It’s a Disorder, Not a Decision

I did not choose to have a mental illness. I did not choose to struggle. I did not choose a life with a sickness. However, I can choose to take care of myself and recognize when things become a little too much.

The past week has been a challenge in finding balance. I haven’t been home much and since that is where I feel the most comfortable I’ve been off kilter.  I haven’t ran in a few days and I feel tremendously guilty. My balance has been thrown and I’ve had to finally take some time today to reconnect and even out.

My recovery must come first so that everything I love in life does not have to come last. I love so many things, so many people, so many moments, but in order for me to appreciate those things for what they are and who they are, I need to recover. I’m recovering from new feelings of uncomfortableness and being out of my comfort zone. I’m recovering from making decisions. Making decisions can be so unbelievably exhausting. As a teacher of little ones, you are constantly making decisions from the moment your day starts at a rate of which non-teachers would be astounded by. It takes a good few weeks into the month of July to recover and re-coop from the daily grind of being responsible for little’s education and well-being while being on your A game – because you can’t survive if you’re not. So, making decisions outside of work, reminds me of work, and I’m constantly worried about my choices. Something as simple as paint colour, can make my insides twist and turn. And when it’s time to tell someone that I need some time to myself, deciding how to tell them drives me crazy. I worry that they won’t understand, among many other things.

I also tend to need more recovery time than the average person. Sometimes it’s a few days, sometimes it’s a week – and in especially dark times it’s even longer than that. I can see how that can come across as lazy, or even selfish, but trust me when I say it’s not. It’s a matter of survival. I need it to survive. We all need a different type and amount of recovery time.  No judgement needed.

Mental health is not a light switch you can simply turn on and off. It’s a dial you, and only you, learn how to manage.  Well it’s time for me to dial it down for a bit.

Please take care of yourself.

 

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Sooner or Later

Sooner or later you realize that you have changed…

Life after one too many heartbreaks changes you.  I don’t necessarily mean heartbreaks from love, but those breaks will change you too, indefinitely.  I’m speaking of heartbreaks that come in a personal way. Personal heartbreaks.  From challenging times. Situations that break you down. Circumstances that make you grow.

Through the fight, I have learned that I am still capable of being gentle and caring, even nurturing, but I am no longer afraid to be assertive. Just because I may not be able to pinpoint the origin of my anxiety or the trigger point of a new bout of depression, does not mean that my feelings are any less valid than any other feelings.  I am willing to compromise, but no longer at the expense of my mental, emotional and spiritual health. I am a woman who will give 110% but not for someone or something that gives back only 50%. I’ve finally learned the difference. Sooner or later you will too. This I hope for you.

Be the fighter who decided to go for it. You don’t need to have it all together to inspire others. Go for whatever your heart whispers to you and let others become inspired by how you deal with your mental illness. So stay strong my friends, your story is far from over.

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Depression is…

What exactly does depression feel like? If you don’t suffer from it you will never truly know. Try as hard as you might, be as empathetic as you can, but unless you have it you will not know it.

Depression isn’t feeling sad or unhappy. It is the inability to feel joy. It’s not a decision to feel this way, it’s a disorder.

I’m not ashamed of my disorder. I’m ashamed of how small of a rug it takes for others to sweep it under.

Here’s a quote from Michael Lansburg and #sicknotweak that rings true…

if you ask me how I’m doing and I’m having a bad day – there is a pretty good chance I will minimize and lie to you. The answer is not in what I say rather in the silence that overcomes me. My truth isn’t in my words. My truth is in my silence.”

Listen to the silence of your friends. Listen to the silence of your students. Your co-workers. Your partner. Your children. Strangers. Enemies. Listen. We are not asking you to understand. We are asking you to simply listen. Don’t brush us under the rug.

So please remember to check in on your friends. Check in on your quiet friends. Check in on your happy friends. Check in on your other “happy” friends. Check in on your strong friends. Check in.

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Training Your Mind

This works not only for running but also for depression. I have learned that you need to train your mind to be tougher than your emotions. It’s hard though when it’s your mind that is sick; but it will take you so much further than you ever thought possible. Just because you are struggling doesn’t mean that you are failing. Every great run, every great success, whether it be a day or just a glimpse of a moment, needs some kind of struggle to get there. If you knew how powerful your thoughts are you would never think a negative thought again.  Depression takes that control away from you.

What I hope people realize is that I’m not faking being sick, I’m actually faking being well. I usually feel like I’m either vibrating at an unhealthy level, where I’m drowning in my own mind or I’m isolated in the depths of depression. When you’re on the outside it may seem like I’m fine, because a fake smile goes a long way to those who don’t know. But the reality is that I’m just holding on tight for dear life.

