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perkreations

Honesty about creativity, art, mental illness, grief, feminism, human rights and chronic pain with a healthy dose of sarcasm

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chronic pain

My Experience with Ruminating

I am 12 years old and competing in my first national curling championship. My team is getting ready to play the New Brunswick team and I am excited. They’re a really fun team and I’ve been looking forward to this game for days.

Ten minutes prior to going on the ice I’m all dressed up in my curling kit and stretching out. My coach and the other, older, 3 players approach me and ask me to sit this game out so our 5th player can have a chance to play a game.

I instantly deflate and mention how I’ve been looking forward to the game and that I’m all geared up to go. I ask if it could be a different game I sit out. They all say, “no, this is the only one that will work.”

They add comments like; “I’d do it if I could but I can’t. I have to play.”

I’m near tears, I feel like I’m being ambushed and guilted at the last minute. I decide to hold my ground and play. Bad decision.

My teammates won’t talk to me. They cross to the other side of the ice if I try to stand near them. I feel wretched. I am in tears for most of the game even after my teammates are told to stop shunning me. 

I feel as though my soul is bursting with guilt. I should have let the 5th play. What kind of selfish asshole am I? 

This is a story that haunts me frequently. Is rattles round, and round my adult mind and I want beat myself senseless for this wrongdoing I did at age 12. 

This happened 25 fucking years ago and I’m still coming back to it over and over. It’s a bizarre form of mental self flagellation. There are days when I ruminate about this and other things so obsessively I cry hysterically because I’m so disappointed in myself.

The child in me imagines what would have happened had I not been so selfish. I want to take that time back and fix it. I deserved to be shunned.

The adult in me sees the difficult position I was put in. I was asked no more than 10 minutes before the game. I was already in the zone. We should have decided as a team which game I would sit out prior to the event. Then I’d have been prepared. Also, I was only 12! My teammates were 14, 17, and 19. Perhaps I didn’t deserve to be shunned. Alas, this rational assessment rarely does anything to cut out the guilt.

It seems when I’m mentally tired thoughts such as the above gain repetitive status. Like a tv stuck on one channel and forever repeating the same short story endlessly. No escape. I simply cannot seem to let these thoughts go.

Often if I do manage to let a thought go I find something else to dwell on. I even have guilt from grade one I occasionally go back to! 

Admittedly I’m poor company when I’m heavily ruminating. I vasilate between being distant and unable to focus socially and asking questions about what I’m ruminating about for reassurance. The reassurance only lasts so long before I’m back to the same self-induced, navel-gazing bloodbath I started with.

Sometimes I ruminate about several of my transgressions in rotation. This allows me to beat myself up relentlessly for a number of wrongs I’ve done.

How do I snap myself out of this type of thinking. Sometime’s painting works or another distraction complex enough to take up extra space in my mind like puzzles or brain teasers.

Often I’ll write about the situation bothering me and force myself to read it with older and wiser? eyes. This allows me to also write out the parts I did correctly and what I would change if I could.

Sometimes to cope, I’ll apologize for something I did years ago. Often the person I apologize to has no idea what I’m talking about as they’ve long moved on.

Sometimes, despite trying to use my coping skills, I still manage to slip from ruminating into a panic attack and eventually I resort to anti-anxiety meds. I then must try not to feel guilty for being so weak that I had to take meds – even though I’d never think of anyone else as weak for taking meds when needed.

Ruminating is an afliction I’ve long dealt with. Forever second guessing myself, forever, finding things to punish myself for. It’s part of my mental illness and part of me. I do my best not to slip into the past too often. I try to stay present, be mindful, but sometimes these thoughts of past wrongdoings sneak in and OCCUPY my mind like it’s Wall Street in 2011.

K

 

Sometimes I Just Feel Like…

Sometimes I just feel like curling inwards

K

My Experience With Social Phobias

Social gatherings, especially large ones, terrify me. Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely care about having a social life and the people in my life, but when it comes to making small talk, circulating, and networking you can bet your ass I’m white-knuckleing my way through it and I’ll end up snorking back tears in the ladies room more than once during the event. I do much better one on one. Social diva I am not.

I cannot begin to count the number of parties, bbqs, dinners, mixers, conferences, and gatherings I’ve begged off of over the years out of sheer terror. Not sheer terror of the host or any of the attendees as individuals but sheer terror of the group as a whole.

