Depression, hopelessness, despair, salvation

This post will likely be the hardest I’ve ever written.

Im sitting here in my assigned hospital bed at the Stratford General Hospital the day after my second heart attack. In a couple of hours I will be transported to St Marys in Kitchener for an angiogram to assess the damage.

I will be fine on that account. Lying here with little to distract me has given me a great deal of time to think.

My struggles with mental hezlth are no secret. I think few are aware of how bad it really is.

I rarely discuss the dark stuff because I dont want to alarm anyone, and dont want to be a bother.

I sometimes ponder what I can do to get myself out of the quagmire I find myself in but always come up short.

In the days before my heart attack it was starting to occur to me that I needed to be more open and tell ppl what was really going on in my head.

Thats a scary proposition. I was afraid of how ppl would react. I didnt want to cause anyone distress, but at the same time I had decided on a course of action and didnt want anyone trying to stop me.

I need help. I dont know how to ask for it. I dont know what to ask for.

The outpouring of well wishes when news of my heart attack spread has shown me that telling the world what really is going on is the best course of action.

This will be hard to type, it may appear disjointed at times. I will do my best to avoid minimizing the situation.

Before I begin let me point out that the fact that I am telling hou all this is a good sign…I am asking for your help…more then thatI am actually asking everyone to help me figure out what it is that I need.

The fact that I am sitting here in a hospital bed typing this to you is a clear indication that indica there is no immediate danger.

The thing that got me thinking along these lines was a conversation with my new housemate Louise. A couple of nights ago I told Louise about my struggles with controlling my diabetes. I had forgotten that Louise used to be a nurse. Shes taking over that aspect. It lead to a discussion around mental health. I wont go into details because all of that will be covered below….unless I forget.

When I was first brought into the ER we went over my listof meds. I explained that I havent been taking them because I kept forgetting to get them refilled.

That was a lie.

Here we go….the truth is that I had stopped taking them because if I died of a heart attack it would be nature taking its course and not me letting anyone down by committing suicide.

And there it is.

My ADHD and depression made dealing with the day to day too hard. Doing what needed to be done seemed insurmountable. Dying seemed easier. The problem was that I have ppl depending on me, and there are a couple of things I still need to do.

That last paragraph sums up about a page and a half…you’re welcome.

This black depression started to lift about a week ago. Thanks at least in part to Louise who was quite adamant about her wanting to help.

In that time I considered what I had to do to improve my lot.

I need to be more social. I seem to have lost the ability to invite ppl for coffee. Ive been wanting to throw a dinner oarty or game night but Im terrified that no will come.

Part of that is finding activities out of the house. Social anxiety makes that hard for me. When I do go out the activities are usually solo.

Im keen to develop my comedy career…I just have to stay on track with that.

When I started this I thought it would be pages and pages, but Ive run out of things to say.

Im going to be heading kff to my angiogram in a bit, so I’m going to leave off here.

I hop what Ive said doesnt cause anyone distress. That wasnt my intent.

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What I learned about “Living in the Now” from my two aging dogs

I’ve noticed that Colorado’s vision has been getting worse.

A while back I noticed that when I would throw her ball for her,  she’d often go right by it several times as she excitedly searched for it.   I knew she had cataracts,  but honestly,  I wasn’t sure if she was just too excited to see it.

Then,  a few months ago she started bumping into furniture in dark rooms.

A couple of weeks ago,  I gave her a treat and even though I was holding it right in front of her, she didn’t see it until I moved it slightly to the her right.

I imagine that many human beings in this situation would despair at the loss of their vision.

Colorado is not bothered by it.

Several times I’ve witnessed her come barrelling through the livingroom, only to run into something.

Each time, she picks herself up, and continues on whatever quest she is on.

She does not stop and think, “WTF?!”

Thoughts of a life without vision don’t seem to intrude.

This became evident when I was throwing her tennis ball for her.  Normally I throw it from living room to dining room.   It is not a rare for her to lose track of it and end up weaving around the dining room table in search of it.   She likes that game,  she is always very excited and happy and when we play.

