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.

4 Weeks Later: A dream..

This morning at around 6:30 my pager woke me up.  A user needed help signing in and sync’ing up with our single sign on system.

That took about 20 minutes and I went back to bed.

I woke up from a dream at around 8am.

I tend to dream vividly. Hi-def, Dolby 7.1 type dreams.

In my time seeing Dr. N and Roberta I’ve realized that dreams are messages from my subconscious.   Which makes perfect sense, its not like Steven Spielberg is beaming them into you brain at night, and if he was, he’d have nothing on me.  Dr. N has surmised that my odd and vivid dreams are a manifestation of my creativity.

My more vivid dreams are usually milestones in the progress I’m making.

Before I woke up at 8am I dreamt I was in a car dealership doing IT work.  Which is odd, considering that I work in a hospital.  Odder still was the fact that most of my co-workers there,  are my co-workers here.

We were standing around talking,  I forget about what, but I know that some guy came down and asked if I could help out with a sql server problem.  I didn’t know who he was but I remember watching him walk up a flight of stairs wondering what the hell he was thinking, wearing tight green polyester pants and a lumberjack shirt to work.

There was also cake.  I reached around someone to grab one of the last pieces and came away with a napkin instead.

There’s a lot of carrying on and good humour like there is in my work place.   I eventually take my leave.

When I leave the building I am walking to the road beside an old stone church.  Another one of my co-workers is crouched down,  trying to peer into the windows (I do not think this is odd).   I greet him.  Shelby comes running up barking…his “pay attention to me” bark.  He is scrambling around trying to see inside the church too.

I give him a pat on the head and he runs out ahead of me like he did when we were in off leash areas.

He gets to the sidewalk and turns around.  I see him squat to do his business and say, “Hey!”, and point down the street. He takes off out of sight.

I turn the corner and he’s standing on a little embankment beside the sidewalk.   He’s wearing his red leash that I haven’t seen in a while.  Although its not tied to anything I know that it means he’s going no further.

I stop and give him a pat.  I note how warm he feels.  The same thing I noted when I gave him one last pat on the head after he died.   He’s looking up at me with his doggy smile and happily wagging his tail.  I can tell he knows that he’s staying too.

Wordlessly, and even a little bit happy I turn and head down the sidewalk, leaving him behind.  In my dream it is a beautiful summer day.

I wake up and remember my dream and marvel that I am not in tears.

Then I open my eyes, and all that changes.

I eventually went back to sleep for a bit and woke up and had forgotten all about it.

Just before I started to write this,  I was leaving the kitchen and stopped to straighten his picture that’s on my fridge…and I remembered.

Although this dream has significant and positive symbolism.  Today, well,  right now,  I am sad.  I miss my little buddy.


“So how long is it appropriate to wait before I start posting satire?”, I asked my friend, Gord, over breakfast this morning.

Its been a good day.   A sharp pain woke me up.  It was one of my cats, Socks, way of letting me know that I was petting her wrong.

I saw that the closet doors were closed, and I remembered.   There were no tears, only a moment of ummm…terror maybe.   I heard Gus meowing in the kitchen.  Socks had my left hand clawed into her and I heard rustling at the foot of the bed.   “Did I dream yesterday??”, I wondered.    I figure Gus must’ve either been closer to the bedroom than I thought, or had run from the kitchen to the bedroom because he lept up on the bed.

There have been some moments of sadness, brief and fleeting and one flash of overwhelming grief where the only thought was, “I miss my dog!”.  But those were very brief.

I wondered if fate played its hand today.   Last night when I realized I was hungry I went out in search of something to eat.

What I really wanted was a Cajun Burger from Downie Street Burger, an upscale burger place (if I have to tell you what street its on, you are more blind to the obvious than I am)   But, the lovely lady who runs the place, Nancy, and I have traded dog stories, and last time I was in I grabbed two burgers for takeout.  One for me, and one for Shelby.

I remembered watching Shel tear enthusiastically into his burger.   Of course he lacks the table manners my mother beat into me, so he was finished long before  me and sat at my feet (and yes, I gave him bits of mine).   He went into the kitchen and got a drink of water then started sniffing frantically around the loveseat.   He then dropped to his belly and started scrabbling.  Alarmed I leaped from the couch, and as I reached his side he comes up with part of a patty in his mouth.  He tore apart part of his burger so enthusiastically that he tossed part of it under the love seat.   That is a good memory.

Last night things were raw, and I couldn’t face telling anyone else of Shelby’s passing.

I had actually forgotten about that until this morning.  Gord and I were walking into Jessi’s Deli and I saw Nancy sitting at the counter by the door.  She waved and asked after Shelby, and, of course my face betrayed what happened.  I waved Gord on and sat down next to her to tell her what happened.  We spoke for a moment and as always, sharing with someone who understands is always a good thing.   She remembered that Shelby had had one of her burgers, and it was then that I remembered the story I just related.

