Lacking Sleep

I’m blaming my mind for the lack of sleep problem I’ve been having for the last few weeks.

I’ve been going to bed at a reasonable time in the hopes that my mind will get the message. So far my mind is either ignoring me or it doesn’t care.

Lack of sleep is a real problem for me. Not just because I’ll be tired and need to get rest, also because when I don’t get enough rest my anxiety levels skyrocket. If I was only mildly anxious before then without proper rest it will be high anxiety now. If I was high anxiety before then without proper rest I will be thisclose to panic attacks, if not full-blown, hours-long panic attacks now. It’s a brutal, brutal day when I don’t get proper rest.

My anxiety is why I’ve made a concerted effort to get to bed at a decent hour and get proper rest. No matter how many hours I need. If it’s six hours I need, then I get it. If it’s nine hours I need, then I get it. I pay the price dearly otherwise.

I try to avoid sleeping meds if I can because I know they can become a crutch and also their residual effects-feeling dopey or dizzy-the next day are not always worth it. Especially if I want to go out or have things to do. I’ll take them if the insomnia persists for a while and I really need to get some sleep. They are usually a last resort for me.

Until I get to that point I try other things first. I try to do some self-care, maybe some mindfulness or meditation. I try instrumental music or a podcast. When it seems like the external stuff isn’t working, and before I turn to the meds, I will try to just lay there and wait it out. And I gotta say, the waiting it out is torturous. Staring at the ceiling for hours on end is awful. I don’t know how else to describe it besides long and awful.

I think of hundreds of topics; from the mundane like a grocery shopping list, to global affairs like recent conflict in the Middle East. And absolutely everything else in between. A lot of these thoughts tempt me to go online and google the answer. I don’t because I know that’s a slippery slope that will only keep me awake even longer. And will probably lead to more thinking and more questions and more googling. I try to persevere.

And so my mind goes…

…will I be able to fix my TV? Or will I have to buy a new one? Where will I get the money for a new TV? I’ll have to wait to get it and hope for a good sale. What’s a good sale though? I haven’t had to buy a new TV in a long time, what’s a good price? Should I get the same size? Should I go for a bigger model? I guess it will depend on the price. I’ve read about TVs that have updates as if they have an OS. Do TVs now have OS? What in hell is that for? What do they need an OS for? What difference does it make? Do all TVs have them now? Can I get a TV without an OS? I don’t want one. I just want a regular TV. I guess I’ll have to decide when that time comes. Hopefully that won’t be soon. It’s hanging in there so it could last for months. Or it could crash tomorrow. Oh no. What if the TV totally breaks down? And I don’t have the money for it. What will I do then? What will I do with the time? That scares me. I have no idea what to do with my time now. How in hell will I figure out what to do with additional time? I already have some bills that are behind, how will I catch up now? I am so bad with money. I wish I were better with money. I wish someone had taught me how to handle money. I wish I had been taught to properly handle money. I wish I could win the lottery. The lottery would be great. It would solve a lot of problems. It wouldn’t solve everything. It would help though. I could travel. Oh I miss traveling. Like going back to Paris would be great. I loved Paris. So beautiful. I’d go for a whole week or two and just visit The Louvre every day. Just to see it proper. Bring a lunch every day and see the beautiful Louvre, at my leisure, as much as I want. Oh, how I would love to do that! Although I would eat at the cafes too because their cafes are so comfortable and great for people-watching. I like people watching when I travel. Of course I should probably play the lottery in order to win it. That would probably help…

…I’m gonna stop there because it goes on. And on. And on. And on. And on. For. Hours.

That little blurb there was about two minutes worth of thinking, if that. So imagine between two and five hours of rambling thoughts just like it. At least thankfully the thoughts mostly stay fairly neutral. When it gets really tricky is if the thoughts are disordered and start triggering me. Then the rambling thinking goes dark. Really dark. And as the minutes tick by, they get darker and darker and darker.

With every dark thought my body responds in kind. I start to feel afraid and my body follows suit with my heart racing, my stomach churning, my limbs tingling, and my head spinning. It comes very close to causing a panic attack. Very close. And if it doesn’t cause a panic attack, it causes my body to become fully tense and on edge as if it could, at any minute. So now my night is not only dealing with my rambling thoughts, it’s now having to deal with dark, rambling thoughts, and a body that’s now so tense it makes my muscles ache.

