Dog therapy

I have always loved having a dog in my home.  We have one now.  Our sweet Maggie.  She’s a sweet little breed, but alas not social at the least, so taking her to the dog park is out of the question.  She may be small, but she is full of fear aggression making it challenging and dangerous to take into confined areas where other dogs are all excited.

This week I’ve pushed myself out of the house two days in a row.  I have my trusty camera with me (the security blanket).  I visit our local dog park and take photos of the dogs.  The few owners that strike up a conversation provides me a way to connect to new people with similar interests.  Since starting my photography project, “It’s a Dog’s Life” some of the owners have come from the Facebook group that one of the parks lead.

It’s been wonderful therapy!  I get a lot of dog kisses and cuddles which I thoroughly enjoy.

GRATITUDE THOUGHT

I am thankful to those around me and their patience as I struggle some days just to make the simplest of things work.  Take for instance the electronic can opener.  This device was the surge to my self-confidence when we first got it.  I cursed the damn thing as it seemed impossible to line up the lid to the cutter.  Given time though, I have gotten it to work.

Days when things are going all wrong though, I and the can opener battle again.  Instead of becoming frustrated to tears I ask for help.  Those around me know I’m capable… hell I know I’m capable too, but instead of fighting against something that obviously is distressing me I ask for help.  It seems such a small thing, the can opener, I mean, but it goes much deeper.

I’ve always had a hard time asking for help when I need it.  To allow myself the compassion that I would give someone else who was struggling is a HUGE step in the right direction.  There are still days when I’ll push people away though.  My pride gets in the way, or worse, I just break down.

My gratitude thought extends to all those who help me get through my toughest of days, but also stand by my side on the brighter ones too.

 

A pretty dress and smile

I haven’t given up the great pretender in a sense.  I find if I stick to my daily routine of bathing, make-up and getting dressed like I was going out somewhere, my mood is better.  I feel somewhat better about myself, but there is a lingering of is there more to me?  It’s great to look pretty and be able to take care of the house and such, but I long to be less anxious.

I am still having great difficulties maintaining a ‘normal’ outside life.  I desperately want to do some volunteer work in an office, or meeting and greeting people to help them.  Yet my challenges wear me down and I stop.

In the past few weeks, I have been struggling more and more even with the new drug Abilify.  My agoraphobia of going into different places is rising.  I’ve pushed myself to exhausting days just to follow through on commitments with my, It’s a dog’s life photo project, yet there are days I’m just not capable of driving so I have to rebook.

It is embarrassing, so I’ll be honest and stretch the truth a bit… I’m not feeling well.  It’s not a long stretch, but it feels like a lie.  I’m not physically sick to be contagious or anything, yet here I stay within the comforts of my home, looking out at the world wanting more in life.

I know people can’t see the anxiety, the depression or the tension when I go out.  I’ve become a clock watcher again, which tells me things are getting worse.  I count out the minutes, record my activities, plan my activities to the minute and if even 2 minutes goes out of sync, I mentally loose it.  This is no life… it’s an existence.

I journal to keep focused on what I’m doing well at, otherwise, I would be beating myself up each day.

Here’s what I am good at.

  • I can go out early in the day to do shopping for myself without going manic or panicking.  I chatter a lot to myself to stay calm in these situations and I do fidget a lot, but I make it through about one hour out alone.
  • I managed to visit both government offices to get my legal documents arranged to apply for my passport.  Each required multiple visits.  The first one I was nearly in tears, but I held it together.
  • I can support my friends when they need me now, without becoming their rescuer.
  • I can accept that there are days that the physical pain is too much and I need to rest.
  • I make a damn good housewife!  That’s a job.
  • I am making progress with my book-work on the family business.  I’m slow but progressing.  That’s a job.
  • I am a good photographer.  This used to be a job, but now a hobby.  This is beneficial to me.
  • I LOVE my family and would do anything I can for them.
  • Most days I can accept the limits I have.
  • I can still give a genuine smile and laugh through the worst days. — it’s tough, but I can do it with the right people.

 

GRATITUDE THOUGHT

I am grateful for each day I get to live my life.  Not everyone is so fortunate to have circumstances such as mine.  I am blessed with a loving, nurturing husband who has come a long way in helping me deal with this disease.  We have had our struggles, but somehow we have come out stronger with less.

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A little garden grows

A warm weather hobby of mine is gardening.  I have tended to move towards more natural native plants which attract, feed, and provide hosting of eggs for butterflies.  This means leaving some of the weeds, which can be beautiful.

