Tag Archive | mental illness

What I Learned About Myself in 3 Weeks…

So it is common knowledge that I got a tattoo the week after our 17 year anniversary. What surprised me is what I learned about myself in the three weeks healing time afterwards.

Day 2 and the beginning of the healing process.

Day 2 and the beginning of the healing process.

  1. Well I definitely don’t wear my heart on my sleeve, it is on proud and vibrant display on my left calf. And I hope people ask me about it. As the wife of a man who has been diagnosed not only with severe depression, but also CAPD, I found my symbol in his fight to control and manage his illnesses. The depression is represented by the semi colon or body of my butterfly. A more and more common symbol of depression and mental illness, it is a constant reminder for me of how I will never truly grasp how close I came to losing my husband and love of my life for ever on 2 separate occasions. Had he chosen to end his story instead of continuing on, my life, and the lives of my children would be very different right now. I have often spoken about how I feel the need to be an advocate for mental health awareness. Two helpful links – Project ; and in case you need help in knowing what to say  Make It Ok.org. Maybe one day someone will see my butterfly while I work out, or on a walk… or even peeking out in a fancy dress and ask me and I will have the chance to listen or share. If I can share my story, Ken’s story and help someone find help or become a source of support… icing on the cake. The other half of the butterfly is a wee bit obvious – maple leaf, Canada: you can take the girl out of Canada, but my origins are a massive part of my personality.Project-Semicolon-760x410
  2. Altering my body permanently was neither as earth shattering or life changing as I expected. Granted when I first got it done and posted it up on Facebook my little corner of the world shared its opinion and got excited. Some were impressed, some quick to admit they would never do the same, others wanted explanation of the image and many were surprised. But, the greater world, life in general… a blip on the radar. And you know what? That was more than OK! I love the reminder that some ink on my body was nothing more than a personal choice that I would now live with forever (proudly I might add). What was way more important is that my own children are super proud of their mom! It was an opportunity to remind them of the struggle dad has with his own mental health, and that it is OK to be sad, to need help. But they also need to be aware that mom really wants them to tell her… any time, any place, and if not her any responsible adult. Needles and healing and a choice that is permanent was simply that… a choice I made. Not the end of my life, though Ken was quick to tease me about his tatted up wife and how much of a rebel I was!IMG_20180704_125226_971
  3. Keeping my legs covered for 3 weeks seem to have given me the permission to embrace colour. My sari skirts were a bit of an impulse buy (Ken edit: If you call agonizing over a purchase for 3 weeks an ‘impulse buy’) if a bit difficult to pair up with shirts on hand, but for 3 weeks I have been colorful. Since some of the skirts only matched some crop tops I purchased recently belly baring became commonplace. It is a movement from worrying about fitting in, matching my clothes to my “life” and into comfort and colour and embracing the fact that I love brighter feathers. Plus, they make a lovely swish when I walk and I have always loved swishing and twirling since I was a little girl – why should that change now?20180628_152211
  4. Baths make me calmer and 3 weeks without that has been a bit of a struggle. I am not a girl who loves a hot shower, give me a long soak to relax away the tension and frustration of a long day anytime. The kids also enjoy the respite from mom after lunch when I took my lunch break. Maybe I really am more mermaid at heart than I like to admit? 
  5. That little square of skin is now the softest skin on my entire body, I swear! Lotion lotion lotion. Washing and lotion, no sun and then the itching. No one mentioned how high maintenance this small patch of skin would be, but worth it! Self care is so important, and this was a reminder to me that maybe I need to pay more attention. When you have to alter your life to look after a single body part… like my time spent on what we thought was my hip, but is now believed to be a slightly slipped disk from when I almost fell in the winter. The reality is I am growing older, and in order to do so gracefully and healthily I need to be more aware. Yoga, workouts, long walks, R.I.P.P.E.D. classes at the YMCA… they take on an even greater meaning when looked at from the perspective not of losing weight or strengthening up but of self care. Taking time for a nap without guilt (seriously I have to convince myself, idleness in my mind, becomes laziness or neglect… I have a very hard time just taking a moment and stopping), spending a few extra minutes working on your appearance and standing tall with confidence that you look awesome. I am learning more and more about these moments. I love myself, my insides and outsides, the family I have created, the life style I live. It is flawed and confusing and at times difficult but it is all amazing. The life I live, the appearance I put out there in the world is all proof that I love myself. That I take the time to care for myself and the ones I love. 

    No filter, not needed. Just hard work and comfortable in my own skin!

