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….

 

 

Advertisements

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

Proud to Blog for Mental Health in 2015!

bfmh15-4-copy

I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2015 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.

I stumbled across this on one of my rare sojourns into looking at what other people blog about on WordPress.

Its not that I’m not interested in what other people have to say,  its just that I’m really busy and don’t have a lot of time when I’m sitting at my computer.

My followers,  and those that know me personally know that I sometimes struggle with mental health issues and sometimes I talk about it here.

I’ve never regretted it when I have.

But often I won’t,  for various reasons that are usually not good ones.

I will continue to do so,   in hopes that someone who is struggling may read about my experience and realize that they are not alone.

If you’re interested in joining the cause, here’s a link:

Blog For Mental Health 2015