An update

So I’ve been seeing my psychiatrist for 11 months. I can say with some certainty that my depression has lifted, but that my anxiety continues, and every day I battle with it. The med combination that I’m on now seems to be working and both my dr and I are hesitant to change it.  Dr. L. allows me to determine how much clonazepam I need daily. I vary between 1 – 2 mgs. It honestly depends on the day. The other two meds are fixed doses and we are going to stick with them right now.

This year (it will be a year on June 6) has been difficult, but I have noticed a difference in the past three months. I feel better about my thesis and doing work in general. I have more calm days than agitated ones. The days that I am agitated I try to remember to take the higher dose of clonaz. I’m kind of working on a “Let Go and Let God” sort of mantra. I do not consider myself very religious but that phrase does help me, and I do consider myself to be spiritual.

I am still me, a year later, and I’m pretty happy about that. I’m still afraid that I’ll jinx it somehow, if I say that I came out on the other side, but I do feel like I survived. And for anyone who has ever battled depression and anxiety, survival is what we’re going for. So here’s to you, fellow survivors.

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What if you can’t tell?

Had another psychiatrist appointment today.  This dr is keeping good tabs on me, which is a good thing, I guess.  I see him monthly.  I guess I didn’t expect to see him that frequently, seeing how overbooked and overworked our mental health system is.  But, hey, I’ll take it.

My anxiety is through the roof.  The house is up for sale but we haven’t had any offers.  The new house is built, and they are in the process of putting in the hardwood floors this week.  Every other day I have a meeting with my partner, the designer or contractor, or a house showing. I feel like I’m going insane.

But then there are times when I’m fine. I feel calm. I feel okay. I wouldn’t say that I’m super happy, but I’m definitely okay. Unfortunately, these days, the days when I am fine are infrequent.

So today, when my psychiatrist asked how I was doing, I didn’t know what to say. How do I sum up that I feel mostly okay depression-wise, but not so okay anxiety-wise, but oh, it’s not all the time, but most of the time?  Well, I think that is pretty much what I said.  But what really sucks about having depression/anxiety is that my concentration is shit and my comprehension is sluggish.  So, self-assessment is not exactly my forte.  I try to “check in” with myself, to compare myself to last month, or two months ago, but I find it incredibly difficult.  Am I better than I was last month? Worse?  I think I had a good bump up when the remeron was increased, but the dr decreased the prozac, which I think probably didn’t help the anxiety. So today he bumped the prozac back up. The medication balance is very tricky. And frustrating.

So what do you do, dear reader, if you can’t tell if you are better or worse? I am looking for insightful ways to figure out myself.  What works for you?

p.s. here’s a great blog post. I love her language.  Three Things You Need to Know about Mental Illness.

By the way, I have decided I am vanilla bean ice cream.

Taking care of me

So, one of the things my therapist told me when I was really depressed was to try to have fun, to play. It was as if he was speaking Japanese to me, it sounded so foreign a concept. The vicious cycle of depression makes you not want to do the things that you used to enjoy. And by not doing those things, by staying in bed, or just sitting in front of the TV, you can make your depression worse. You don’t do those things you like because depression robs you of the will to do them, to your agency, and energy. That’s why depression is so horrible. It is literally a thief. Of your time. Your happy feelings. Even your will to survive.

Because of a combination of meds and therapy, my depression lifted. I feel very lucky that I was able to get through it. That I had a good support system and the tools to ask for help. I know a lot of people suffer because they can’t ask for help, for a multitude of reasons.

I still consider myself to have severe anxiety and moderate depression, even if the depression is in remission. But I am back to doing the activities I like, the ones that make me happy. From April to July I was unable to do them. Things like baking and cross-stitch. Tonight the simple act of making blueberry muffins made me feel good. And they were tasty too!

I guess I am coming to the realisation that I have to be careful. Treat myself kindly and keep doing my self-care treatments. Because after three major depressive episodes, it’s a certainty that I will have another depressive episode in my life. Likely more than one. Knowing that, maybe I will be able to recognize it earlier, and help it to be less severe.

