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

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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.

 

Being Resilient

You’re here again, and I’m not surprised. When you’re not here, I am surprised.

I feel as though I’m always supposed to be fighting an uphill battle. So when I’m not, and things are flowing smoothly, I’m a bit surprised. What is this feeling…..it lacks worry and depression? Oh yes, that’s right it’s  the feeling of content. It’s a bit of happiness. It’s a reminder that I am not my mental illness and my mental illness does not own me.

Our hearts would not break if we were not capable of resiliency. Our minds would not crumble if we were not capable of being resilient. It is in these times where we have the final say. I will continue.

Running is the perfect metaphor for living a life with mental illness. Running reminds me that I can do difficult things. It tells me that not everything will be easy, and it’s a reminder that time is needed in order to heal.  I have learned the value of breaking barriers and breaking down. So while things may hurt, you are improving.  Each time you lace up you are giving yourself the opportunity of taking scattered pieces and gluing them back together as you put one foot in front of the other. You must repeat the process in order to move forward and find the beauty of becoming brand new again. And so, each time you set a new goal or find a new race you are giving yourself the chance to become brand new. And each morning that you wake up and say I will continue to beat this illness you are giving yourself the chance to realize the beauty in becoming brand new again.

As I look ahead at the months to come I will acknowledge the challenges my depression hands me, but I will also embrace myself while I acknowledge the sad. I will create and meet new goals while finding fresh inspiration. There will be stormy skies but there will also be sunshine and rainbows. I will celebrate everything. I will find time and ways to feel content. I will ignore the destination, and rather explore the journey.

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Life is tough… but so are you

Lately I have been sharing that I have depression and anxiety with people that I would not normally share with.  I’m not walking around with a sign that says that, but as conversations with others unfold, I have found that it’s an ok time to share part of my story. It is in hope that it helps end the stigma, it is in hope that someone else feels ok with their story.

I’ve thought so many times, that this life we are living, can be so tough, the cards we are dealt can make things challenging. It is in these times that we need to remember that we are so much stronger than we think. Your success rate, up until this exact moment in time, in dealing with tough situations, is 100%. That’s a pretty damn good statistic. 100%. You are just are tough as what comes your way.

There have been times where my mental illness has caused me to feel so much pain, for so long, that I started to actually feel nothing. Numb is what I was. My edges have been ripped. My soul has been torn. All to the point where I felt nothing. Try to imagine the actual idea of truly feeling nothing. That’s what depression can do to you, that’s how much control it can have over you. It takes from you until there is nothing left to take. It’s a thief of all things good. It takes all of your hope from you, right from under your feet.

My ripped edges and torn soul make me the person I am today. If given the choice to not have them damaged I would probably take the option. But I need to realize that they contribute to the beauty of being who I am. They contribute to the beauty of being outside of the ordinary. What makes you outside of the ordinary may not be a mental illness, but it’s just as meaningful.

I’ve had to pick myself up off the floor so many times I can’t count. Literally sometimes, I’ve had to pick my broken, sobbing, self, off the floor and just continue. Continue being. Continue surviving. Just continue living one more day. I’ve had to dry my tears countless times. But it is in these times that I have found a way to begin again. Daring to make the choice to place your broken pieces of your heart back together in your chest and to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

That’s how I have learned to survive. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.one foot in front of the other

 

 

Find Me Where The Wild Things Are

I am a delicate flower sometimes when it comes to my emotions. There are bruised petals that won’t fall off quite yet, leaving no room for new growth. There are thorns that seem to be there to protect me, but end up just pushing people away. I may be a delicate flower because I have weathered many storms that have weakened my roots, so I find myself wanting to uproot myself and find a new home. But where to go? I know of safe meadows where no harm will come my way, but there you risk the chance of not being able to plant your seeds and grow again. I know of a familiar place where you’ll end up becoming nothing but thorns, where is the beauty in that?