    No filter, not needed. Just hard work and comfortable in my own skin!

  6. I like feeling a little the rebel. Granted, many see me and my family as a bit more than a “little” rebellious with our large family size and homeschooling, or my lack of ability to drive and my insistence that we celebrate both Canadian and American holidays PLUS Chinese New Year. Ok… so I was already a bit of a rebel, but having a tattoo… that feels like a “cool” rebel. All that other stuff is more necessity or not a choice but a calling. I CHOSE to get a tattoo, I CHOSE the design and then had one of my oldest and dearest friends not only hold my hand through it all, but take pictures AND help with the design. Who else could be so lucky but to have someone who is basically a sister also be an amazing artist who can take my crazy ramblings and make something amazing on paper?? Thanks again Shandai! You ROCK! They say it takes a village to raise a family, well it sometimes takes friends to help create the perfect family unit too. I have been doubly blessed with an amazing community AND friends who are family to round out the flesh and blood relatives we were born with. (Plus Shandai is pretty cool, rebellious and all round awesome herself)

So there you have it, 6 things I learned about myself all from 30 min of tiny needles, ink and the hand of an amazing artist at Rose in No Man’s Land. I can’t say I won’t go back… My butterfly may need something sweet to land on yet. But for now… My heart is out there, open book. Ask me, share your story with me, read my story here (just search the word “depression” in my search box), my heart is open and I have found that sharing is so much more than simply caring. 

All healed up!

All healed up!

Some Things Are Just Never Going to Go Away

This is another reality that has become very clear to myself and Ken (through speaking with his therapist). There is no true cure for clinical depression (I have discussed this before). There is managing and something of a remission. But there is no out and out we are done with this YIPPEE we are free. And that is ok. This is something we have come to grips with, rationalized about, realized the reality and come to a point of peace with.

Invisible illnesses, mental illnesses, are frankly often something we don’t work to eradicate, rather work to manage, maintain and at the best control. Known quantity to most people… right?

The things that catch us unawares are those that are often symptoms and learned behaviours. Some so deeply ingrained that really you are not going to have them go away.

For our family it is the ever looming issue of PROCRASTINATION. Now, I am by nature, NOT a procrastinator. I am a go at it, get it done kind of girl. Nothing is more satisfying than tackling the issues (even in parts and over time) and managing to hit deadlines and goals. Give me steps and processes and I am your girl. Give me a simple form and a pen and I will sit down and it RIGHT THEN AND THERE.

Ken… well… I remember back in Canada (when we thought he was better, but apparently he was not in hindsight) when he had a form to fill out – something simple, to go back to the government about something to do with his status. Being an adult and all that I let him be, until the date was coming up. He rationalized the not doing it yet as – he was mad at the government for this seemingly duplicate and annoying form so he didn’t fill it out yet… to stick it to them???

Ok… rational and somewhat healthy adult mind goes – WHHHHHAAAAA? What it really was was that Ken’s full blown inclination to procrastinate was totally kicked into high gear. Why do now what can be done the day before a deadline (and believe you me… that is something that drives me MAD – I was a paper done in college weeks early kind of girl).

The reality of our situation is that procrastination is forever a part of Ken and his personality. Where I am like – let’s get this DONE. He is always on the other side tugging back and trying to slow down. It is subconscious (which makes it even harder to deal with) and persistent. It is also diminished as he gets healthier. BUT it is not going to be “cured”.

I think we all have these little… personality quirks. That trip us up. Kid you not, I am really horrible at saying no. I have a hard time hurting feelings (some jokingly say I am stereo-typical Canadian to the core). This leads to emotional investment in making people happy to a degree that is not always healthy for me.

It is on me to work hard to diminish the pull to be something of a people pleaser. Yet, I am always going to want to do it. That is the reality of it.

I think that we are used to adjusting and altering these personality quirks in a “regular” lifestyle. But, you add in mental illness and there is almost a feeling of let down or sadness that this more minor issue (compared to full blown depression) cannot be eradicated.

It can be hard to realize that BETTER or DIMINISHED is a good thing. In fact, compared to the overwhelming pressures of depression these smaller issues are so less dramatic and dangerous on their own that they really are NOT the huge deal they may seem to be when isolated and discussed.

We cannot expect the removal of a personality trait from a person who is NOT suffering from something like depression, bipolar, anxiety… anymore than we can look within ourselves and see to the destruction of some less than savory traits of our own in a healthier mind and body.