This time she couldn’t find the ball.   It was in the middle of the floor.  I pointed at it and she still couldn’t see it…..until I put my finger on it.

Her reaction…..”OMG!  I FOUND THE BALL!!! YAY FOR ME!!!!  AGAIN!AGAIN!AGAIN!!!”

The fact that she needed help didn’t diminish her joy one bit.

She didn’t become consumed with what would happen when the time came that she couldn’t see at all.

She rejoiced in the moment.  Nothing else mattered.

…and that is the purest example I can think of for “Living in the Now”

It is something I’ve struggled to achieve since the concept was introduced to me years ago by my then therapist Roberta.

Essentially,  Living in the Now means not worrying about what could happen in the next moment,  or obsessing over what happened in the last.

In the example Roberta gave,  imagine the van you are driving is stuck in the mud.

Worrying about what will happen if you don’t reach your destination in time,  or obsessing over the circumstances that got you stuck will not get you unstuck.

I will point out that this doesn’t mean shirking responsibilities or not learning from mistakes.

In the past year there have been many changes in my life.  Happily I’ve made great strides toward this whole living in the moment thing.

I am better at taking each day as it comes.   But there are things that I still need to work on.

I think fear is one of the strongest forces in nature.  Especially when the fear is one of the biggest an individual faces.

That is why this lesson on Living in the Now is a hard one for me.

Both my dogs are getting older.

Even though it is an unavoidable aspect of nature, the thought of losing them terrifies me.

It is not that the fact that they will someday die that worries me.

The darkness that looms large and often makes me feel small and helpless is that when they are gone that I will be alone.

And that my friends,  is my biggest fear.

It might surprise a great deal of you because I often seek solitude,  and am well known for not being able to stay in large gatherings for very long.

But,  that solitude has always included my girls.

When these musings are coupled with depression,  the thought of not being able to reach over and run my fingers through canine fur reduces me tears….even when I’m actually doing just that.

That is the anti-thesis of Living in the Now.

The passing of Shelby, my cocker spaniel almost destroyed me.

It was a week before I could return to work,  and nearly 6 months before a day passed without me crying over his absence.

That was during a difficult time in my life.   I wasn’t ready to let him go,  but he was ready,  and I made him a promise.   And I keep my promises no matter how badly they cut.

In the immediate time after.  People kept their distance.  Close friends and family told others that I would want my space, and to grieve in private.

I appreciated it, because that’s what I thought I needed.

It was only years later that I realized how very wrong that was.  My isolation exacerbated the pervasive emptiness in my life.

Now,  even though both my girls are healthy and happy,  that fear is back.

While most of the time I enjoy the time with my girls without any thought of what happens,   there are times when the future intrudes and cannot be pushed away.

My life is much better now.  I have more friends, and am better at being social.

I know in my heart  that my friends and family will be there whatever the day brings.

But one of the things about mental illness is that your head sometimes injects false and terrifying  realities that are not easily banished.

Shelby: Pro Zombie Cocker Spaniel
Shelby: Pro Zombie Cocker Spaniel

Post-script:
I’ve been working on this for awhile.
A bought of depression sprang up sometime after I first came up with the idea for this post.  
 I don’t know if working on it is what caused my current bought of depression.
It was very difficult to finish….

 

 

An Impasse

 

I haven’t worked since the end of November.

I became embroiled in a dispute with my employer after I filed a complaint naming two senior employees.

It took months, but that issue was resolved in my favour.  Leaving me unemployed but with adequate resources to start life anew.

In the past few months I have battled severe depression,  anxiety, and a fair amount of stress.

3 days after everything was over,  I suffered a heart attack.

Just as I was getting to the point where I could return to normal activities, I badly sprained an ankle.  So bad that I couldn’t sit for long periods of time without elevating it.

My ankle is almost fine (although its throbbing while I sit here typing this).

So now that I, in my own opinion, am ready to tackle life again, I find myself at an impasse.

I’m trying to decide whether to look for work,  or take a serious, honest shot at getting a software company off the ground.

