Some Things Should Come Naturally

I don’t understand why taking care of myself is so hard. It seems backwards that making sure I am okay is something that most of us struggle with. It seems so…wrong, somehow, to struggle with taking care. Shouldn’t making sure that we are okay just come naturally? Maybe I’m missing something.

To consider daily tasks, like brushing my hair, brushing my teeth, feeding myself, getting dressed, and doing things I enjoy, somehow, for some reason, takes a lot of effort. And I don’t even necessarily mean when I’m feeling depressed. That I can understand faltering on taking care. I’m talking about just day-to-day functioning.

Waking up in the morning, and seeing the day before me, the task before me, as Herculean. Seeing just taking my meds, or brushing my teeth, or getting dressed, as tasks that will require all of my physical and mental strength, and leave me wondering if I will have any strength left for anything else after the first task is finally completed. How will I ever make it to brush my teeth now that I’ve taken my meds? How will I find the strength to shower now that I’ve brushed my teeth? How will I find it in me to feed myself now that I’m showered and dressed? How will I do what needs to be done for myself? How will I be kind to myself? How will I take care of myself all day today? Can I do it?

I don’t understand why this is so hard? Why is taking care of myself so hard? Why is being kind to myself so hard? Shouldn’t being kind to yourself be easier? Shouldn’t taking care of myself come naturally? I get that I wasn’t taught to be kind to myself, and I wasn’t taught to take care of myself, but I know now. And I find it really hard.

Is it just me? Are others able to take care of themselves with ease? Do others find it hard to take care of themselves?

Leaving myself to the day and just letting things be is super easy but nothing gets accomplished; not getting dressed, not eating, not nothing.

Making sure that I am clean and dressed and fed and able to face the day and accomplish things shouldn’t be so hard. Why is it so hard?

Anyone know? Anyone?

Advertisements

Death of a Dream

It’s a sad day when you realize that a dream has died.

The heartbreaking day when it finally hits you, like a ton of bricks that literally leaves you breathless, “this is never going to happen, is it?”

It’s a rude awakening at best, and a devastating, grievable loss at worst.

It’s a moment that will leave a mark, that you will never forget, and becomes the partition to every day after. It’s the day you actually feel your heart break, your throat ache, and something deep inside of you dies.

For a moment you will be in denial. Can this really be true? Is it really gone? Is it really not going to happen? It can’t be. Can it? But it’s such a big dream, it’s such a big part of me, it’s an inevitability, just a matter of time until it happens, right? It can’t be gone. It can’t be dead. It was there all bright and shiny and hopeful just moments ago. It was so much a part of me it was almost tangible. And just like that, it’s gone? No. That can’t be possible. It has to take more than this, doesn’t it? It has to be there. But it’s not. Not anymore. Not ever again.

And something inside starts to cry.

When you’re a kid you have all kinds of dreams. There’s a window of time as a child where, with rare exception, there is nothing you can’t dream about having, doing, wanting, or being. The sky is the limit. Any job, possession, lifestyle, or life, is yours to conjure up. It’s an exhilarating prospect that unfortunately as children we don’t realize we have. We tend to realize it too late.

And then as you grow up, you start to realize the limitations that you have; you’re not as athletic as required to become a major league basketball player, or it turns out that you hate math so suddenly physics might not be in your future, or you’re not as balanced as you need to be to become a dancer. They’re hard limitations to have and to an extent there are some that can be overcome. It means putting in serious time, effort, commitment, and hard work, but somehow that is nothing compared to realizing your dream, so you push on.

External circumstances like where you live, or how much money it will cost can definitely factor in, but even then, depending on the circumstance, it doesn’t necessarily mean the dream is done.

As time goes by, and months turn into years, the dreams start to change and evolve. As we grow and learn, about ourselves, and about the world, we chip away at the list and over time new dreams are added, old dreams are taken away, and it gets whittled down from a list of hundreds of dreams, maybe even thousands, to a dozen or so, maybe.