The anxiety begins with the invite. My throat constricts with guilt just imagining accepting or declining the invite. I want nothing more than to accept and attend, easy and breezy and as comfortable as my corner of the couch. 

Instead, what happens is a litany of worst case scenarios parade front and centre through my mind. What if my chronic pain flares up and I need to leave early? What if I say something stupid and embarrass myself? What if I offend someone or hurt someone’s feelings? What if nobody talks to me? What if someone tries to talk to me and I’m my usual awkward self?

“What if, what If, what if?! Holy fuck! I cannot fucking go. I’m liable to lose my fucking mind in front of everyone and they’ll all find out just how fucking crazy I am!”

Should I decide to decline I imagine being ostracized from all group activities to come. I imagine myself being mocked or criticised by the group for my absence, for my mental illness, for my chicken-shit behaviour, although I know this would never be the case. 

If I do attend there are a couple things that help. For starters I feel most comfortable if I can arrive with someone such as my husband or a close friend and I am likely to cling to my companion as though I would drown in a sea of social suicide without their company until I get comfortable.

It also helps if I can help. When I ask the host if there’s anything I can do to help I genuinely want to help for more than one reason. Not only do I feel good about being of assistance but if I have something to do like refilling chip bowls, doing a few dishes, or passing out appitizers I can focus on these few tasks while I get acclimated to the gathering. I also like having a task to tend to rather than standing around petrified trying to make small talk.

Being offered a drink, either alcoholic or non, right away is helpful as it gives me something to do with my hands and fends off the dry mouth that tends to plague me when I’m nervous. 

I also appreciate being introduced to a few people even if they’re already acquaintances. This breaks the ice and if the host can give us a topic of conversation by mentioning something we have in common all the better.

Another thing that helps me is keeping in mind that many others are  . at social gatherings. Sometimes I look around for someone looking as uncomfortable as me and I make a bee-line towards them with hopes of easing their discomfort. For me, feeling as though I might be of help to someone else takes my mind off my own plight. I also find it easier to introduce myself to one person rather than trying to break into a group.

I don’t think I will ever love attending large gatherings but I figure it’s tolerance that’s key as social gatherings are unlikely to go away. Also, when I imagine life as a complete social hermit I realize I don’t want to stop socializing entirely. To some degree, small though it may be, I do enjoy human interactions. If I can tolerate events long enough to get a little bit comfortable and have a few good laughs things have gone well and I’ve survived to see the next gathering.

K

Celebrating 1 Year Blogging

I’m proud to say I’ve now been blogging about my struggles with mental health and illness for a year. This year has been wrought with both ups and downs but through it all I’ve had the chance to write about mental health issues important to me and for this I am overwhelmingly thankful.

Having the chance to write about mental illness, grief, health, love, creativity, healing, chronic pain, and perseverance has allowed me to capture many of the insights into health and illness that might otherwise have passed through my mind without sticking. I have had a chance to pause and reflect on what I’ve learned and all I’ve left to learn. I’m thankful for the opportunity every day.

I have found myself surprised and flattered with the response I’ve received and overwhelmed with the genuine, loving interest about mental illness. In the words of one wise😉 American, “who knew healthcare could be so complicated?”

All kidding aside, I am so pleased my work has managed to offer insight to those on the outside of mental illness trying to be more understanding and empathetic and to those struggling along with me. Destigmatization of mental illness continues to be extremely important to me and this blog represents the contribution I can make to the cause for now. In the future I hope to be able to contribute in a far more impactive manner.

I plan to continue writing whenever I can and I hope that whether my own health is better or worse I can keep on contributing and, hopefully, offering love and support to anyone in need.

Thank you so much for joining me on this journey so far. I hope you will continue to support my future efforts as I appreciate each and every reader more than I can possibly express.

Much love❤❤❤

K

Psychiatric Meds are a Personal Choice

Panic attacks and depression are beastly and I’ve chosen assistance when it comes to slaying my dragons. I admit to needing help, help of the chemical kind, in order to move as close to wellness as I can get. There is absolutely no shame in this.