As I was re-reading and pondering, I focused on the bit in Shel’s Eulogy where I said, “I was honoured to be by his side”.    Honoured…why did I type that?  Why did I leave out the part where I knew the moment he passed when I felt a sudden feeling of peace, and happiness.

There’s always been something special about Shelby.  He always seemed a little more in tune with surroundings.   I remember watching him chase squirrels in Lake Ontario park in Kingston when to my horror I realized that he was going to catch one.   I was about to lunge forward and yell, but he lifted his head, and slowed down and  was content to run behind it and bark his fool head off at it when it got up a tree.   It was all about the chase.

His was a beautiful soul, and his passing into the next life was a monumental event.

If you’re one of those who feel that perhaps I’m reading too much into this and are sitting there rolling your eyes or thinking derogatory thoughts.  Well, f*** you.   this is about me, not you.

There is also a part of me that remembers all the black times in my life,  when I was mired in depression and I’d feel a paw slapping me on the thigh, or feel Shelby settling his chin on my lap.  Or other times when the fact that he was home, depending on me, kept me grounded.

I’m a better man today than I was back then, in a better place, and better able to deal with the crap that life sometimes deals out.

So, maybe Shelby, my faithful, loyal companion saw that I would be okay without him, and that it was okay for him to move on.

I think its time I find myself a girlfriend.  I don’t remember how one goes about doing that though.


This will be the last post where I focus on Shelby’s passing and the aftermath.   I will mention him from time to time I’m sure though.  And like I said, I have one or two draft posts I wrote before his health declined sharply.  I will post those eventually.

Hours later…

It was a hard morning to say the least.   I was numb on the drive home.  When I went to get out of the car, I looked at the leash on the passenger seat and was surprised that I didn’t burst into tears.

I left it though as my intention is to take what is donatable to the local shelter.

I came in, and by instinct I looked and listened for him.   Old habits.

I sat down to write the eulogy, then I set to cleaning.  I am normally domestically challenged and my cleaning efforts usually end when I need to go check something on the computer.   But, there was cleaning that absolutely had to be done.    I did that, and I went around the kitchen and either put Shel’s stuff in the garbage, or in a bag of donations.   I pushed around a mop mindlessly (and ineffectively) and went back and forth the computer.

My dad called.  I smiled when he said, “Son, your mother told me that you didn’t want to be bothered but I disobeyed her.”.   Mom was right of course (she knows me well) as I almost didn’t answer the phone, but 5 minutes later I don’t think I could’ve loved my dad more.   He commiserated, we talked, and I felt better.

I sat at the computer for awhile…I don’t remember what I was doing…well…I re-read the eulogy about 100 times…and looking at his pictures made me smile.

I kept glancing around and suddenly I realized why.   I wasn’t hearing him so I was checking to see if he was okay.

I decided then and there to get the hell out of the house to go buy a new computer desk that would fit in the living room.

I ended up at Staples and found one that would fit my 2 monitors and room for my stuff that was fairly inexpensive.

I grabbed something to eat and wrestled the desk (un-assembled) into my apartment.

I ate, and relaxed for a bit.   Every two weeks I have an hour long appointment with my therapist, Roberta, and that was today.   She is a truly remarkable person and has helped me come so far since I started seeing her over a year ago.  We sat and talked about what had been going on, I talked to her about my thought processes.    I mention a tree I was looking at this morning when I was thinking about “treating the whole patient”.  She stopped me to ask what about the tree had caught my attention.   It was barren, covered in snow against a gray sky.  Desolate and beautiful all at the same time.

And that is the crux of how I feel.   If you watched the South Park thing, you will know the term “Beautiful Sadness”.

Feeling better, I returned home and began the process of migrating my computer to the livingroom.   There were more tears, but that was mostly at trying to understand the assembly instructions for the desk.   I did catch myself checking to make sure I wasn’t going to dump something on a sleeping dog…but old habits.

I know this may confuse a lot of people.   But while this is one of the saddest days of my life, it is also one of the happiest.

An email I received from a friend explains it all:

It’s telling how much you love him and how hard it was to let him move on.  It’s telling that you helped him go on when it wasn’t an easy thing for you.   It’s so tempting, so easy to make these choices as to how they make only you feel.  Shel is voiceless but for the voice you impart him.  So you had to speak for him and help him with the choice you know he opts for.   Hard, gruesome hard, but that ease you felt was him thanking you for hearing him and having the courage to heed.

That was all about him.  It can be all about you now, which is how shel chose to live his life, by the way:   All for you.