If I wasn’t tired before, which I was, I am definitely tired now. Holding panic and tension is exhausting. I hold it all day and now I’m holding it all night too. It feels like I can’t catch a break.

The good news though, I’m getting better at intervening and stopping the thinking from getting too dark. Some of the time. It’s hard though because it still takes me a while before I become aware enough to intervene. Considering that I used to intervene in zero of my thinking pursuits, I think any intervention above zero is a win. The hope is that one day I’ll have more interventions than I don’t. Until then I’m going with whatever I can get.

But I digress…

When I am able to intervene and change the script, or at least stop the script from running, I usually start with focusing on my breathing. I do a body scan and see what’s going on. If I’m having trouble focusing to do a body scan, I use a guided meditation of a body scan to help. I might do this once or twice, or a couple different guided meditations, if I find the first time I listen to it sort of helping, I listen for a second, or even a third time, to help even more. I use as many as I need. This is usually enough to switch my thinking to more neutral topics. At least until I can fall asleep.

Even with these efforts, the last few nights, I am still having a hard time falling asleep. Some nights it’s a three-hour mind tour and some nights it’s longer. For now, it has yet to be less than a two-hour tour. I’m not giving up though. I’ll get my cycle back. I just have to keep trying. That’s the thing that as really sunk in for me of late, that I have to work at it.

I have to make the effort and work at it for it to happen. If I wait for it to just happen organically then it probably won’t ever happen. At least that’s what the past decades have taught me. And now I’m listening.

Here’s hoping for a good nights rest. At some point.

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Dark Thoughts

Sometimes I have very dark thoughts. I don’t know how to explain them and out of sheer embarrassment I won’t go into details of them here. All I will say is that they are dark and they are scary.

I don’t know what makes them happen so I don’t know how to stop them or cope with them once they are there.

I worry about them and what they may become. I don’t dare talk about them for fear that I will be seen as a freak. Or worse.

I don’t know if they happen because of the BPD or if they are from depression or maybe I’m just so disordered that all my thoughts are just naturally messed up.

I am glad that they don’t happen often, and when they do they don’t last long. For the time they are here though, they terrify me.

My only wish is that if they are going to stick around, they never become more than a thought.

I hate them. I fear them. I pray they never become more.

The Pain of Depression

Every day I wake up there are about three seconds of time where I am completely detached from everything. I don’t think. I don’t speak. I don’t hear. I don’t feel anything. I don’t worry. I don’t have anxiety. I don’t anything. I just am. It’s a pretty nice time.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t last. Once those few seconds are done and I start waking up and the day sort of creeps over me, I am already sore and exhausted before I even get out of bed.

For me, the pain of depression starts in my mind; weaving its way into everything, from getting out of bed and getting dressed to getting to work or going out with friends, from how and what I think to how and what I feel, to how I perceive everything including myself to what I will or will not do. It sucks the life out of absolutely everything. The days become greyer. The nights become darker. It feels like a fog has taken over my mind until the day I can’t get out of bed and I no longer want to.

My thoughts become a haze of words that sometimes make sense but most of the time don’t. And when the words are coherent, they are dark, mean, insulting and dangerous. The thoughts tell me I’m nothing and nobody. They tell me that I will never be anything and I should stop trying. They tell me that I am alone and I always will be. They tell me that this dark place is where I should stay and if I ever think of leaving then I should think of death because that will be the only way out.

I become either totally numb or a waterfall of tears at the drop of a hat. There is no in-between. I have no idea what makes me cry it just happens. I no longer have a say in what I think, what I feel, and what I do. It is just darkness, every day, all the time, without fail. Everything just becomes devoid of colour and interest.

As soon as my mind has been successfully hijacked by the depression my body soon follows. With slow, lethargic movements, calculated steps just to go to the bathroom, and total exhaustion with even the slightest of tasks.

And it hurts. It hurts my whole body. There is soreness and inflammation throughout my body that makes moving slow and painful. And there is a perpetual state of tension that radiates to every muscle and bone in my body.

Starting with my head. The tension goes up my neck and into my head causing me to have headaches, sinus pressure and dizziness. It is so tense that sometimes I can’t move my head because my neck is too tight. My jaw clenches so hard that it pulls the muscles of my face as well. This often causes my face to feel numb. Even my scalp often feels numb to touch.

The tightness and tension travel down into my shoulders, down my upper arms, my forearms and my wrists, tensing each and every muscle of my arm, and stretching right out to my fingers.