Running isn’t for the weak, pretty ones. Living with depression isn’t for them either. They are both about the fight and the sweat. It’s about pushing through the pain and becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable most of the time. It’s about throbbing legs and hearts and waking to a pain in the middle of the night that is strong enough to wake the dead. It’s about getting out the door, or getting out of bed when you would rather do anything else. It’s about finding reality in the dreams about having the passion that you need to live each and every day. It’s about the lonely road, when you have no company and still pushing ahead when there is not a single soul there to cheer you on. They are both about finding and keeping the desire to train, to continue and persevere until every fibre in your body and mind and heart have turned to steel.  When you’ve finally fought long and hard enough you will have become the best runner you can be, or the best survivor that day.  That’s all that you can ask for, because you should run when you don’t want to and continue to fight when you can’t fathom another moment of pain, because that’s when you need it most.

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Love Yourself Harder

So this picture represents my last few weeks. Just when you think you are strong enough, capable enough, simply enough to handle a valley of low times, you are mistaken.

I hurt. I don’t even know where I hurt sometimes but it’s there. A painful, dull, ache, weighing heavily on every part of my mind and body. My depression hit me like a train the past few weeks. I know I can be a strong person, but every once in a while I would like someone to hold my hand and tell me things are going to be ok. Everything these days seems to make me cry. The past few weeks I have sobbed myself to a bleak and mediocre sleep too many times. The part that people who don’t suffer or relate can’t understand is that there is no reason for it. It just returned. Like an old friend, who is far to familiar. Trying to stay positive when you don’t feel happy means that hard days become harder. Laying in bed at night wishing away thoughts that you have little control over is exhausting. Going to work the next day after you didn’t sleep and battled demons all night is terrifying. I think the worst part is trying to explain how this illness works to someone is almost impossible and so it makes me retreat and keep it all to myself.  Trying to explain why working only part-time is a challenge in itself is almost pointless.  There is a vicious cycle of stress, then worry, then lack of sleep, thoughts of inadequacy, the return of poor coping strategies that can drag you down so unexpectedly. You think you’re ok, you think it will not return, but it always does.  Sometimes it stays away for weeks, months, who knows. But when it comes back it feels like you are drowning in a pool of all of the worst thoughts that you’ve ever had. When the people that you love see you happy for an extended period of time they get used to it. And when you cave, and get hit with the storm again they don’t understand because they can’t see it. All they see is someone who has been happy before and so therefore you must be all better. And then comes the guilt of being the person in the relationship who ruins all the progress.  Some of the most powerful words you can say to someone with an invisible illness is. I believe you. Never give up on someone with a mental illness. It is one of our biggest fears and sadly something that happens, which only adds to the stigma.

Who you were, who you are, and who you will be are three different people; but when you can’t answer the latter, or for that matter, any of them, man that takes a toll on you.

So the day I said I’m “so over this” and put my somewhat funny, yet very truthful shirt on, I went out for a run that meant many things. Perseverance. Survival. Freedom. Everything.

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Depression Isn’t Sadness

Depression isn’t sadness. It is not dissatisfaction with life. It’s not an excuse for anything. It’s not a choice or a decision or a reason for being lazy. There are a million things depression is not – and only one thing depression is: depression is a sickness

– SICKNOTWEAK

I have learned that happiness comes in waves, you will lose it again and it will find you again. When I hurt I don’t even know where exactly I hurt – it’s just a dull dry ache of the soul and in the heart. I am learning to become so comfortable in my discomfort that it is a challenge to ascertain how it truly feels.

Some may see me withdrawn, anti-social, avoiding others and activities – I see myself as someone who has learned to recognize my limits and take care of myself first. Since I have returned to work, it has taken so much effort on my part and drained me in other ways, in turn, requiring me to take more time to myself more often. I need to be reset and refreshed more often than the regular person.  As my full time to work approaches I know that I will need this even more than I do right now.

It often takes more than I can muster to give it all I have at my job. I can only imagine what that will look like once I am back full time. But for now I must remember, we must remember, that we need to be a better you, for you. And so over this long weekend, even though I may not have socialized with anybody I know that that’s ok. I accept myself unconditionally.

 

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It is Possible

It is possible for people with depression to: Feel Better. Think Clearer. Do More.

Like I mentioned in my last post, medication has allowed me to get to a place where I can take care of myself on a different, more personal level. I had an appointment today with my physiatrist. They will often ask you to rank your thoughts and feelings on a scale from 1-10. For a long time I was consistently sitting numbly at a 3. Just going through the motions, feeling no connection to anyone or anything. 3 sucks. I know that 3 sucks. Today however, (and for the past few weeks) I have been slowly feeling my number rise. I wake up a bit more stable. I go to sleep a bit more content. I am happy with where I am in my journey. I feel connected to things that I am doing, and to people that I love. I am back at work and enjoying it and feeling productive. I am able to take care of myself by eating healthy and running and doing things for me. I didn’t just snap out of a phase and get to this spot. Medication was one key aspect that allowed me to get myself to a place where I can put other types of care in place and maintain them.

So today when my doctor asked me to rank where I am, I confidently said I was a 6. It’s not perfect by any means. But I feel like I’m over that hump, I’m finally over that magic halfway number of 5. I’m on the move, I’m on the rise.

