Depression: It hurts to smile…

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I woke up depressed this morning.

I’m going to try and describe the thought processes,  the cycles, and the feelings that go through my head in hopes that people understand,  when someone they know is fighting depression,  a little more about how insidious the disease is.

Things have been piling up…

Everyone who knows me,  knows that mostly,  I don’t let things get to me.   I deal with life’s curve balls,   knowing that I will get past them.

Depression makes that difficult,  especially when you live alone.

This morning, the mere act of putting on socks took me almost 30 minutes.  30 minutes where that simple daily act was tantamount to climbing a mountain.

When I remembered that I had to go and buy dog food prior to going to work, I wanted to curl up into a ball and die rather than make the 20 minute trip to the 24-hr grocery store.   But,  I love my dogs, and they’re my lifeline,  so off I went.

Then…facing the day at work….ugh…honestly,  as I walked to the car to drive to work I felt like vomiting.  

I was walking down the hall to my department, and as happens often,  someone passed me, smiled and said, “Hello.”.   I smiled back and responded in kind.  Something that usually comes easily….but this morning,  it actually physically and emotionally hurt to smile.

Most of my co-workers are very attuned to my moods.  When I need it,  I get the space I need.   There is never any judgement or reproach.   

Its the end of the work day now (literally).   I survived.   I got some stuff done.   I’m feeling a bit better…

After reading this…some of you might want to call me weak.   If you do, come say it to my face and show me how strong and brave you are.  No…seriously….do that,  I could use the laugh.

I’ll sign off by reassuring everyone that I’m ok.  I’m not suicidal (I simply don’t have time right now).

 

 

 

Depression Hurts…and sometimes Kills

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A little bit ago I posted this about when I’m manic.

The tragic passing of Robin Williams prompts me to write about depression.

Its much harder to write about depression.   I haven’t because I don’t want to alarm people.   I especially don’t want to hurt those that love me by talking about times I didn’t reach out for help.   I’ll explain that in a bit.

I’m all too familiar with the black hell of Depression,  as well as Suicidal Impulses.   I’ve stood on the brink more than once.

In the aftermath of Robin’s death I’ve seen many talking about “asking for help”.   Many people say that they’ve been there, and they sought help.   Good for them.

Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain that,  in addition to depressing mood,  impedes one’s ability to reason,  and robs them of perspective.

“I’m alone” quickly becomes “No One Loves Me!”

When your brain starts frantically listing all the people you can call and ask for help,  a big glaring sign pops in your head, “If they say no, it will make it worse!”,   or “I’m not worth their time.”

And yes,  even me,  who firmly believes that I’m one of the most Awesome People on the Planet has moments like that.

So….if things get this bad for me,  how is it that I’m still here?

There have been three moments in my life….I won’t go into details because that’s too fucking hard to type…even now I’m tearing up thinking about them…

Here are the things that saved me:

A Canadian Fisheries research ship…..I was in Massett, BC and in the year or so I lived there I had NEVER seen anything tied up at the end of the government wharf…until that night.   I mean, seriously…..WTF!!….all that time spent working up the nerve and they park a boat at the end of the pier.  Stupid government…

My friend, Ireland….my very perceptive friend, who just wouldn’t shut up…  “You cannot deny us, the people who love you the opportunity to help you.”    (She appealed to my selflessness and turned it around on me).

My dog, Colorado.   My queen of spazmania…she was being clingy.  I was depressed and wanted to be left alone.   After hours of sitting in the dark, in my livingroom,  my mood hit bottom.   I heard an alarmed bark  just before being tackled.  Colorado is a 60lb Husky/Shephard/Collie X.    She leapt from the love seat to the couch…pushed me over and started licking my face,  keeping me pinned to the couch.   I couldn’t push her away,  and she didn’t stop until I started laughing.    When she finally let me up,  I went and bought her a steak,  and then called a friend.

When I adopted her,  I heard  “dog with problems”,  “crazy”,  “unadoptable”.     People tell me I saved her life,  so she returned the favour.     I now pay close attention to her behaviour as she warns me well in advance of problems.

I have another dog now too….Kharma.   Kharma is a very calm,  Great Dane.    She’s also very cuddly….

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The point I’m making here that if someone you know suffers from depression,   if you’re worried….say something,   do something….buy a boat….or tackle them and lick their face until they start laughing  (you too might get a steak out of the deal).

Don’t tell them to “snap out of it”,   or “everyone gets sad”.     Don’t minimize,  or trivialize their fears.   Assure them that they are not alone,  and most of all….just listen.