Delicate, yet strong, looking to grow in all the places. Find me where the wild things are. Find me where the wild things grow.pexels-photo-167093.jpeg

Brave Girl. Choose Yourself

I say IDK  (I don’t know) quite often for someone who actually be knowin’……..

One thing that I know is that I should welcome who I have become in order to survive.  I am a survivor.

Survivor. Whoa. But I guess it’s true. Just a head’s up, what I am about to write is real, is tough, it is not sugar-coated, nor is it happy-go-lucky.

I recall the first time I felt so much weight  on top of me, and so much pain inside, that I reached for something to make it go away. I was so unbelievably over whelmed with what in turn ended up being depression.  I was just desperate for something to help make it go away. I reached for a razor blade and locked myself in the bathroom. I was around 14 years old at the time and knew what I was about to do was not the right choice, but I was at the end of my rope and felt as though there was no other option that would make me feel better. And so began my history of cutting and self harm.

I didn’t cut myself for attention. I didn’t always cut myself with the hopes of ending my life; although I distinctly remember if that ever became the outcome, that I would be ok with it. I cut myself in various places on my body because it hurt like hell. I cut and cut again over the same spot, just to feel something other than the darkness that had taken over me. I didn’t do it because of any other reason, other than that I wanted the pain to go away and that was the ONLY way I knew how to survive. It was my only coping strategy.

So, I was a teenager, trying to survive just being a teenager, but I also had depression. I was me but I wasn’t me. I knew that my family loved me, but try to imagine being so lost, without a map, and the only way to be safe was to find shelter, but all you could muster up the energy for was to self harm.  I self harmed up until I was in university. That’s a big chunk of my life. Seven….eight years.

I loved my relationship I had with a razor blade. Ge’ez, just typing that now made me tear up a bit, because I realize how unhealthy that is.  It was the only thing that allowed me release. If I got right down to the bare bones of it, I didn’t always want to die, I just wanted to not feel how I was feeling. I just wanted the pain to go away.

So yes, as an adult I have scars on my body that have became a part of me. This is my 33rd year of life on this planet and I haven’t cut myself in over 10 years now.  But don’t let that statement fool you. There have been times, some recently, where I was so close, so desperate to revert back to old coping strategies. Now, instead of picking up my old best friend and locking the door, I lace up my running shoes and go. Run. Fast or slow, short or long, it doesn’t matter I just spend time with a new, healthier friend.

I now do not feel like myself if I don’t run. By no means am I even close to being good or elite, but if you run, then you are a runner.  It’s something different that I can identify myself with. I am a runner.

What about my scarred body you ask? Well, I have covered my scars with a tattoo, a tattoo of things that make my heart happy and whole.  Inked, forever on my skin, taking the place of something else that would have been permanent, is a beautiful illustration that I hold close to me.

First, there is the Three Sisters mountain range in the background – I love the mountains like crazy. I love the strength they hold, the way they have persisted over hundreds of years and stand strong. I love the way they let streams of water pave new paths. The Three Sisters range is my favourite peak in the Rockies and because my sister, my sister-in-law and I make…. that’s right. 3.

The second and main part of my tattoo is Hogwarts School from the Harry Potter series. Why you ask? Well, reading that series over and over again throughout my life has been an escape.  Reading these books took me to a place outside of myself where I didn’t have to remember my depression.

The last part of my tattoo is a very special bridge, located in Edmonton, Alberta, called the High Level Bridge. I’ve crossed this bridge many times; both on foot and on wheels, but I remember there was a particular time where I felt connected to it. I had been out for a run, cycling through the snowballing thoughts in my head when I stumbled upon the bridge. I stopped in the very middle and looked out across the North Saskatchewan River below me, and I felt like I had found my second home. Edmonton holds a part of my heart for so many reasons. This just happens to be one of them. I knew in that moment that I had strength to survive and that I was “home.”

And so here I am. I survived, I am surviving and I will continue to.

So Brave Girl, always remember to choose yourself. Be brave.

 

 

 

 

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