It radiates downwards into my back seizing the lower muscles into a big knot that is so hard it pulls my hip and pelvic muscles with it. Making movements like getting out of bed and walking difficult and painful. To do anything more than walking causes aching pain in my muscles and my joints.

The tension spreads to my stomach, tying it into another knot, causing me to have stomachaches, digestion issues, nausea, and some muscle cramping. There are many times where I am unable to eat anything because my stomach is too upset. I often will go days without eating because my stomach is upset and I’m too sore to move to get the food in the first place.

And then finally my legs, which have somehow mostly managed to evade the pain that the rest of my body deals with, except for some tension in my thighs. Which is usually connected to the tightness and tension from my hips and pelvis.

Most of my body feels numb a lot of the time. The tightness and tension are bad enough on their own but adding numbness to it makes everything in my body feel like it’s about to stop working any minute. This often scares me, particularly when the numbness is felt in my face and arms because I fear that these are signs of either a heart attack or a stroke. It scares me so much that it has often caused me to have a panic attack. And I am convinced that I am dying. I have to remind myself that the numbness did not come on suddenly and it is not unexplained since the nerves are probably being compressed by the muscles being so tense and tight all the time.

It takes a lot for me to gain awareness of what is really happening in these instances because they don’t come with warning nor do they happen in sync with other issues. So if I feel a twinge in my neck and then I notice my face is numb I am not always aware that my face has actually been numb for days before this and is not necessarily connected to the twinge I just felt in my neck. It is a vicious cycle that terrifies me and often paralyzes me from moving at all. It takes me hours and sometimes days to remind myself it is most likely not a heart attack or stroke. This time.

When it comes to my mind, it darkens my thoughts and cognitive ability to the point of not being able to think or function at all. Thinking can actually hurt causing me to have headaches. The pain takes away the want and the ability to stand or walk, to read or talk, to smile or laugh.

Because my mind is so foggy it makes my words fuzzy too. When I speak, I trip over my words, either stuttering or repeating myself. I forget some words and sometimes I forget what I’m trying to say altogether. I frequently lose track of what I’m saying and what words I need to use. I will sometimes slur my words, as if I have been drinking, which really scares me when it happens at the same time as the numbness in my face and arms. I am absolutely terrified and certain that this time I am either having a heart attack or a stroke.

I feel like a total write-off in every aspect of my life. In my body and not being able to move without pain. In my mind and not being able to think or speak without difficulty. In my heart and not being able to feel or process emotions, if I feel them at all. And lastly, in my spirit and not being able to find the goodness in life, the interest in things I used to enjoy, and slowly losing the want to live.

The pain permeates every cell of my being.

Depression doesn’t just darken my mood. It isn’t just a few bad days or a couple of weeks of feeling down. It is an all-encompassing entity that takes over everything; sucking the life from me, and it hurting every part of me, body, mind, heart and soul.

Depression just hurts. It hurts everything.

Depression Just Sucks

Depression sucks. Big time. It sucks so very much. Seriously, I feel like I can’t stress this enough. It is a torturous nightmare. Every single day. And it hurts. Depression hurts a lot and it hurts everything. I mean everything. It hurts emotionally, mentally, and emotionally. It permeates into every cell of my being and sucks the life from them.

It feels like everything is dark and will never see the light of day again. It feels like I am drowning. My ankles are chained from below keeping me underwater. My arms are caught up in seaweed and nets so that I can’t break free to tread water or swim away. My head is barely above water. I fight to be able to breathe but it’s hard. I get tired very fast from trying to just detangle myself. If I am able to untangle the seaweed and the nets I am still left to fight the chains below from pulling me under.

I am often tempted to just sink and let myself drown. It’s such a hard battle and takes so much energy I don’t know if I will have enough energy left to make it. I’m still not sure. We’ll see.

The day starts with pain. Pain in my head, pain in my heart, and pain in my body. Getting out of bed is a monumental task (if I even get out of bed), every muscle I move feels like torture. My bones ache and I pray my body will be able to carry me. I first hope it will be able to carry me to start the day. I will have to deal with what happens after getting out of bed once I get out of bed.

If I have things to do I will have to work on the strength for those later, when it’s necessary. There’s no point in working on them now because I still have to work on getting out of bed and get moving. It all depends on whether I can gather the strength and keep the pain at bay enough to get things done.