Our personalities are a combination of the good, bad and indifferent. While we can improve and alter ourselves we have to realize that we are who we are. The frustration at being unable to completely change a character trait is acceptable, but only if we also work equally as hard to control it. Blame cannot be liberally placed on it being who we are. Instead we need to know that about ourselves, accept outside support and realize that life is what we make of it.

So while Ken works against his instinctual need to procrastinate I have an opportunity to say WAIT you know we want this done in time. It is not easy on either side. He feels an urge not to, and when it becomes a sore spot often seems to be angry at me, when in reality he is angry at himself. Me, I am battling my need to be super fast and ahead of the curve and my frustration that once again Ken seems to blame me for his action. But we talk it out, we share and we try. And that is all I can ask for.img_20160624_221625

When Change and Progress is Small and Slow…

Yet life changing and life sustaining…

We have experienced this first hand, with the initial rush of movement there is a lull… a necessary lull. First comes the massive (for some) realization that there is something Wrong (with a capital W). For us it was the concrete and stable plans for suicide or self harm becoming alarmingly loud in Ken’s mind, as well as his realization that he simply was not feeling Happy, not even little h happy about things. There was a lack of the life long roller coaster you and I experience of happiness, excitement, joy intermingled with sadness, anger, frustration etc.

Once the person who is suffering from a mental illness comes to this massive and life saving realization things happen quickly. Of course, I can only speak from our experience but I hope it is helpful… medication is prescribed, voluntary hospitalization is offered in case of necessity and doctor/therapist/psychiatrist appointments are quickly lined up. This is almost mind numbing in its speed. After all, the individual is admitting to thoughts and feelings that are highly detrimental and dangerous.

After this comes the medication. Ken explains it to me as a build up in his system. Amounts are determined by increase or decrease of a gradual nature and for him the thoughts are quickly quieted a little, but with it comes side effects… exhaustion, distracted thought… again a quick thing to start…

But this seems to be where the speed ends. The side effects to the medication that you gradually get used to, or diminish themselves all occur over time… The initial danger is over and the sigh of relief that comes with that but that is where the real work begins.

I know there is a saying – don’t sweat the small stuff… but I think that in the life of a family touched acutely by depression there is a new saying – celebrate the small stuff… so you all managed to get out the door to enjoy the sunshine! There is a great moment to smile and laugh. The number of naps and exhaustion level have decreased post med adjustment… well that is a great reason to take a movie night. Therapy has been gone to consecutively and found to be helpful… well that means it is time for a family walk or bubbles in the yard.

Note my idea of celebrations isn’t wine and caviar. That is fine and dandy if you can afford it, but really a celebration can be a smile, it can be reveling in the moment, taking a walk with the family, cuddling on the couch and rehashing the good stuff. There is something to be said about meditation and self realization. About taking a moment and making it stretch and giving it more relevancy.

Grand change that is swift and all encompassing are not part of the long term solution, I am afraid. Rather, this is a long haul… but it is such a life enriching, life changing and life ensuring procedure. And, if celebrated properly and shared and committed to it will change you, your family and those around you for the better.

The key is to not let go, well… there will be some bad, some sad, some angry that we can’t help but let go (in fact, it is the best choice) but the good, the lovely, the amazing, the romantic and silly… if we hold on tight to THESE moments then they will sustain us through the steps backwards, the momentary lapses and the internal rage over a process that simply cannot be rushed.

So basically, what I am trying to say is this… there isn’t this great fight towards a cure. Not for those who are not situational. Instead, it is a long marathon to becoming healthier, to becoming in control, to finding a way to manage the negative emotions and thoughts and be able to feel joy and peace. So it is not a sprint to the finish, there is no huge party at the end. Rather you are going across country… there are pot holes and cow patties but there is also beautiful scenery, friendship and a future… and all those things are worth celebrating. Every pot hole you survive, every dip in the emotions, every fall back that you recover from… EMBRACE IT! CELEBRATE IT! 

And if you really feel like you can’t, well tell someone, tell me, tell a friend… tell ANYONE that you succeeded and if they are truly on board and truly understand they will help you see your success. They will teach you how to accept praise and cheer along with you. And as they teach and support you, throw a little love their was. Because really, we are all a little broken. And together we can ALL be a little better!!!

Once again… I want to say – no one is alone. I am here, my family is here… if you need me or someone else… reach out. Well done at getting this far and GO YOU as you run your own marathon the a healthier life!!! (Again, to read the other posts in this series on Depression and our family go HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.)IMAG0368-EFFECTS