Also…never be afraid to ask,  “Are you thinking of harming yourself?”.   It won’t put the idea in their head.

If they are contemplating self-harm,  and won’t accept help,   you have a duty (both legal, and moral) to call 911 and get them help.

Edited to add:

I once heard a police officer comment that “Depression was just an excuse for being weak.”   (proof that police need more training in dealing with mental health issues).

Living with depression hurts…a lot.   Suicide is about wanting to stop that pain.

Getting past that,  moving on to get up each morning, and function in society takes strength.

So…don’t pity those of us who suffer from Depression…..admire our strength and understand that sometimes,  we need help.

 

 

 

 

Meditating with Dogs

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A long while back I blogged about meditating with cats.

I just re-read that and wow…how things have changed, and yet remain the same.   I didn’t realize it until now,  but the exact same situation that I was meditating on then was what was on my mind last night.   Seriously….that faded away,  but is now back and more promising.   I still won’t say what it is…

Anyway, just over a month ago, I got a new dog….Kharma,  a 5 year old Great Dane.  I didn’t name her,  and I suspect that her original owners wanted to say “Kharma’s a bitch”,  because Kharma is female.

Kharma’s an alpha dog and quickly asserted herself as Queen of the house.  I’m still the boss…make no mistake.  Colorado defers to her…to the point where a friend came to visit on Friday night.  I heard the dogs barking and recognized Colorado’s frantic “Take One More Step and I’ll Fucking Eat You!” bark.   I went out to see what the issue was and saw Corey standing by the back gate, waving.

Kharma’s never met Corey,  but Corey is one of Colorado’s favorite people (Corey is the only person who can walk her without me)….but Colorado took her cue from Kharma.

Anyway, I’m digressing again….

Last night, after Game of Thrones, and before sleep I sat on the bed and folded myself into my usual meditation position.  I folded my hands (Wisdom and Compassion) and tried to drop into meditation space.

Kharma was in her usual place beside me.  I felt Colorado jump on the bed,  and then her wet nose probing my hands so I could pet her.   I was going to push her away,  but thought better of it,  as I’ve often described petting her as a form of meditation…so I sought to include her.

Just as I was settling, I felt Kharma’s massive head drop onto my lap….she too wanted to be included.    It worked for a bit,  but then I felt an energetic pulse from Colorado.

Suddenly,  she was sitting up right,  her paws on my shoulders and licking my face.   I tried to push her away, but she persisted.

I thought this unusual as I was in a good place….but Colorado has done this before.

I’ve noticed that Colorado is very much in-tune the rhythm and flow of my Bi-Polar fluctuations.    Even before I realize I might be a bit off,  I can tell from Colorado’s behavior if maybe I need to pay more attention to my brain and get things back on track.

I haven’t told many people this,  but late last year I was in trouble.  My mood slid downward,  until one night,  it hit bottom and I found myself in a dark place.  I don’t recall that much about it…just random flashes and memories of thoughts.

It was to the point that I didn’t care if I ever came out of it…existence was pointless.

It was then that I realized how valuable a friend Colorado is to me.   Suddenly I found myself pinned to the couch (literally…she came at me so hard that she knocked me over),  paws on shoulders and licking my face frantically.

I pushed her off several times only to have her bounce back…..she only stopped when I started laughing….I got up, took my meds,  gave my friend one of her favorite things in the world (raw steak) and called a human friend.

So,  I’m not sure what brought on last night’s affection as I was in a good place.  But then, this morning,  I found out that my friend was admitted to hospital last night….so maybe I connected on that level and didn’t notice.

/shrug.

I said that when you have cats,   if they deign to pay attention to you,  that you are never alone,  even if you want to be.

With dogs….you are never alone.

 

Welcome to my Hell: A Glimpse into a BiPolar Day

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Let me start out by saying that right now,  in this moment,  I’m fine.   I really am.   If I wasn’t, there would be no way I could write this without melting into a puddle of emotion wracked goo.

Awhile ago I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about what it was like being bi-polar.   I want to write something more serious,  because I’ve come to realize that while people around me generally know what manic depression is,  they don’t really understand it.

I don’t blame them…because honestly,  sometimes I don’t understand it.

As I explain what its like for me on a “bad day”,  keep in mind that I hate asking for help.  I hate appearing weak.  Most of all….I hate needing help.

Here it goes:

I am very good at hiding what’s beneath the surface.    Some days it takes a lot of energy,  and, as I grow older,   I find it harder and harder not to let cracks show.