I still fight to be 4 places away from 10. But I am in a place where I can fight to do the things that I need to do. Like today, I wanted to sit around and be cozy and anti social, but I fought to get my mind ready to go for a run. I knew the importance of lacing up and getting out there today, in the rain and cold, and my mind, body and heart thanked me. I still fight to be 4 away from 10.

So it is possible for people with depression to feel again, to feel like their old self and like they are living. It is possible to feel like doing something and that there is a future. To feel better.

It is possible for people with depression to think freely, long-term and on their feet. They can think with a purpose about their lives, their future, with less hesitation. We can think clearer.

It is also possible for people with depression to do more at work and more of what they love. It is possible to do something for others and things with their family. It’s possible to do more.

Use the tools out there so that you can DO YOU.

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I Choose Me

and I know that’s selfish love…

I am not a stranger to the dark. I am not a stranger to negative self thoughts – but I’ve learned to drown those thoughts out.

Meds have been a key asset along my journey to get me to where I am today. They didn’t work the first time, the second time, or the third time, but for me, the fourth time’s the charm. What has made them successful this time: is having a psychiatrist monitor them rather than my family doctor – obviously different kinds, dosages and combinations of mood stabilizers, antipsychotics and anti depressants – learning at what times to take them –  and fighting through the side effect period and then fighting the urge to go off them once they started working when I finally felt their effects (because maybe, just maybe, this time I was feeling better for another reason and didn’t need them).

I’ve come to realize that they may just be a part of my life. Sometimes when I look at my counter in my bathroom the amount of pill bottles looks….scary. I worry if people will judge me when they see them. At one point there was 8 different bottles. That was a lot. Now, the number is much lower than that, but I guess it doesn’t matter. Heck they are working.

Meds aren’t the only puzzle piece that has been put in place. I’ve learned that my lifestyle and routines play an important role in the whole picture. Being sure to make time to exercise, and for me that’s running, is almost more important than just popping pills 🙂 Joking. I take my medications very serious and know their importance.  Meds have allowed me to get to a spot where I can run again. Running has been my saving grace so many times. It makes me feel whole. It makes me happy. It’s as simple as that. It’s a part of me. Running is a way to spend time thinking, or sometimes not thinking. Actually sometimes I can be seen talking to myself. Which leads me to my next point…

Not. Giving. A. Fuck.
Now I’m sure this last point has to do with getting older and realizing that it’s probably one of the best mottos one can have. I’m not saying I walk around being an inconsiderate human, but not giving a fuck has gotten me through some tough and challenging times.
Like the time I broke down at work, before the bell even rang. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it through the day. I needed help. This was my most recent major breaking point. So I didn’t give one fuck and went across the hall ( I’m a teacher) and into the classroom of the teacher nearest to me and said I need your help. This lead into a series of time off work and many appointments but I didn’t care. The next day I was driving and had to pull over onto the side of the road. I sat there crying, not knowing what to do, utterly lost and confused and scared. I called someone and confided in them how lost I was and how much I knew I wasn’t ok. They took me to CMHA and to my family doctor and as I walked into each one of those buildings I had to say to myself, now is the time to not give a fuck about where you are or who may see you and lay it out on the line. Put it all out there so that you can get what you need. And so began my journey of truly accessing the resources in my community and advocating for myself. I’m so grateful for that person who put themselves in what I can only assume was an uncomfortable situation, and made the time to be there for me. If you’re reading this, thank you. I love you.

So choose yourself. Always. First. Forever.

self love

 

 

 

Ahh, *sigh* there she is….

I have never met a strong woman
who has never been broken.
She had to learn
how to pick herself up and carry on.
She had to learn
how to depend on herself for happiness
– Tene Edwards

heart

I recall a time when I wasn’t sure I would ever feel even a remote pinch of happiness again. When things are bad you are sure that you’ll never feel better again. When things are good, you are sure that you’ll never feel bad again. It’s like being in the dead of winter, where summer feels like a million days away and you cannot fathom how it feels to have the sun shine down on you – and in the summer you can’t imagine ever feeling cold again. But it will be cold again, and it will be warm again; and you will feel sad again but more importantly you will be happy again.

During one particular low point in my journey, I was desperate for a hint of relief from the darkness, just a bit a light to get me through. I smile as I distinctly recall this wonderful feeling – it was my glimpse at the “warmth” my cold body had been craving.

I woke up one day, and felt it. Relief. A glimmer of light. My soul saw itself again. I awoke, and felt warmth, and thought to myself, ” ahh there she is, I’ve been looking for  you.”

I had been waiting for this moment and was so grateful it arrived, saving me from my own worst enemy. My depression.

It’s a lovely thing to realize that your body, and your mind, are capable of doing and feeling things that you once thought were impossible. A clear mind and a happy soul.

Find comfort in knowing that it will be warm again.

 

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