Depression sucks the life out of absolutely everything. Nothing is sacred from depression. Everything is fair game to be crapped on; friends, family, work, home, socializing, interests, hobbies, goals, dreams, plans, attention, focus, concern, care, moving, thinking, feeling, blinking, eating, and even living.

If I was lucky, and I use the term loosely, I might be able to maintain a modicum of functionality. In fact, I was able to maintain this functionality for years. Giving off the illusion that everything in my life was just hunky dory when really it was anything but.

The balance of outside me and inside me overlapped at times but for the most part there was the me that the world saw, and then there was the me that hardly anyone saw. The me that the world saw was capable, attentive, working, engaging, on top of things, and maybe even at times, happy. The me that hardly anyone saw, cried a lot, had dark, upsetting thoughts, uncontrollable, overwhelming emotions, and believed that life just sucked.

I was able to eke out some outside interests for a while but it took a lot of work to maintain them. A lot of things got ignored, avoided, cancelled, and forgotten. I did just enough to make it look good and like I was functioning.

I no longer have two mes. Now it is just the one me, stuck in depression, among other things, and trying to make it through the day.

The depth of depression is astounding. It is sporadic and temperamental. It is tenuous and fragile. It is dysfunctional and destructive. It is traumatic and remorseless. It is relentless and pervasive. It is scarring and fatal. I can wake up feeling okay and on a good path, and mere hours later I could be feeling like suicide is the only way out.

I would say that I hate depression. I hate what it is and what it does. I hate what it takes and what it gives. I hate how it feels and how it lasts. I hate how it changes my thoughts and my moods. I hate that it takes me down. I hate that it feels like it will break me. I hate that it is a part of my life. And I really hate that there is a possibility that it always will be a part of my life. I hate it. I hate all of it.

I think depression can go jump off a cliff, without me.

When Thoughts Become the Enemy

I have always been a thinker. Not in a philosophical, “let-me-contemplate-life” kind of way but more in a “I-don’t-want-to-sound-like-an-idiot-and-what-is-wrong-with-me” kind of way. At times this has been a blessing; fueling fantastic ideas, helping me better understand situations or emotions by thinking before I speak, and giving me better perspectives and patience for others as well as for myself. But sometimes it can be a curse. Sometimes it can be a life-threatening, violent curse.

And thinking is the last thing I should be doing. Thinking is the first step for me towards things spiraling out of control. Because sometimes my thoughts have turned against me, and have now become my enemy.

I understand that thoughts don’t necessarily mean anything. I understand that thoughts are usually not factual, and are most often influenced by the mood of the moment and/or the current environment I’m in. I understand that thoughts are not made of cement and are subject to change at a moment’s notice. I understand that just because a thought pops into my head doesn’t mean I have to entertain it, or believe it, and the thoughts don’t have to turn bad. I understand that I am not my thoughts.

I understand all of that, logically. But emotionally… emotionally, I’m not so on board with this theory. And as much as I know logically that my thoughts can be harmless and don’t have to make or break who I am, sometimes they do. Sometimes they really, really do.

In DBT, one of the things that is taught (I really should get back to my weekly progress on that here too by the way) is that our thoughts are not who we are. They are just thoughts. They don’t need to take over everything, and they don’t need to even be entertained for a moment. Because they are just thoughts.

A practice to help realize this is to think of our thoughts like they are leaves on a river. Each leaf on the river is one thought, and they just float on down the river as leaves, doing nothing, going wherever. They don’t have to be addressed or picked up. They don’t have to be noted or talked about. They just float down the river and away.

Now, I am actually a fan of this idea. I really like the leaf and river theory because first of all, I like watching leaves on a river and leaving them to just float, but the bigger reason I like this idea is because it allows me to see the thoughts as something separate from myself. It helps me to see that the thoughts are just thoughts, and don’t have to have any power. They kind of lose their power when they are made into something harmless and benign like a leaf can be.

There have been times where I am successful at doing this, but unfortunately not as often as I’d like, and not nearly as often as it would help me. A lot of the time my thoughts take me over and take me down so fast that I feel like I don’t even get the chance to turn them into something else, let alone to turn them into leaves on a river and just watch them float by.

A thought comes into my head and before I realize that my thinking has turned to a dark place, I am already caught up in the race of thoughts now taking place in my mind. Like a speeding roller coaster with a broken control lever, I am taken for a ride that picks me up and pulls me down, throws me all over the place, and is getting very close to making me feel sick.