I like to call my backyard my outdoor serenity, even though there is no privacy to speak of.  We live in between a 5 unit townhouse complex, their backyards face our yard, and a 3-story walk up apartment.  Our yard is chain link fencing.

I have learned to overlook the prying eyes and noise of the neighbors.  Instead I tend to my gardens, enjoying the birds and other wildlife that come to visit as a result of my hard work.

In a way, I suppose I am like that little garden.  I tend to myself, trying hard everyday to keep my focus on the quietness of the days when I function better..  The weeds, or bad days, have their beauty too.  Not as pretty, but just as beneficial, in that without them I would forget how comforting the good days can be.

Lately my days have been better, though still difficult to manage.  I find my mind wondering a lot into dark places rooted in negativity, despair and full of “will it ever be better than this”.  These are my dark horses.  Grazers of my quiet garden, constantly with me.  I try not to feed them, yet they nibble on my precious vulnerability.  Most days they take a bite here and there, then leave me alone.  I repair the patches only to move on forward knowing it is a repeating cycle to my daily life.  

This is most likely the best description I can give to my life.  This is my little garden.

Don’t cry

Don’t cry for me.  Don’t stand over my grave only to feel regret.  I’m gone.

I’m gone for good.  Your tears are being wasted on empty feelings of guilty emotions, on sadness or on better intentions that never transpired.  I am gone and I can’t feel anymore.

Save your stories now.  I can’t hear them.  My ears are listening no more.

Take back your promises.  They can’t come true now.  Your days of me waiting have run out of time.

I’m gone.  Alone in the darkness, fallen into a place where no one can reach me.

Tomorrow you’ll wake up, the world will be the same.

When we spoke about my dreams, my aspirations or desires it was clear they were out of reach, so I gave up on them.  Seeing that I had become all I will ever be, reduced me to being, less fulfilled, less happy, less of me every day that passed.  I am gone.

Slowly I disappeared.  Those who knew my story said I was strong.  They were wrong.  I was a great pretender!  Behind closed doors, in quiet hours I fell apart.  My heart ached for a life I couldn’t attain.  I let myself believe my doubts, realizing that dreams can become nightmares and that nightmares can become your living waking dream.

I am gone.

I don’t know where I went, or when.  The darkness fades quickly.  I reached out every once in awhile to others.  The feelings of hope tingled on my soul, promising brighter days ahead.  Just another crushing expectation that anything would be different.  Everything just stays the same.

I am gone.

I am tired of the pretense.  I am done with trying to be the girl who is less needy.  I am expired of this life.

Do not cry over my grave.  I will not hear you.  I will not feel you.  You haven’t been there for me, and I can’t be there for you now.  You are on your own.  I’ve been on my own for much longer it seems, far beyond today.

I reached out.  I tried to talk. It was always about me, or so you said.  In jest or joke, it doesn’t matter.  What I heard was ‘I didn’t matter’.  I was selfish.  I should be quiet, keep my dreams, my emotions in check and only be the pleasant one.  The one who blends into the background, putting others before myself.   Drown out my own pain through whatever means.

From quiet childhood, where no one saw me, I am that as an adult now.  Quiet, gone and still…

Don’t cry for me.  I’m no one special.

{not a suicide note… just the way I feel tonight} 


I am tired of everyone blaming my depression on the way life is around me, or describing me, or how it has changed everything.  I am still me.  I have always been me, but I’m constantly changing to make things better for everyone else it seems.  I have changed.  Everyone does.  It’s not fair to blame me though for life not being what you thought it should/could have been.

I miss the times when I could just be me, without worries of what others thought.  Of days of joyful bliss, of sunshine and being happy with who I was.  This is why I love to sit alone in the sunshine.  It’s quiet, peaceful and I can feel the warmth on my skin.  A place and time where I can be just me.  No one is asking anything of me.

Now life is easier when I stick to the three mains in my life.. stay quiet, be dutiful and be there for everyone when they need me.  I often think of the what if I wasn’t here. Would it really make that big of a difference to those who are in my life?  I feel like my depression is blamed for everything.  Well, I am sorry to have this disease called, depression!  I can’t just turn it on / off.  No one takes responsibilty for their actions towards me.  I don’t get respect, even when I ask for it.  If I had another disease would I be treated the same?

When I’m down, I can’t do as much.  Maybe that’s when others can do more instead of letting things become even more chaotic.  I try my best every day to take care of those around me, sometimes to the point of making myself even more sick.  Then it just spirals from there, falling back onto my shoulders to pick up the pieces anyway.