But the core dreams, the life changers, the dreams that we would give anything to have realized; like having a family, owning your own business, moving across the ocean, and having a career that makes you glad to get out of bed every morning, painting a masterpiece, are the dreams that never falter in their want. They sometimes get shelved, or put away for a while, by other things in life that come up, but when you go to find them again, they are there, sitting on the shelf, a little dusty, but they are waiting for you, holding on, and still dreaming to be realized.

We hold onto these dreams with a ferocity that propels us forward that someday, somehow, this dream will come true. We believe it. We feel it. We just know it will happen. It feels as solid as the earth, and just as real. Patience is a major player in this want but no matter what else happens, the dream stays.

The lucky ones eventually get there. The lucky ones eventually realize their dream, and it is truly the best day ever.

But then there are those who will never have their dreams come true. There are those dreamers who will never move past the want into realization. There are those who, no matter how much they believed, and how hard they hoped, will never realize their dream. There are those who will instead of having the best day ever, it will be the worst. They will watch their dream die as if someone they love has just died. They will witness it like a horrible, unspeakable murder right before their eyes. An image they will never be able to unsee, and a feeling of loss that will rip apart their very core. It will feel like an 18-wheeler truck has struck you down, and ran you over.

It is the day the dream died.

And it doesn’t even matter what killed it. All that matters is that it is gone. It is done. It is over. And it’s a loss that will require weeks, maybe months of grieving, it is so great. And maybe you will find another dream to dream but then even if you do it won’t be the same as before. It will never be the same again. Because now you’ve been hurt, now you’ve been scarred, by the loss from before. Now you approach it with caution and fear, now it becomes a dream with a disclaimer. You can dream all you like but that guarantees you nothing. And as long as you live your dreams will be subject to harm and to death.

I always thought I was a dreamer but now I see I’m not.

Nothing

I feel alone and lonely. 

I wish…I don’t know what I wish for. And even if I did wish I know it wouldn’t come true. So there’s really no point. 

My world has shrunk and before long I will probably be nothing and I will have no one to blame but myself. 

For I am nothing. 

There Is Nothing Wrong With Having Mental Health Issues

This past weekend brought up the conversation of mental health issues in a number of ways for me; from hearing about Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Roberto Osuna speaking publicly about struggling with anxiety, and not feeling himself, to conversations I’ve had with family and friends. I feel like it needs to be said again, and again, that there is nothing wrong with having mental health issues. I’m going to be repeating this often throughout this post, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH HAVING MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES.

I think Roberto Osuna’s decision for opening up about what he is struggling with, which is no doubt much more common in baseball, and sports in general, than is reported, was exceptionally brave. It isn’t easy to open up about something so personal and something that can be subject to judgement, criticism, and misinterpretation.

Mental health is absolutely vital to our well-being. Without it, we are open to literally falling apart. Mental health is just as important to our being able to function and cope as physical health is. In fact, there are a number of situations where mental health may be even more important than physical health.

The dozens of disorders and diagnosis that encompass mental health are never something to be taken lightly, no matter how, where, when, or why, a person finds themselves struggling with them. Whether it’s a disorder that has been a part of your life since childhood, or whether it’s something that pops into your life in later years, it is always, repeat always, something to be taken seriously. And at no time is it ever a reflection on what kind of person you are, nor does it ever mean that something is wrong with you.

Admittedly, you may need treatment, you may even need medication, but that does not mean you are broken, or flawed, or weak, or a bad person. It doesn’t mean you should be treated differently nor does it mean you should be shunned, judged, ostracized, or criticized. It means that you need help and support, encouragement and compassion, and understanding and patience for a difficult situation or period in your life. That’s really all it means, that you need help. And there is nothing, NOTHING, wrong with that.

I can understand that there are people who have not struggled with mental health issues and may not be able to fully grasp what it means but that is no excuse to treat someone with mental health issues any differently than had they been struggling with something physical that can be seen or quantified. People struggling with mental health issues are still people.

You don’t have to have mental health issues to be compassionate.