For years I was offered jobs where potential employers would, in the words of one, “treat you like a rock star because you’ll make us tons of money!!”.

While not motivated by money,  at age 50 I’m thinking about my future and retiring with no mortgage and “tons of money” sounds very appealing.

But, I’ve lots of ideas for marketable products, and would really like to make a go of starting my own company.

I figure that I can go a far number of months with no income.   That will give me enough time to develop a product to the point where I could look for investors, if not out and out have it generating income.

But, there’s always the possibility of failure and ending up with nothing.

On the other hand,  if I went back to working for someone else,  that money could go towards needed things for the house, and wanted things…like my dream vacation to St. Petersburgh Russia and a multi-day tour of The Hermitage Museum.

I’m coming out of a week long heavy depression,  so this issue is taking more brain power than I have on hand.

Anyone have any thoughts they’d like to share?

 

 

 

Life is Good…Finally

It has been pointed out that I’ve been relatively silent for the past week or so.

Normally this is a bad sign.  When depression sets in that’s what I do.  I fall silent.  I avoid contact.  I try not to be a nuisance,  and above all else I avoid letting anyone know that I’m hurting.

That is not the case here.

Despite the fact that its mid-February which is typically the worst part of the year for me in terms of mental health.

I’m okay.

I’m better than okay.

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around it.

I discussed it with my psychiatrist who was pleased to see the insight I was showing into my own progress.

I first realized it when I blurted out, to an empty room, and for no reason at all, “Life is good!”

That surprised me.

These unprompted, sudden exclamations to no one in particular aren’t new to me.  But until now they were heavily negative.  Usually, “I hate my life!”.

Honestly, I did.

The past few years have been hard.

I won’t go into details.  Some of you know the meat of it.

It got much worse towards the end of 2015.  Terrible in fact.

It is with a bit of humour that, at this point, I let you know that my answer to anyone who asked me if I was suicidal was,  “No,  I have too much to do yet.”

And then I found that I had lost almost everything that was important to me…..I no longer “had too much to do.”

Then I found that I didn’t lose everything that was important to me….my eyes were opened to the fact that there were a great many people who cared about,  and not, as I suspected,  because of what I could do for them.

What I found was that I have friends.  Good friends that I could tell that things weren’t good.

What I did lose was what I thought was my purpose in life.

I suddenly found myself with no one to look after,  no one to protect,  no mission,  no purpose except to get through each day.

I can’t recall a time when I didn’t have some external thing that kept me going.

But there I was….

It was terrifying.   The lack of purpose consumed my every waking thought.

Emotionally,  psychologically,  spiritually I hit bottom.

It may have been the best thing that happened to me.

It was just last week that I realized that what I thought was a horrible emptiness,  was a blessing.

I had no one to rescue.  Nothing to fix……except me.

I didn’t even realize that I was doing it.  But I started working through the issues I pushed down,  or blotted out while helping others.

Eventually I noticed that my thinking was much clearer.  My thoughts are calmer, even when contemplating things that would normally cause me a great deal of distress.

At the same time,  I’ve allowed myself to get angry over things that I should, rightfully, get angry over.  That’s always been a difficult thing for me.

I think the most important thing I’ve come to accept is that I am important,  and, so long as I’m not a complete asshole about it,  it’s perfectly okay to put my needs ahead of others (except my dogs, and cat).

So yeah,  I feel better than I have in years.

Life is good…..finally.

 

 

Dear Santa

Hi Santa;

It has been a very long time since I’ve written to you.

I hope I didn’t offend you in last letter when I questioned the fact that you insisted that instead of milk that we leave beer with the traditional offering.   I may have been a bit blunt in my pointing out that your favorite beer happened to be the same as my dad’s.   Black Label.

I had recently noticed that restaurants were selling “Imported Beers” and found it unlikely that Black Label was available at the North Pole.

So, uh, sorry about that.

All that being said,  I hope you get this.   I don’t know what sort of internet is available at the North Pole,  but maybe your phone will download this when you transition through more civilized locations.