I’ve talked, and talked and talked even more.. but no one listens.  I try to explain what I need but after a while, everything falls on deaf ears.  It seems to be regurgitated knowledge that never seems to be kept.  I am quiet now… I feel like I may as well be gone.  I am ghost anyway.  You only see me when you need to.

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The lows of feeling unworthy

Today is one of those days that I’m struggling with a sense of unworthiness.  It’s not an easy feeling to overcome.  A dark cloud of gloom seems to hang over me, even though I’m doing everything I should do to make it go away.

I’m sticking to my routine, the best I can.  I’m making plans for the coming days and working hard at refocusing my thoughts. It’s all mentally draining.  I’m tired!  My head feels heavy and I’m expecting the worse at every turn.

When I get this way I feel as though I’m not doing enough for others because I’m so focused on taking care of just getting through my day.  I tend to retreat emotionally.  I don’t mean to, it’s just the way things go.  I know I get moody when I’m in this low.

Feeling unworthy isn’t fun.  I can’t just snap out of it, and a single comment can either send me into an internal smashing of insulting verbal abuse or I could lash out.  Neither scenario is beneficial to anyone around me.

IMG_2119Fear is holding me in its grips.  As I attempt to plan out the new garden for the rear of the yard my anxiety is going way up!!!  Which plants do I get, what will grow, what will attract the birds, butterflies and be beneficial; plus be visually appealing.  A top of this is the fear of spending any money because my plans may just go awry.  This project requires a massive amount of help, which I’m reluctant at asking for, mostly because I haven’t got a clue of what I’m doing.  I’ve read too many books, talked to too many people, and I’ve basically gotten myself to the point of standing in a single spot out of fear, which has created my emotionally low feeling of unworthiness.

Inside my head, I can rationalize everything.  Plot out the land dimensions, do the grunt work with help (lifting sod, and bed preparation), decide on the two bigger shrubs to use in the back lot and work in a few smaller plants along with the seeds I have.  Seems so simple.. doesn’t it?  The entire project consists of such smaller bits of work, yet I can’t seem to move forward.

My head is swirling ~ so I move onto a different task.  Nothing seems to help much.  I’m exhausted, with the negativity that begins to rant inside my head.  Why would anyone want me around?  Then comes the worse attack of all.  The constant internal badgering of, why should I stick around to inflict my present state on them?  This is the dangerous and most destructive mood of all.  I MUST be diligent at catching this early on, or I could go into a full blow out psychotic meltdown.

I’m about 70% there today.  The best I can do is talk about it, but it’s a very difficult topic since the only people I can talk to is my family.  The topic is hard not to make it sound like I’m blaming them for my emotional state.  It doesn’t always work out well.

Transferring my low to them, only causes more strain on relationships.. can you see a cycle here?  I feel better, they feel at a loss on how to help me, I feel responsible… I go back to feeling worthless.  This is why I stay quiet and in solitude so much of the time.

GRATITUDE THOUGHT

I’m grateful for the rain today.  The gardens that are budding really needed the drink.

 

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Last year’s beautiful buds

 

Lost?

Lost.. the word that seems to come up so often in conversation when talking about my depression.  To be lost infers that I have lost my way somehow and that I have a map to get back to where I once I once was.  I wish that such a piece of information was available.

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I know that I can retreat into my own world when feelings of depression overwhelm me yet, I’m not lost.  There is a difference.  Instead, it’s like being stuck in between two worlds.  My head is filled with thoughts which feed the emotions that I begin to see as reality, then there is my body.   My body feels the stress, the lack of energy, or reverse.  I can feel unsettled because I am bored.  I want to do more, be for some reason resist.

Most times I feel self-punishing.  I may not eat right, sleep enough, oversleep, work too much or too little; it all depends on where my thoughts are.  Right now I’m in that space a lot of the time.

Every day I attempt to find some peace.  I even wrote the words “We all make our own peace”  on my wall to remind me that I have the ability to make choices.  The words remind me to evaluate my thoughts, my plans for the day, and most importantly; that I do have some control over the disease of bipolar depression.

So if I look lost, I’m not.  I may be feeling trapped, confused, overwhelmed and feel like I need some space for quiet reflection. It doesn’t mean that I want to be alone forever.  I enjoy other people’s company, though at times a few hours is all I can take.  Socializing is mentally and physically exhausting to me.  Even this past week, just attempting my photography, which I’ve been pushing through in attempts to pull myself out of my low has left me more frustrated than fulfilled.

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Knowing when the lows are coming helps.  I know that it is here, and there is only so much I can do about it.  I manage through my days with as much normal activity as I can muster.  That means eating, doing something physically active, getting dressed and pushing myself to do anything that I have found enjoyable in the past.