I think it’s great that the conversation of mental health is fast becoming more mainstream, and less a “closeted” discussion, saved only for professionals. With places like CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health), here in Canada, CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association), also here in Canada, the annual Bell Let’s Talk campaign, and several sports and television personalities opening up about their own mental health struggles has made a HUGE impact in people starting to realize and understand that mental health is something that can affect anyone, in any capacity, or social standing, and that it is NOT something to be ashamed of.

I firmly believe that places like CAMH and CMHA are leading the fight in bringing awareness to mental health, bringing the discussion to the masses, and especially with bringing help to those in need. Addressing mental health openly has come a long way in starting to lose the stigma that has been attached to it for so long. But there is still more work to do. And it starts with us, talking to someone when we need help, and not feeling ashamed about what we are going through.

I’m not saying that you need to speak about what you might be struggling with to everyone you know and everyone you meet. It may mean only sharing it with one person, it may mean sharing it with a group of strangers at a support group, it may mean sharing it only with a professional. It isn’t about who you choose to share it with, it’s about owning that you are struggling right now with mental health issues, and that is nothing to hide or be ashamed of. I’m going to repeat that, “struggling with mental health issues is NOTHING to be ashamed of.

Life is hard. Very hard. This is not new information for anyone. Sometimes trying to handle all that life throws at us, and coping with difficult situations, emotions, and difficult people can be more than just a challenge at times. It can be something that permeates your whole being, and for some, it may also mean using more destructive than constructive methods to cope. It can be something that filters down into your relationships, your work, your interests, your family and friends, and even your ability to function at a basic level. Mental illness can grip you like a vise and twist itself around you so that you feel like you can’t breathe. It doesn’t care if you have the time, or the space, or whether you’re ready or not, it can come on without warning and take you over, or take you down. Regardless of who you are, where you’re from, what you do, where you work etc, you could be someone who finds themselves struggling with mental health issues just as easily as anyone else.

Mental health isn’t selective in who it affects. No exemptions or discrimination here. Mental health is an equal opportunity assailant.

I don’t want to compare mental health to physical health because I don’t think they really can be compared. The each have their own struggles, symptoms, treatments, and perspectives. But I will say that with as many differences that lie between physical/medical issues and mental health issues, there are also a number of similarities between them too. There a lot of physical illnesses or disorders that can often strike at will to whomever, whenever, without warning or cause, and mental health issues can be just as arbitrary and random in who becomes affected too. There are a number of physical/medical issues that cannot be seen just by looking at someone, and that cannot be measured with a blood test or x-ray, just like not being able to tell just by looking that someone is struggling with mental health issues.

Someone struggling with a physical/medical issue is as important to address as someone struggling with a mental health issue. One issue is not necessarily any more urgent to address than the other. Of course I understand that there are some serious medical issues that can be life-threatening and are important to treat as soon as possible, and that there are some mental health issues that are not as urgent in the moment to treat, but they are still important enough to treat, regardless.

Someone struggling with mental health issues may be able to wait a few more days for help than someone requiring urgent medical assistance, but it doesn’t mean that the person struggling with mental health issues should be dismissed or indefinitely delayed in getting treatment.

All issues that can befall us, whether physical, emotional, or mental, each have their own urgencies or not, in how and when they are addressed, but the important thing to remember is that they ALL deserve addressing.

Repeat: THEY ALL DESERVE TO BE ADDRESSED.

I would like to close this by saying to all those struggling with mental health issues, please seek help if you need it, don’t wait. And please don’t be ashamed or feel less than because you need help. Talk to someone. Share with those you trust in your own time. You don’t have anything to be ashamed of, nor do you owe anyone an explanation. You are struggling and you need help. Please remember that. You are struggling and you need help.

For those who have a loved one struggling with mental health issues I would encourage and hope that you give as much time and space to your loved one as you can for them to deal with things as they need. Be compassionate and patient. You don’t need to understand someone to be kind to them. You don’t need to have experienced it to have patience for it.

Your loved one may be struggling to live at some point, and this is NOT a weakness, nor is this something to be taken lightly. Anyone feeling like life isn’t worth living anymore should ALWAYS be taken seriously and at their word. They need help. Please do what you can to help them get help.