Santa,  its been a tough year.  Not just for me,  but for millions of people around the world.

At this point, I believe its customary for the letter writer to point out how good they’ve been all year.

Santa,  I’ve been a good boy all year!!!

LMAO….once you stop laughing you’ll realize I was being sarcastic.

I’m going to ask for something anyway….but it is more of a global thing.

Santa,  with all the shit that has happened in the world,  I’ve noticed something….

Since 9/11,  it seemed that every time people who happened to be Muslim did something wrong,  social media feeds,  and forum posts were wall to wall hate for all Muslims.

That’s not all.

In 2001 very few people would speak up when someone vilified gays and lesbians.

Almost no one would speak up in defence of those society marginalized.  I’m talking about the homeless,  the addicted and the mentally ill.

The world seemed bereft of compassion.

I think that started to change in the past year or so.

Even in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks people who complained about Islam,  and wanted to punish all Muslims,  even those fleeing the inhumane hell that was once Syria,  were shouted down.

Not by one or two,  but by the majority!

For homophobes it got so bad that they started complaining that their ignorant hatred was actually a majority opinion,  but people were afraid of speaking up out of fear of being bullied by “bleeding heart Liberal bullies”.

I honestly believe that society is becoming more compassionate.   That people see that homelessness and addiction is not the problem,  but a symptom of the problem.

More and more people are seeing that the way we treat social welfare makes poverty nearly impossible to escape.

Santa,  I know that even with your mastery of quantum mechanics that you couldn’t have done all that.

But,  if you help move it along in any way I’d really like that.

It would make the world a better place.

Oh,  and Santa,  if it turns out I’m wrong,  and this is just some delusional fantasy….I’m good with that.

Thanks Santa,   have a safe flight.

If you do make it to my place,  as soon as you get in,  get the fridge….you’ll find some sausage in there.    If the dogs haven’t cornered you before that,  just throw them a couple of links and you’ll be fine!

 

 

 

 

I am Adrift and in Need of Rescue

I was planning on writing something else tonight, but I will save that for later.

Going into my 50th Christmas I find myself in one of the darkest, bleakest periods of my life.

I can’t go into details,  but I am going into week 4 of “Sick Leave”.   I’ve had the one thing that gave my life purpose and meaning stripped away from me,  through no fault of my own.

My days blend together,  each one the same as before with few exceptions.

Without the distraction of work, and socializing with my friends there life has become pretty grey.

There is one bright spot here though,  and that is that I’m recognizing my tendency to hide when things get bad.

With the help of my psychiatrist, Dr. N.,  and some very good friends I’m finding it easier to recognize behaviours that are less than helpful.

And,  I’m finding it easier to talk about them.

Up until recently there was no way in hell I would let anyone know that I was hurting.   It would have to be truly bad for me to even hint that I was in trouble,  let alone ask for help.

The headline of this blog is something that I’ve wanted to say so many times in the past.

The reasons I didn’t are all my own.

There are a few reasons for this neurotic way I deal with depression and stress.

Most of my adult life,  I was the one who came to the rescue.  I was a medic.

Back then I had coping mechanisms…friends, alcohol and terrible, terrible karaoke.

There is also a part of me that is terrified of being vulnerable.  As I type that I realize the irony.  Not asking for help for fear of being seen as vulnerable, actually increases the vulnerability.

So,  after years of battling depression I find that my social skills are lacking.

I withdraw from socializing because I don’t want to bother people with my bullshit,  so I’ve lost the ability to make small talk,  or have a “normal” conversation about “stuff”.

The result of this of course is that its harder to find people to socialize with,  and build those friendships where someone will call bullshit when I say that I’m fine when I’m not.

The bright spot in this quagmire is that I’ve been unable to hide it.  Dr N commented during my appointment the other day that it was the first time in the 4 or 5 years I’ve been seeing him that I actually looked depressed.

I say bright spot, because other people have noticed and have offered support.  Invitations for coffee or a shoulder should I need one.

Thank you so much all of you for that.