One of the problems is that many times I have no idea that anything is wrong.   I might be feeling like I’m having an off day.   Sometimes I get hints in interacting with other people.  I’ll see an expression on their face that says, “That was an odd thing for David to say…”.    Of course only my close friends will say anything.

Physically, the most frequent clue I get that my “mood is starting to skew” is something I call “electric skin”…parasthesia….exposed skin (usually my forearms) starts to tingle.  Mentally, emotionally my thoughts are jumbled and I have problems concentrating.

If I focus,  I can sometimes get things back in order…or near enough that no one can tell.

But inside,  I’m hyper-sensitive,  hyper-aware….and just plain hyper.

Things continue to slide.   Sitting at my desk,  I look at my emails,  at my notes,  at my screen and none of it makes sense.   I know what the words mean,  I know what the tasks are…but I can’t put it together.  I can’t  decide what needs to be done.

My nerves start to fray…..I hunker down and try to force myself to perform….try to act like there’s nothing wrong….which just makes things worse.

Its like my brain becomes a spiderweb of steel cables,  stretched tight…almost to the point of breaking.

Every input,  every syllable,  every noise, every task, every phone call,  every thought….every little thing I perceive is like a hammer blow to the spider web,  sending reverberations throughout the entire network,   until I want to scream.

Outwardly,  to most people,  everything seems fine.    You could be having a conversation with me and not realize that inside I’m desperately trying to keep things together.  I’ll hear what you’re saying, and I’ll respond appropriately (sometimes),  but really,  I’m reviewing everything I’m saying 15 times,  analyzing what you’re saying….words, body language, syntax, facial expression,  relative humidity, wind direction, magnetic flux lines,  trying to figure out what it is you’re really saying.

At this point, the more astute will notice that I will try putting off new tasks,  and defer questions which I would normally be able to answer.   I’ll start writing notes to myself.

People who know me well,  at this time,  someone might ask me if I’m okay.

Most of the time, it’ll be “Yeah,  I’m just caught up in this task.”,   when really,  the best way to describe what’s going on inside my head would be to show you a video of a rave, you know the ones…where the camera is at knee level and being jerked around….yeah….that’s my brain when I’m manic.

If I manage to tell you that I’m not okay,  you might ask, “What can I do to help?”

I would love you for asking that, and might even cry (although I probably wouldn’t, because even after admitting that I’m not okay…there’s no way in hell I’m going to tell you how bad it is)….lots of times I wouldn’t know what to ask for.

If you talk to me,  I probably won’t make much sense.  It might sound like I’m making sense…but I’m not….I’m just saying words and phrases that sound good and are based on the visual cues you give me.

Its not that I don’t want help….its just,  I don’t know what to ask for,  I don’t know how to ask for it, because, when I’m in the throes of a manic episode I’m not thinking clearly enough to be able to comprehend what I need,  or how to ask for it.

But now, as I write this…I’m okay.   So I can give you some clues:

First,  if I catch it early enough,  I’ve found the trick is to decrease stimulation.    I will turn my phone off,  turn my lights off and tune the world out.  If I’m at work I will pick one task and focus on it.

I’ve found that many times 10 to 30 minutes in that mode and I will be back on an even keel…..still in the middle of a storm…but things will be under control.

Of course, that’s not always the case,  and is largely dependent on my noticing that I’m slipping early enough to catch it.

When things are bad,  here are some random things that will help me:

1)  Don’t treat me as if I’m BROKEN

2) Don’t take anything I say personally…

3) Tell me that things will be fine

4) Don’t look at me funny if I start to cry

5) Don’t ask me what started all this, what happened, or why am I this way

6)  If you try to talk to me, or make me laugh and I ask you “Please don’t”…don’t be offended…just go away.   I’m at a point where I can’t articulate and I’m busy trying to keep my mind from jumping off a cliff

7)  Don’t minimize or trivialize what I’m going through.  “We ALL have bad days!”  (yes, someone actually said that to me)

8)  When its over, its over.  Its okay to ask if I’m okay,  but please don’t make an issue out of it.   I’ll be trying to move past it and will be hoping very hard that everyone else will too.

One of the most important things is to realize that these aspects of my personality,  that the fall out from them  (the irritability,  the absent-mindedness,  the forgetfulness), are all aspects of my disease,  and not character flaws.

I don’t speak for everyone whose bi-polar…..this is purely my own experience.

 

 

An Open Letter to my Mom

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Hi Mom;

How’re things?