Most importantly, for all, please remember that there is nothing wrong with having mental health issues.

 

Do I Want to Get Better?

The last couple of months have been very hard for me. In part because I’ve struggled to find and use the DBT skills that would help me through this, but mostly because I’ve just been plain old struggling.

I’m not sure what’s wrong exactly. I’ve tried to think on it but admittedly I haven’t stayed on the thoughts for long because they scare me. The feelings have been overwhelming; in no particular order: fear, shame, disgust, anger, and guilt; have all popped up and in to take me over.

For the most part fear is the big one. Although I can’t say exactly what is scaring me because so far I have avoided looking at it. I have suppressed looking at the fear so well that several times over the last couple of weeks or so I didn’t even give myself a chance to recognize that I was feeling afraid I put the emotion down so fast.

I don’t want to think about what scares me. Hello? It scares me. The reason is right there in the sentence. Why would I purposely look at something that scares me? That seems counter-productive and counter-intuitive. To me at least. When the professionals claim that exposure works to minimize it, logically I agree with them but emotionally I think hell no.

I don’t know how to handle the emotions and I feel very helpless. What should I do? How do I get through this? What skills do I apply? I feel lost and hopeless. I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. I do want to get better, I think. I’m sure I do. I mean the choice of staying in this misery is not all that appealing although it is familiar. And it sometimes feels like better the devil you know right? But as my mood spirals lower and lower I know that this is where bad things can happen.

In the moment the bad things feel good, and like a super-great idea, or at least that’s what I tell myself. And the bad things successfully squash whatever I’m feeling or thinking, so they also feel successful. In the moment, anyway. They feel like they help me cope but my Wise Mind knows better, my Wise Mind knows that they may help me ride out the emotion and squash it down enough not to feel it or think it longer than I have to, but they don’t actually help me. My Wise Mind knows that it’s at best a band aid and at worst an excuse to numb myself to all feelings and thoughts.

And where has doing the bad things gotten me so far? Well, nowhere good. So I sit and think, on one hand wanting to do the bad stuff and move away from my thoughts and emotions, but on the other hand, I know I will regret it. I know deep down this really wasn’t what I wanted. I don’t like how it feels to be laying on the bottom of life looking up and hoping things would get better.

It’s an internal, eternal, tug of war. Do the bad things and have instant relief from myself? Or do the skills and maybe feel better in the moment? But I still have to come back and deal with my emotions. It was a tough call. And for the past couple of months I’ve chosen the bad stuff.

Things are getting out of hand and I want to at least try. I know once I slip down this slope, the wanting to get better may not be there. It may be sedated and suppressed by then to the point of silence, and all the bad things will take me over and take me down until I feel that I am better off dead. And maybe, maybe, I’ll get help before I do anything I can’t take back and I will, again, start the slow process to get back to where things weren’t this bad. I’d at least like to try and get to the vicinity of a better place because right now I’m just barely functioning, and compared to a couple of months ago, it’s A LOT lower than where I was before.

You know that point where you feel like you’re drowning, and you’ve got a life preserver, or a branch or something, and it’s holding your head above water but only barely. It’s on the brink of breaking down and you going under and you know it’s only a matter of time. That’s how I feel right now. I’m holding on, but barely.

I know I hate how this feels. I know that I hate the ways I do cope and what they do to me, emotionally, mentally, and physically. I hate myself when I’m in this place. I hate how I feel. I hate who I am. I hate what I do. And yet…

I just continue to keep a sliver of hope that it will work out.

 

Waiting For My Head to Fall Off

When I’m feeling anxiety and it starts to permeate into physical symptoms like lightheadedness, heart palpitations, and a sense of numbness or tingling throughout my body, I panic. I realize that panicking is the fastest way to have a panic attack and does nothing to make me feel better but I panic nonetheless. 