Last note.   There is depression due to an imbalance of humors and there is sadness due to something sad.   Please don’t feel you need Illbutron (deliberate pun) to mask or overcome what SHOULD be a sad moment.   Let yourself be sad.   It’s okay.  It’s not wallowing.  It’s not crippling.   You love him and it’s sad.  It’s sad just writing about it to you.  Don’t make it something you have to escape from.   It’s not.  It’s the tithe you accepted when you let him in.  Be joyous to pay your due; a final tribute to the little bastard.  He earned it.  So did you.  

We won’t let it get out of hand.   We’re watching over you.   Shelby most of all.  Donate his food bowl all you want, he isn’t leaving and you know it.  

Just breathe.  The click of his claws remains.   That’s his own due, paid to you.  He is there.  He is home. 

I received some very nice emails, and some of them made me cry, thank you for each and every one of them.

There is still the occasional tear…and the sharp jab of loneliness that my 2 cats will only fill if the decide they need something.  But mostly the tears are of happiness for my friend, who no longer feels pain.


I’ll tell you now that I do have a blog entry I started a couple of weeks about about how Shelby had realized that I was onto one of his pro-zombie compatriots and his attempts to distract me.
When I’m ready, I will finish it, and post it…because I think he’d like that.




An Old Friend Passes

Shelby enjoys a special meal I made for him on the 26th.

Sadly, I have to report that Shelby, the pro-zombie cocker spaniel passed peacefully a few minutes ago at the Avon Pet Hospital.  I was honoured to be with him when he slipped peacefully from this life and into the next.

This is being written from behind a veil of tears and in a state of an odd mixture of profound grief, and, at the same time,  joy for a friend who has found peace.




When you are born, you cry and the world rejoices.  When you die, you rejoice, and the world cries.   -Buddhist Proverb

Those of you who need to know what happened already know and I’m not going to get into that here except to say from the time I made the decision last evening, to the vacillating back and forth wondering if it was the right decision.  I didn’t get much sleep and there were many, many tears.

This morning I went out to clean off the car before taking Shel to the vet, I stopped before going back inside to collect myself.  When I was medic I always tried to treat the whole patient, not just the symptoms.  When I remembered this a peace came over me and I knew then that I had made the right decision.

Dr. Mall and Vanessa were fantastic.  The good doctor has seen Shelby several times and knows that I love him and how hard the decision was.  We talked, she explained to me what was going to happen.

Her compassion is amazing and Shelby and I were truly lucky to have her at this extremely difficult time.

While we waited for the sedative to take effect Shelby lay peacefully under my hand.  Tail wagging a bit.

The last sound he made was probably the best for me.  Peaceful snoring.

I remember when I first met Shelby back in 1997 in Cold Lake Alberta.  V had talked about getting a dog, and as I was about to leave for a month didn’t want to be alone (as cats are not as good company as dogs to dog people).

We stopped by the pound and they had one dog.  A sad little cocker spaniel someone had found wandering the roads near the base.  He had cherry eye which was, admittedly hard to look at, but that was fixable.  We took him for a stroll around the yard and we bonded almost immediately.   When we got home I took him for a walk to spend some time with him as I was leaving the next day.    He trotted along this old dirt road, he kept looking back to make sure I was still there.

He was an enthusiastic, exuberant part of our family.  Always wanting to be in the middle of things, when we went to bed we’d have to throw a ball down the stairs for him to fetch so we could get under the covers.   He loved running in the woods behind our house.   I’d get home from work and take him out back.  He was a smart dog and knew that if I didn’t clip his rope on that we were going, but he’d still jump off the steps and tense, look back at me, and when I pointed he’d be off like a bullet (often stealing the neighbour’s dog’s ball in the process)

He’s been a constant companion to me, and the tears I shed, and the grief I feel are not for him, but for me.   There is hole in my heart and the silence in the apartment is devastating.   But that will pass.

There have been dark times in my past, and Shelby has been my rock through all that.  Unconditional love, and someone who relied on me.

It is because of him that I am still here.

It hurts now,  and will for a day or two, but I will be fine.   Eventually when I look at Shelby’s pictures I will smile, and sometimes, yes I will shed a tear.

And really when you think of it, its really so little grief in exchange for so much joy.    This is one of my favorite South Park clip:

I am going to spend the day cleaning up Shelby’s stuff, and what remains of the accidents he had last night that I didn’t catch.

I miss him…and I feel very alone right now….but that’s okay, I’ll survive.    I’ve asked that his ashes be returned, and they will have a place of honour on my mantle.  I have a week to paint it.

Fairwinds and a following seal old friend.  You’ve been a great, good-natured dog.  I do not worry for your after-life.  I love you, and I miss you.

Last night he didn’t want to leave the office for the bedroom, so I stayed here with him and went hunting through my computer for pictures.   I thought I’d share:

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