Sorry I haven’t been around much, but you know…the new house is eating up a lot of my time.

This is sort of an embarrassing subject to bring up, but, well, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but a Tory MP wants to implement this thing where our ISP’s will have to block porn sites unless we ask them not to.

The Conservatives seem to be trying to act like everyone’s parents, so I’m sure that if this bill comes to pass that they will also want notes from our mothers to say its okay to unblock porn.

As I understand it, this is an attempt to “Save the Children” or something.  I suspect by  “The Children” they mean those smallish folk with enough computer savvy to defeat any filter,  but they might be referring to everyone who isn’t in The Harper Government.

Be assured that I’m not all that interested in the porn itself,  I just read the articles.

So yeah…gonna need that note.

Oh, warn dad that as The Harper Government is taking over the parental role that this Steve guy might be joining us when we go to the movies.

Love,

David.

Gawker doesn’t think too highly of Canada…

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As evidence I present this:

Gawker's offer to defile the Canadian Flag

Gawker‘s offer to defile the Canadian Flag

For those of you who aren’t aware,  Gawker was approached by someone they allege is drug dealer from Toronto, Ontario who claims to have a video of their mayor Rob Ford,  smoking from what appears to be a glass crack pipe and calling the newly minted leader of the federal Liberal party,  Justin Trudeau,  a “fag”.   This video was viewed by two reporters from the Toronto Star who have attested to its existence.

The drug dealer wants $200,000 for the video so,  in a world where a photo of a celebrity’s baby can fetch millions of dollars,  Gawker started a crowd funding page to raise the $200K.

They’ve provided “perks” for those whose donation reached certain thresholds.

I went to the page this morning out of idle curiosity to see how close to their goal they were (as this story has all but vanished).     $175K,  with another 40 hours to go.

I looked down the list of perks.  Being a world-class skimmer three words caught my eye “Canadian Flag” and “defiled”.

Deliberately defacing a nation’s flag in any manner is considered a desecration.    However, doing such is protected speech in most countries,  Canada included.

One has to wonder at Gawker’s motivation.   Is this just an ill conceived idea that they didn’t think through?

In today’s day and age its possible that it didn’t occur to them that they were insulting a nation in offering to sign a flag as a reward for what to me appears to be nothing more than a publicity stunt.

Its equally possible that it did occur to them.

Lady GaGa: Pro-Zombie!!!

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Note:  I started writing this shortly before Shelby’s rapid decline in health that led to his passing 1 year ago today.
I finish and post it today to honour his memory.   I know its lacking, but that empty indelible space his passing left in my heart is especially noticeable today.

—-

I know…its pretty shocking…but I’m afraid that the evidence is overwhelming.

Yesterday morning my iPhone alarm thingie came on.  My “Divas” playlist was on and Lady GaGa’s “Monster” was playing.

Then it hit me…

“That boy is a monster…”,  “then he ate my heart and he ate my brain“!!!!

Zombies would be considered by some to be monsters, and its a widely accepted fact that zombies prefer brains over anything else!!

OMG…I had always thought that this song was about an encounter with..ummm…hmmm…okay, let me tell it this way…

One day in the boardroom where the IT department gathers for lunch I was telling my co-workers of an incident where I was banging along with Rage Against the Machine’s “Know your Enemy” when I glanced up to see a guy from Finance staring at me in horror.

I don’t particularly give a rat fu….fornicate what anyone thinks of me with very few exceptions, so I wasn’t particularly bothered by his look of horror, I waved and went back to programming.

So sitting down I mentioned this, and the finance guy’s reaction.  I mused that perhaps it wasn’t a big, burly middle aged guy singing along with his iPhone, but maybe he wasn’t a Rage fan (because, well….they are a protest band).    I put forward the idea that perhaps I should try someone else, like Lady Gaga.  My co-worker looked and asked, “Bad Romance?”,   I thought for a moment and said, “Naaa…Monster.”    She did this humorous sort of combination spit take, choke on her food thing that would’ve been great for YouTube.

When she recovered she said, “People will think you’re gay.”

I pointed out that I have  a collection of fairies in my office, and a pink lunch bag, so people probably already suspected that.

“Good point”, was the response.

Umm…what was I talking about?

Oh yeah,  Lady GaGa….”Queen of the Zombies” maybe?

As I lie in bed pondering this realization, Shelby the Pro-Zombie Cocker Spaniel realizes that I’m onto his compatriot and tries to distract me by telling me he needs out…like RIGHT NOW!!!

Too late little buddy…the jig is up.

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