My thoughts can determine whether I end up having a bad day or a good day. They can start out so innocent and passive and within moments they can keep me paralyzed to going anywhere or doing anything. My thoughts can come pretty close to killing me.

My thoughts can go from compassionate and kind to degrading and insulting in a heartbeat. I’ll think that I am okay, I’ll believe that I’m okay, and that I can handle things without resorting to more negative thinking and destructive coping methods. I’ll think that my thoughts are manageable and won’t hurt my feelings or leave me feeling suicidal. And then BOOM! just like that, I am thinking that I am the worst person in the world. I am a horrible person who no one likes and that I will always be hopeless and worthless. I am useless and don’t deserve to be alive. My thoughts will become harsh, mean, degrading, and abusive.

I’ll try to stop the negative thinking by challenging if the negative thoughts are true (another thing I learned from DBT and “Checking the Facts”). And I’ll ask myself if it’s really true that I am a horrible person, and if so, then where is the proof? I’ll challenge if I should really be dead, or if that’s just my thinking being a bully. And depending on whether I am able to divert the thoughts back to something positive, or at the very least, less negative and abusive, and change the thoughts, I will again fall prey to all the bad stuff I think of myself. This may or may not lead to anxiety, depression, and/or suicide, or all of the above. Sometimes I am able to change the tide and save myself from spinning into darkness. But a lot of the time, I can’t. A lot of the time the thoughts are more powerful than I am. A lot of the time I am able to find all the proof I need to show how horrible I am. I can find all the proof I need to prove that I should be dead. And I can prove with the best of them my worthlessness and the millions of reasons that no one likes me. And no one ever will.

I used to fall prey to these bad thoughts so easily that it could take weeks or months for me to come back from how much I would hurt and insult myself. And even then, it would take almost constant reinforcement from others for me to believe that what I think of myself is not true. It would take almost constant reassurance from others (because there’s no point in me saying it because it’s only true if others say it), that I am not worthless, that I am not hopeless, and that I am not unlikeable, and that I shouldn’t be dead.

If I have hurt myself deeply enough I may not even believe what others say. If I have insulted myself enough into a deep, dark, desperate, weeping puddle on the ground, then there are few people who could make things better, and even fewer people that I would believe if they try to make me feel better. If they try to tell me that I am worthwhile and likeable I would scoff and tell them that they have obviously missed the memo that I am a horrible, unlikeable person. They obviously are lying to me and to themselves, and they are wasting their time with me. And because people have jobs and families and lives, it is very rare for me to get the constant reassurance I need in order to turn the tide of negative thoughts in my mind. This a fraction of how powerful my thoughts can be.

I am working as hard as I can to challenge all of this, and keep my thoughts from taking me over. It’s hard. It’s not always successful. It’s a work in progress.

The power of our thoughts can be debilitating and hold enough force that we believe them to be true. Why would I think it, if it wasn’t true? How can it not be true, it’s such a frequent and powerful thought? All of my thoughts are telling me this, so why wouldn’t it be true? Would my thoughts lie to me? Why would my own thoughts lie to me?

Our thinking can lead us to personal beliefs, of ourselves, and others, that may or not be true. They can lead us to behaviours that can reinforce our thoughts and strengthen our beliefs. To the point that everywhere we look we find proof that what we thought was true. What we thought was a fact. Even when it isn’t.

Our thinking can spawn any number of scripts that run through our minds at any given moment, particularly when we need it the least, and despite knowledge that contradicts the information, can leave us a complete and total mess. Our self-esteem a puddle on the floor, and our beliefs stronger than ever of things that aren’t true.

The scripts tell us how everything we are is wrong, and everything we do is wrong. It tells us how much we deserve all of our flaws and tribulations because we are that awful. It tells us that we will never change and shouldn’t even try. It tells us that we will only have bad things happen to us, and proves it by providing the thoughts of all the bad things we have endured so far, conveniently omitting any of the positive things, because the script knows how to break us. The script knows what to say and what not to say. The script will run so often and so loud we feel we are forever stuck with it.

The scripts may change over the years, growing or shrinking as we add new thoughts and take away old ones, but the lies will remain the same. The lies become bigger and brighter with each run of the script. Until finally it is so ingrained in us that we lose sight that we even have the script, and we could possibly think any differently. We feel it becomes us because its automatic for us now. We barely need the prompt before the thoughts are up and running. It’s as close to automatic as breathing, and just as difficult to change. So we resign ourselves to our thoughts and the script it plays, and hope that maybe this time will be different.