Roughly 10 years ago I began having acute, up-all-night-pacing, ugly-crying, hand-wringing, worry-looping, vomit-inducing, panic attacks. I was living on a razors edge. At first I thought I’d try to handle the problem “naturally”. 

I prowled through health food stores, begging for assistance from the resident naturopaths. I plunked my money down for any tea, herb, or supplement recomended. Some seemed to help briefly, but the effect was never lasting for me.

I tried alternative healing methods such as reiki, scent therapy, accupunture, accupressure, censory depravation flotation and crystal healing. I changed my diet, I cut out caffeine, I yoga-ed, I wrote in my journal, I cried in my bath tub, I screamed into my pillow, I practiced mindfulness and I meditated. Some of it helped. Some of it didn’t.

Under Dr’s supervision I eventually began taking the phamacutical Cymbalta on a daily basis to help me combat both the anxiety and depression and using Clorazapate for more acute emotional crisis such as panic attacks. This combo, along with bits and pieces of the treatments listed above seemed to work for me, at least for a while.

My first admission into the psychiatric ward for severe depression and anxiety came with the addition of a daily dose of Wellbutrin for extra assistance. During my 2nd and most recent admission both the Cymbalta and Wellbutrin were increased slightly.

These are the meds that work for me now. There are, literally, hundreds, if not thousands of mental health related meds on the market. Finding the correct cocktail can be an arduous task as medication types and dosage differ for everyone and needs can change as life marches on. Remember pharmacists can be an excellent, and often overlooked, resource when it comes to offering options and ideas Dr’s may not have heard of yet or thought of.

Side effects are also a reality when trying anything new. Sometimes they go away after getting used to a new regime. Sometimes side effects are permanent and one must weigh the benefits versus the detractors.

I don’t love taking phamacuticals but I think of it as a means to not ending my life. Perhaps someday I’ll be able to cut down dosages, maybe even taper off entirely. That would be wonderful. In the meantime I am doing what I feel is best under the advisement of healthcare professionals I trust.

Treatment for psychiatric illness, for any long-term illness, is complicated and involves a very personal series of decisions. Every patient has unique needs and I would never claim to know what’s right for anyone other than myself. 

What I do know for sure is, as a patient, I must never be passive when it comes to my treatment. I need to research as much as I can. I must advocate passionately, honestly, and tirelessly for what I need because, while I am not a Dr, I am the one who has to live with each decision made about my healthcare. Never forget to be your own advocate because nobody knows how you feel better than you.

K

Time to Move On

I’ve had the same psychiatrist for the past 9 years. At first he was great. I felt as though he cared, as though he believed in me even when I didn’t believe in me. I shed many a tear in his office but felt motivated to keep trying when I left our appointments.

This is the self portrait in question. My psychiatrist might not have appreciated it but I think it turned out well. 

Over the years, slowly, things began to change. My reward for being a loyal patient seemed to be shorter and ever more terse appointments.

Eventually I was seeing him for about fifteen minutes every three months for a prescription refill and a brief chat that often sounded like this;

“You’re still off work because of your chronic pain problems? It seems much of your depression is tied to the loss of your career.”

“Yes, and I would give anything to be deemed fit enough to go back.”

“You’ve had a hard time but you have to find other things to replace what your job did for you. I think it will be difficult. I would be very upset if I could no longer practice.”

“I’ve been focusing on art and writing as much as I can but it never seems to fully fills the void.”

“Well, keep working at it. Be positive. Here’s your perscription I’d like to see you again in about three months.”

I was delighted one day when he asked about what kind of art mediums I was working with. He seemed genuinely interested and even gave me an assignment.

“I want you to paint a self portrait by our next appointment. Paint how you see yourself. Let’s book a month from now. You bring the painting then and we’ll discuss what it means to you and how it makes you feel.”

I agreed with a smile, “challenge accepted!” and fairly skipped out of his office. I’d never considered a self portrait before, preferring to draw others instead, but the introspection of the assignment intrigued me.

I began my portrait that day with a little help from my art teacher at Grasby Art Studio. I finished my portrait in record time and was thrilled with it which surprised me as I generally don’t like pictures of myself.

I eagerly awaited my appointment and, when the time came, proudly carried my canvas into the Dr’s office.

“I finished the assignment you gave me last time. Would you like to see it?”

He glanced at my file with a confused look.

