it isn't a diagnosable condition. It was my chronic worry, my worry over literally everything that should have put up red flags for my care givers. I obsessed with even lines, straight lines, even proportions, and labels facing forward. Odd numbers literally caused heartache- heartache that I struggled with alone.

My caregivers took a small amount of notice when I was 8 and wore only black and deep purple clothing. I had an insatiable hunger to know everything there was to know about death. They loaded me in the vehicle and to the doctor. He was a kind old man who didn't seem to even believe in mental health conditions. "It's a phase that will pass". And so it did pass. The phase passed and morphed into something that would from this point forward remove any understanding between my parents and I for many years.

It's Just a Phase

I would fall asleep crying many nights, dreaming of my funeral or picturing horrific deaths of family and friends. I can remember getting up at night while everyone slept and tip toeing around the house planning the best escape if a murderer broke in. I decided my parents were un-savable since their room was in the basement. I would only be able to save my sisters and this pained me to no end. Based on window locations and possible entry points I had a strategic plan to save my sisters that I routinely checked and double checked for flaws.

When airplanes would fly over our property I would be afraid. I have never known the life of a war torn country citizen. I'm from Atlantic Canada. I'm pretty lucky. No reason to expect bombers or war. Not yet anyways. During my youth I was certain one of these times a plane flew over, that everything would be over. I remember whispering my goodbyes and crying in my closet waiting for death. Sometimes minutes. Sometimes hours. I can remember falling asleep in my closet waking up convinced I would be entering war and devastation.I was never relieved when I would wander out into my regular life with sisters and parents and pets. In fact, I was usually disappointed.

All of this and not once could I go to my parents. It was just a phase, right? The fact that it wasn't over means there is something wrong with me... so best keep this to myself. If they only knew.

Chasing Butterflies

My childhood has happy moments in the sun chasing butterflies and pondering the caterpillar conundrum. But this isn't that story. I remember when I realized it wasn't ever going to be.

I remember when I told my mother other parents didn't act like her; referring to her drunk episodes, as she was a formidable alcoholic. It bothered me never knowing which mom would be around if I needed something or had a question. She was very direct in her reply, "I don't care what you think. Think whatever you want but keep it to yourself. I don't want to hear it. Shut up."

I remember when I was in the 6th grade I did poorly on a test. Something like a 70%. Not a terrible mark but not my typical 90's. I bawled. I sat on the floor and repeatedly banged my head on the cement wall repeating "they are going to kill me, I'm going to die, they're going to kill me". I was only exaggerating a bit. I probably wouldn't die. I wasn't that lucky. A teacher came over and tried to talk me out of over reacting. They just didn't understand so why bother telling them whats going on right? No one cares what I think. Just keep my thoughts to myself (this is my 8 year old logic remember).

The Point of No Return

My mom barged in my room one night saying "Your friend Britney keeps calling".
"I know," I replied, "she's having a sleepover". Of which I wanted no part.

Dearest mother in her typical bullying and agitated manor got angry with me for not being ready and *told* me to be ready in 20 minutes, she was driving me there. Looking back I think she just wanted some time in the house to herself but at the time it felt like the worst kind of punishment. With a giant lump in my throat I got in the vehicle and sat in the cold watching the snow fall. I had almost convinced myself I could just sleep in the car and not have to deal with a sleepover or parents when mother got in the car cursing me for not telling her where I was.

I just leaned against the window an cried. I cried the whole way cross town. I cried in the driveway while my mother pulled away. I kept crying in the driveway until Britney's mother came out an asked if I was coming in. I guess the sensor light not shutting off tipped her off. I dried my eyes, brushed the snow from my jacket and went inside.

That was the worst panic I've ever had, mostly because I didn't understand. I suffered severe social anxiety and lack of routine set off a very reactionary me. I remember spending half the night in the washroom with diarrhea and the rest of the night pretending I was looking for something in my bag. The mood was weird. No one asked what was wrong. That's okay, I couldn't bare to admit I didn't know. At least not completely.

I remember one of the other guests telling me I was bringing down the party and I offered to leave but that wasn't the right answer. Ever the people pleaser I swallowed my pain and with a permanent pained grin, I watched the group of girls do girly things. I might as well been on mars. I have no recollection of anything else that night. Thank goodness. What I do remember hurts my spirit so much.

So, When did your symptoms start?

Was I ever symptom free?