It’s the pushing through that is the hardest of all things, but if I didn’t do it then I suppose one would view me as being lost.  I don’t always get accomplished that things I want to do.  Sometimes I just don’t have the energy, attention, or patience to do the task.  I seldom ask for help, because I don’t like to be a burden.  I often feel like I haven’t done enough to take care of myself or my family.  I often find myself self-talking that I’m not worth the effort, or that I talk too much about myself.  So, when this happens I go quiet.  In time I come back around.  My smile returns and I’m able to enjoy little things again. Everything comes full circle.

GRATITUDE THOUGHT

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These past few months have been difficult.  The depression is slowly lessening its nasty grip and I am able to step outside to enjoy the bit of peace that spring-time is bringing. The gardens are slowly coming into greenery with their leaves popping up telling me that better days are arriving. The lilac bush is budding and the songbirds are arriving daily.  I’m preparing the layout out for this year’s expansion to our gardens, hoping to make a naturalized area for the birds.

I’m looking forward to sitting outside more to relax again.  I find spending too much time indoors isn’t good for me, yet going for a walk in the city is difficult.  Driving is challenging to go out to the park.  With the help of my husband, we’re rebuilding the gazebo roof that was broken over the winter.   For now, I sit on the back stoop soaking up the rays of the sun watching the day pass by.  The warmth quiets everything.  For this I am thankful.

With the help of my husband, we’re rebuilding the gazebo roof that was broken over the winter.   Hopefully by the end of the month, the project will be finished up, ready to put out the patio table and chairs for May.  For now, I sit on the back stoop soaking up the rays of the sun watching the day pass by.  The warmth quiets everything.  For this I am thankful.

 

The effects of Abilify

I realized that it’s been some time since I’ve written, and there is a reason why.  Two month’s ago my depression bottomed out.  I was barely getting through any days without desperation.  There seemed little hope of ever coming out of the now, nearly full year of the depressive state.  I was tired, lethargic at times and was simply not able to do much of anything with any real sense of enjoyment.  Sure I would still have days where I could find a genuine smile, but it took everything in me to dig deep to connect with simple things.

In January I visited the psychiatrist to discuss medications that may work.  We had talked about Abilify in the past, but seeing as the goal has been to get me off medications it seemed like I was taking a step backward, yet I agreed that something must be tried.

Abilify has drawn me out of my depression!  The first 2 weeks of adjusting were tough.  I shook a lot!  My insomnia was off the charts, but now I’m into my second month and for better or worse all that has settled down.  I am taking a minute amount of this drug, 1mg, in fact.  Being drug sensitive has its benefits sometimes.

The downside is the cost.  For a 30 day fill the medication is $70.  That may not seem like much, but along with the other two drugs, that brings my medications closer to the $125 a month again.  Now it’s just a matter of budgeting again.


For most of the past month since starting the Abilify, I have been able to work 3-4 hour a day without exhausting my mental and physical abilities while trying to finish our family tax preparations.  This was a huge task which was on a deadline.  I firmly believe without the new medication I could not have done this.

Apart from working, I’m also enjoying my photography again.  This in of itself is phenomenal since using my camera has always been a source of joy.  Now I am back working with friends producing concept portraits and starting on my new project, “It’s a dog’s life”.  You can check more about it here.

 


What I have noticed is that since I am focusing less on the depressive side of the bi-polar disease, the writing on the walls of my quiet room seems to have blended away.  I still read them when I need too, as they are the best reminders to keep up hope on days when I’m not feeling the best.


IMG_3015All I can say that while I felt like I was taking a step backward, I’ve come back to where I need to be which includes an anti-psychotic medication.  I’m not overjoyed by the fact that I’m still medicated, yet I am ever so happy to be enjoying life again.  My self-portraits are looking more alive which shows I’m trying to getting staying to get back to being healthier again.


Spring is here now, so I am looking forward to the changes that come with it as well.  I’ve already been following the Tundra Swan migration and watching for others birds to arrive.  As a semi-avid birder, the warmer months are always exciting.  I’m just glad to be out of the depression to enjoy it this year.  Camping is here now too.  I’m looking forward to the weekends of adventures that lay ahead.

Camping season is here now too.  With that, I’m looking forward to the weekends of adventures that lay ahead.

To close… I’m glad I chose to take Abilify.  I know medication may become a part of my life that I didn’t choose and that it does come with its own set of drawbacks, yet today I’m seeing the positives.  To me, that is more important.