“You asked me to paint a self portrait. To paint myself as I see myself. I enjoyed the project and I brought the painting to show you like you asked.”

He nodded and I presented the piece for him to look at.

“That’s not really my taste. I don’t think it looks like you.”

That was the last we spoke of it. Dejectedly I put the painting on the floor and asked for a refill on my meds. I couldn’t wait to flee that office.

This one time I didn’t want him to see me cry. I couldn’t find the strength to get angry at him, defend my artistic liscense. I could only think to attack myself and my stupid, ugly painting.

I have since reminded myself that if I love my self portrait and good for me! Fuck what he thinks. The painting hangs proudly on my bedroom wall now.

After careful consideration I’ve decided instead of ditching my art it’s time to ditch the Doc! Obviously it’s time to move on. I’ve found someone new and I’m not going to look back.

K

Check out http://www.grasbyartstudio.com

It’s Only Dinner

Tonight I made dinner. Tonight I made dinner and this is significant because, since my Mom died 3 years ago, I haven’t had the patience or desire to cook anything but the barest of minimums. 

This is everything assembled and ready to go when the time comes.

Thank goodness my husband took over in the kitchen to a great extent and coaxed me to at least eat a bit when I had no desire. My appetite has slowly returned but between my issues with anxiety, depression, and chronic pain I feel as though I often have to force myself to eat the simplest of things, let alone the inventive meals I used to love.

I associate the kitchen with my mom. She was an amazing, adventurous, and fearless cook. I followed in her footsteps after leaving home, cooking up a storm and often phoning her for advice. So when she died I just couldn’t find that desire to channel my creativity into the kitchen. It felt too overwhelming, still does to a great extent.

I am pleased to report in the past couple weeks I have slowly begun to edge back into my old domain by baking muffins, banana bread, and even some cookies.

Today, for whatever reason inspiration struck and I found myself topping cucumbers with cream cheese and chili pepper jelly. Then I drizzled olive oil over shoestring sweet potatoes to be baked later along with sliced prime rib I rolled up with Italian Coppa Di Parma. 

While I may have shed more than a few tears as I assembled everything I’m pretty sure this meal is going to kick ass! And even if it doesn’t… deep breath… Tonight I made dinner.

K

Enough

So, after a two month stay in the hospital for severe depression and what turned out to be a severly low hemoglobin count I’ve been at home for more than a month. I’m feeling better about my life in general. In fact, most days, the prospect of getting out of bed doesn’t feel so overwhelming I suspect my head will explode.

Yeah me!

I think I’m actually on the mend. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my friends and family who’ve been supportive and caring in so many wonderful ways during this difficult time. I also owe heaps of thanks to the many kind and patient Dr’s and Nurses and hospital staff.

I’ve been doing well at keeping my expectations realistic. I’ve been spending a lot of time indulging in long-lost rituals of self-care, and self-love. And I’ve been trying to function in a manner that gives love back into my community. 

But I’m not on top of it all yet. I could easily make a list pages and pages long of gratitude I owe and people I haven’t reconnected with and visits postponed and how I CANNOT EVEN FIND THE STRENGTH TO CONSISTENTLY CONTRIBUTE TO THIS BLOG OF MINE!

Now, as my heart pounds with panic and my brain feels like a hampster on a wheel going full speed towards… what?

This is where I must give my head a shake and go back to being that self-loving, gratitude-having, nurturing person I was at the top of this page.

So, I will publish this little snapshot of how I’m doing a month and a bit after release from the psychiatric ward and I will say to myself, “This, all of this, is better than it was and that is enough for now.”

K

And She Backslides…a lot

And so once again I have been admitted, submitted, and fitted into the psych ward for depression. Feeling rather ill-qualified to write about mental health so I’ll instead write of my mental illness. Let’s just say I’m sending away for my frequent flyer dicount card which includes discounts on antidepressants, free coffee mugs from Pfizer, and a secret decoder ring.

I’ve been slipping for weeks now. Diving deeper into darkness and I’ve run out of breath and I don’t want to drown. So here I am needing help to beat back my own demons because they have me surrounded and I seem to be armed with nothing but limp spaghetti and, let’s face it, that’s not a weapon that’s going to win the battle let alone the war. So here I am…getting help.

K

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