Now to the bit that still kind of terrifies me….I’m going to ask for help, directly…

Please know that accepting help is new to me.   I fight every day to keep from “going dark” and avoiding everyone and everything.

So,  if you’re inclined to reach out, please don’t let me run and hide…because I might.

Thanks everyone…I’m going to hit “Post” on this before I chicken out.

 

 

Caregivers need care too….#grief #suicide #mentalhealth

For those of you who are finding my blog through this post,  last weekend my friend, and fellow member of the local community theater community Eric took his own life.

In the wake of that tragedy,  I posted this, attempting to help people understand why its hard to reach out for help when they are fighting depression,  and I posted this,  in explaining that suicidal people are not selfish and weak.

In the days since Eric’s death,  I have been working to help people understand,  and help people who are hurting.

I am honoured, and consider it a privilege that people trust me enough to let me help them through difficult times.

Yesterday at work, let in the morning I found myself suddenly,  and violently emotionally shattered.   I likened it to walking through a beautiful forest on a sunny day and finding an old well covered with some rusty wood and falling through.

I’m sorry, what…wood doesn’t rust?   Well then mr or ms smarty pants…go start your own blog where you can make proof-reading a thing ;).

It only lasted a few minutes but was surprising because at the time I was writing code.   Being a Codeaholic which means that Code is My Drug it was very surprising.  I was in what was supposed to be my happy place.

Some of you are going to be very surprised by this next bit.

I immediately let two of my friends know.

That’s right,   I,  David Rothbauer actually let two other people (who didn’t ask at the time if I was okay) that there was the possibility that I might need help.   I wonder what size winter jacket Satan ran out to buy…

I also immediately canceled a meeting I had today,  and while I stayed a few hours at work,  I took today off to take care of me.

After I climbed out of the aforementioned well, I went into analytical mode (because I do that).   I realized that we were in the 3 to 5 day window after a communal tragedy where caregivers and first responders start to drop.   I also realized that I was starting to see the cracks in others.

Many who gravitate towards the care giver role after a tragedy like this,  and I’m not talking just the professionals, have demons in their past.

These dark times are what gives us the perspective and experience that allows us to (hopefully) be effective when helping others.

Many of us also, me especially,  are mission oriented.   What that means is that our nature is to not stop until the mission has been accomplished.   I mean for real…not when some asshat hangs a “Mission Accomplished” banner on an aircraft carrier and has a press conference.

That’s what happened to me yesterday,  and it took me a long time to sort it out.

I found myself in a strange place emotionally.  I felt depressed, but not in that curled up in a ball on the floor and unable to stop crying depression….that I could’ve dealt with,  because for me, that’s normal.

After some thought I realized that I had accessed some very dark and scary places in my past in order to write the things I wrote, and to help people who needed it.

Think of it this way….you’re want to show a friend something that might help them understanding…no wait, I have a better one…

You want to help someone understand that its okay to not have a Mission Accomplished press conference,  so you start digging through boxes looking for a copy of “Chicken Soup for the Asshat’s Soul” (which someone gave you as a gift, because you’re not an asshat, right?).

In your digging you run across a picture of a clown,  and up until that moment you had completely forgotten about your deep and terrifying fear of clowns.

That’s what happened to me yesterday….except the clown was strenuously objecting to being shoved back into that box.

I was feeling lost and wavering and..I really didn’t know what, or why.

I ended up chatting with my friend Kristen Keller on Facebook when I thought I’d give this “Asking for Help” thing a shot.

I’m glad I did.

What followed was a long meandering conversation where there were some painful moments, but there was a lot of laughter as well.

I felt better after, and thanks to Kristen I could sleep.

I’m feeling a bit better this morning, but I can hear that fucking clown stirring.   Too bad its a proverbial clown, otherwise I’d just let the dogs take care of it.

Before I go, I want to ask you all to remember that we all come from different places and deal with things differently.

So if you think that someone isn’t “doing their part”,  or “Is being disrespectful”,  please take a moment and ask yourself if you know their story…..

There might be a reason that they show their grief in a way that is different from yours.