I panic because I’m genuinely worried that I am going to die. I’m sure this is familiar to anyone who has struggled with anxiety and panic attacks. It’s a hard feeling to explain. Especially since the physical symptoms can be so fluid where one minute it’s my heart racing and I hold my breath and then in the next minute I don’t feel palpitations or that I’m holding my breath but now I feel sweaty yet cold and my body is tingling. 

The fluidity of symptoms can vary widely over the course of seconds, minutes, or even hours, as my body struggles to cope and regulate itself. 

The perceived threat I am feeling is pervasive that my mind goes to worst-case scenario. And that is death. Or rather dying. My mind has gone to place where any twinge or tickle throughout my body suddenly becomes the ominous sign that the end is near. 

It’s a paralyzingly feeling. And scary as hell. The odds of it being anything fatal are extremely low and, if present, most likely totally unrelated to my anxiety. It would be a coincidence that something truly tragic happens and due to an unrelated medical issue. 

But it takes me over regardless. I know logically that it’s anxiety-related but try telling my emotional mind that. My emotional mind has gone from trying to cope with anxiety and possibly an impending panic attack to absolute terror that that twinge I just felt means I am moments from a heart attack or stroke or aneurysm. That is, if I’m not already having it. 

As I await my tragic fate I try to hold it together but the anxiety is so crippling that I actually feel in my body like my head is going to fall off. I don’t know if it’s just the way my body responds to the anxiety, and I hope it’s not just me, but I actually become super-aware of my neck and shoulders and I wonder if they will be able to continue supporting my head. It’s an odd feeling to just think of your neck and wonder “is my head going to roll off?”  Believe it or not this is a genuine fear for me when I’m feeling this anxiety. “Will my head just roll off my neck and into the ground?” Will this be how I die? So on top of my anxiety I now have to watch that my head doesn’t fall off. 

One issue feeds the other until I am totally convinced that today I will die. It grips me so tight that sometimes I’m afraid to move or even breathe for fear I will push it over the threshold and into death myself. 

I absolutely HATE this feeling and all the fear it causes. I try to talk myself down and do some tips to calm myself down, and sometimes it works. But sometimes I can’t seem to get a hold of my logical mind to be able to realize that I’m okay. Sometimes my logical mind is nowhere to be found and I am left in the unforgiving grip of my emotional mind who is currently freaking out. 

For anyone who has gone through this and felt this I sympathize with you how tough and scary it is. I’m hoping that it’s not just me because that would really freak me out. 

For now I just do my best to get through it and hope like hell I’m not dying. 

Working My Way Back

Struggling with relapse is hard. Even when you’re on your way out of it. It’s a fine balance between getting back to functioning and going back into the dark hole of depression. They both hold something good. The hole is familiar and easy to hide in. But getting back to functioning means not feeling so low I can reach up and touch the bottom. It’s between darkness and familiarity and feeling better with work. It may seem like a no-brainer but it’s not. It’s actually a hard choice. 

Working back to functioning is hard work and it means a lot of effort and awareness to things I’d rather stay numb and oblivious to. I know that the greater good is what I’m working towards. Having fun, living life, laughing, and participating, instead of burying, hiding, avoiding, and dissociating. It means having purpose and feeling better, thinking more clearly, and maybe even having some fun. 

It’s a worthwhile journey. But this time I am unsure. I am not feeling as confident about things. I have started this journey before. I have worked my way back several times already. I have somehow managed to find my way back. Whereas I can say it was worth it, with each time I find myself having to work my way back, it gets harder and harder and takes longer. And I can’t help but wonder if it really is worth it. If I most likely will find myself in relapse again then why try to come back in the first place? Why not stay in this darker place? At least this way the fall back the next time won’t be as far. 

It feels like a destiny of punishment. It feels like being knocked back down just when I finally managed to stand. Do I try again? Do I put myself again through the hard work and hard moments to come back? I’m honestly not sure. I feel jaded and cynical. I feel like I’ll just find myself back down in the darkness again and everything I did to come out of the darkness will be for nothing. 

Finding hope right now is hard. Whatever happens I just hope I’ll be okay. I’m really tired of feeling kicked while I’m down.