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Anxiety and Stress

Feel like I’m cracking up with all the stress in my life right now. Trying to declutter the house in order to sell, getting painters and cleaners and going to the new already built house to oversee plumbing and electrical. First coat of paint is on in each room. It’s starting to look like a house.

But it feels like the stress may just kill me. Went back to dr to get an increase in my clonazepam. It doesn’t seem to be working yet. Still get upset at every little thing. Still so high-strung I feel like I’m about to snap. Is this the way it’s going to be then? Is this the best I can hope for? It paints a bleak picture.

The only good thing is that I haven’t continued to gain weight even though I’ve increased my meds. I’ve stayed the same weight since July. Small victories.

They are building a playground across from our new house. This would make some people happy, but I have two barky von schnauzers who aren’t exactly fond of kids playing.  Too erratic, too loud. Ha. Me and the dogs have a lot in common.

Maybe I’ll have to get on valium or something. I just want to not be so upset and irritable all the time. I don’t think I’m very pleasant to be around.

How to deal with anxiety.

TAKE your meds.

Geez.

You’d think I would have this figured out by now, but somehow my brain is hardwired to think I don’t need these pills.  I’ll be fine if I just take deep breaths, focus on a non-moving point, centre myself, use mindfulness, etc…

Guess what? Sometimes anxiety can’t be willed away.  Sometimes you have to rely on your medications.

Clonazepam

Clonazepam

I’m just learning this.  I went to the psychiatrist yesterday, and he upped my anxiety meds.  I had only been taking 0.5 of the clonazepam, but now I am going to take that dose twice a day.  That is not a large dose apparently, but just might be enough to keep me from having my panic attacks.  Now that selling our house and moving is becoming a looming reality, my anxiety is through the roof and I’m having un-precipitated attacks.  They were definitely getting worse.

You know those “keep calm” posters you always see? I need one that says “Keep calm and take your meds”!

Keep Calm and Take Your Meds

Keep Calm and Take Your Meds

The hospital

I never spoke about the hospital I go to for my appointments with the psychiatrist. It is well known here as the “mental” hospital, and has even been colloquially termed “The Mental”. Of course it has all of the typical stigma attached to an institution associated with mental health.  I have told hardly anyone in my real life that I go there for appointments. I am afraid people will talk about me behind my back. Say “she must be bad if she has to go THERE.” So I absorb the fear and stigma and keep it to myself.

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There is something inherently creepy about a building that was erected in 1855. I can’t help but get the creeps. I was very nervous the first time I went there.

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Even though the grounds are actually quite pretty and it is next to a huge part of land in the city that was owned by the Bowrings and is now called Bowring Park. This is the entrance to the hospital.

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Getting back to the creepiness of the hospital, I was wandering around inside and found one of the staircases that had protective steel guards encasing the empty space between the stairs. My guess is that this prevents patients from jumping or hanging themselves.

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I may not be doing a good job here of decreasing the stigma. My doctor’s office is a very typical office, on the first floor. It looks like any regular hospital office inside.

But if you wander the North ward you may see a locked steel door like this.

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It is a bit unnerving. My mind races with media images that propagate the “escaped lunatic.” But fear is unwarranted most of the time. The only people who have ever spoken to me in the hospital are one guy who wanted to know if I had a smoke, and another who asked if I had spare change for a pepsi. Nothing scary. 

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There is a common area/field outside for sports, but I’ve never seen it being used. 😦 The intimidating fence and barred windows don’t help.

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I think some of the images I’ve presented of the hospital look intimidating, but it looks that way, in part, because of the age of the hospital. It is in serious need of a makeover.

What you don’t see is the faces of the people.  Friendly staff and other patients JUST LIKE ME. I wasn’t comfortable taking any pictures of people there. But, the people who work there really do seem nice, approachable, and non-judgmental. That’s really reassuring to see.

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I think stigma needs to be challenged about mental institutions. But I have no idea how to do it.  Certainly, the look of hospitals such as this one doesn’t help. But we have to get a dialogue going. We need more bequeathments and monetary donations to mental health and mental hospitals. We need to continue to give the very best care that we can to patients. An old hospital building is nice, as a historical artifact, but a new building would sure be nice.