For many, many years I have hated my thoughts. I have hated thinking and was convinced that it could only, ever be bad and mean. I was convinced that my thoughts would never be able to change and one day they would definitely kill me. I was convinced my thoughts were me. My thoughts were absolutely who I was. I was convinced that everyone and everything else outside me, contradicting or challenging my thoughts, were the ones who were wrong. All my thoughts were true and factual. Everyone and everything else was false. I was convinced that my thoughts would never lie to me. That they couldn’t.

The scripts that I run have been hard and I hate that, until recently, I have believed them so fiercely for so long. My scripts have reinforced my anxiety, depression, and several disorders. I considered them as gospel, to me and to my life. I considered them as everything I was.

It is only recently that I have finally realized that my thoughts are not me. And A LOT of the time, they are in fact, untrue and misleading. My scripts are not written in stone, and not only can they be changed, they can be removed. And they should be. I still sometimes forget that my thoughts are not me, and they don’t have to be my enemy. They might not necessarily be my friend either, and that’s okay. Thoughts are just thoughts. That’s all. Not bad. Not good. Just thoughts. If they are anything, they are either useful or not. They don’t have to be followed, entertained, believed, repeated, hated, liked, ignored, or accepted. They are just thoughts.

I hope of all the thoughts I have, that’s the one I remember.

What a Difference a Year Makes

It occurred to me yesterday that it had been exactly one year since I had been hospitalized. One year since I had felt the bottom drop out and sought help. And it got me thinking of how far I had come, how far I still had to go, and the journey thus far.

At first, I thought I haven’t come far enough. I’m still struggling. I still have some very bad days, and I still have some emotions and thoughts that overwhelm me.

And then I realized that I was being really unfair to myself, and negating what progress I have made. When I actually compare where I was and how I felt last year this time to where I am and how I feel this year, I couldn’t ignore that I had made way more progress than I gave myself credit for.

Last year I was teetering on the edge, and was thisclose to standing on a ledge. I was inconsolable and suicidal. I was self-harming and doing anything I could think of to ignore and suppress all the pain. I was sleeping fewer than four hours a night and eating everything in sight. My dreams were killing me, with images and ideas that left me disturbed and scared so bad that they would wake me almost every night. I was afraid, hopeless, helpless, and I felt more alone than ever. I couldn’t even imagine seeing the next day, let alone a year later.

So I asked for help. I took myself, in my pj’s, crying my eyes out, down to CAMH 24-hour emergency down at College, and I asked them for help. I told them that I was afraid for myself and that I wouldn’t make it if I was left alone any longer. And just like that, they took me in. They said they could help and they wanted to. That floored me. They wanted to help me?! Why? Well I still don’t know why, and frankly I don’t need to know anymore. All I know is they did.

I spent six weeks in their care, and the team that was built around me, saved my life.

To be clear, they had saved my life, but I still wasn’t totally sure that life was worth living. And I was pretty sure that I would end up right back where I had started. It was only a matter of time.

I had very few illusions about my prognosis. I had been low before and somehow managed to claw my way back. Several times. Granted it wasn’t really ever a recovery so to speak, it was more just getting to a point where I could function. Enough to work and pay bills and keep a home, but just enough.

My relationships were stressed, at best, my health was on a downward spiral that I’m still working to manage, my work was a joke with no purpose or enjoyment on any level, and my thoughts were slowly deteriorating my will and my sanity. I wholly assumed that this time would be no different.

But…it was.

I don’t know exactly why this time turned out differently. I just know that it did. Maybe it was the team I had behind me, maybe it was the medication, maybe it was me, or maybe all of the above. Whatever it was I had somehow found a path towards living a life worth living. I was able to get into, not one, but three different programs that would help me work through my destructive coping methods, address my overwhelming thoughts and emotions, and teach me how to build a life worth living.

Every day poses an obstacle that can still stump me, and there are days where I am filled with uncertainty and anxiety, but I am learning, and despite the uncertainty and anxiety, I am making changes that are positive. I am learning better ways to cope that are not destructive.

It is by no means, an easy journey, and there are no guarantees that everything will turn out okay, but it’s farther than I’ve ever come before. It’s far more progress than I’ve ever made before. And the changes, so far, have stuck around. I can only hope that this is a turn towards a better life that will last.

And hopefully, this time next year, things will have improved from today, and I can tell of all the latest progress I will have made. At least, that’s the hope.

Until next time… 🙂

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.