Bell, Let’s Talk

In Canada, it is Bell Let’s Talk day. That’s a day when a popular cellphone, phone line, internet and TV provider donates a large portion of their proceeds from texts sent to mental health initiatives.

For the weeks prior, there are commercials and ads connecting Mental Health issues with real people – in an effort to spread awareness and end the stigma. Howie Mandel (and his public battle with OCD) is the poster child for this campaign.

It’s also one that’s near and dear to my heart for a similar reason.


I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Not the kind that people claim to have because they like their socks arranged by colour or they arrange their books in alphabetical order. No, I have the real kind – the one that ruins lives if untreated, holds me back from my dreams, causes isolation and depression. The real, serious, mental disease kind.

I have had symptoms since I was a small child. At the time, they were labeled as quirky. I was always high functioning (excellent grades in school), so it wasn’t considered a problem. As I aged, the symptoms got worse and evolved. Finally, when I was in my third year of University, the stress of life intensified my symptoms so much that I could barely leave my apartment. In desperation, I tried to commit suicide…and I would have succeeded had my roommate not come back to grab a book she forgot. That experience will forever be the worst, and the best, of my life. I caused great pain to my roommate, and myself, and I will forever regret that – but it also saved my life. I spent the next month in a mental health unit in Hospital, where I worked hard to dig myself up from the pit I was in.

I completed an outpatient program for depression, and passed it with flying colours. I was proclaimed cured, and returned to school to finish my degree.

What I didn’t realize was that, those little nigglings of something that I attributed to depression, were actually something more. At first, it was an itch that I couldn’t scratch if the door was partially open, or the curtains were and the only thing that scratched it was closing them. Then it evolved into a need for cleanliness, and a need to pray for each person I loved at night. Then it evolved into an inability to function if I do not clean a “dirty item” and the surfaces it has touched and a need to pray for each person by name, or else they would not be safe overnight. From there, it became something horrifying larger: a need to clean a dirty item, the surface its touched, and the surfaces that have touched the surfaces that have touched the dirty item. An anxiety filled prayer including everyone I love by name, picturing them and surrounding them with white light for exactly the right amount of time or something horrible will happen to them. A fear of illness and vomiting, so severe, that I would chose death over exposure. A need to check the door one, two, three, four, five times to make sure it is locked, even though I have already checked. A need to wash my hands so often that they are raw and bleeding, and still unable to stop washing them. A fear that if I think of something bad for too long or too short, it will happen and then the panic that ensues when I realize it has not met those time requirements. The constant foreboding that something awful will happen because I did not check the door five times, or count to 20 while running water. A fear of contamination so severe that it is impossible to visit someone else, or even leave my house.

Not surprising, in that time, my life became a bubble of fear in hiding, constantly trying to dodge the next thing. I couldn’t function, I couldn’t leave the house and I realized that I couldn’t live like that.

Unlike the first time my symptoms became so heavy, I chose to get help. I went to my doctor and explained everything, preceding it with “I know how insane this sounds, but…”.

She listened, she nodded, she typed some things, and then she gave me a hug and a list of websites. She told me to go to them, and read through them, and in the mean time she was sending a prescription to the pharmacy, a referral to a Psychiatrist and she wanted me to call her if I needed anything at all.

When I checked the first website, I thought I typed it in wrong. I didn’t have OCD – that was something that people who shuffle around in bathrobes, with baggies on their hands, have. Not me – I had an education, a good career, a house, a husband, a family… BUT I clicked on over to “Symptoms” anyway, and I could not believe my eyes when I saw what I saw. Every single symptom, every single experience, every single thing that was happening to me that I deemed insanity was there. Every. single. one. It changed my life.

For the first time in years I felt relieved. There was a reason for these symptoms, and if there was a reason – then there was a treatment. The change in my feelings, in my mind, was so profound that it is one of the most memorable moments of my life. I can still feel the relief, the giddiness wash over. I had a chance, like could be OK again, there was hope for me.

Since then it has been a roller coaster. OCD is something that will never go away. I will always have it, and I will always struggle with it. It responds directly to the other stressors in my life so as long as I am calm, I can keep a handle on it – but the second that something stressful and out of my control happens, it’s there barging into my brain and ready to take over.

I am not OCD, but it will always be a part of me. Most of the time, now, I am OK with that. I have made my peace with it, and I am in a good place right now – but other times, I am angry and sad and frustrated. I am constantly working on not being ashamed of this, but it is hard.

The point of this big, long, wordy post (if you’re still with me, thank you!!) – is to say three things to you:

  1. You are not alone. You may feel alone, and it may seem like you are alone. But just look at my symptoms up there and how illogical they were – I was positive no one else was experiencing them – but I did some research and was amazed to see that they were. Not just one or two – but thousands of people were. Reach out, find someome who gets it. Don’t ever suffer silently. Ever.
  2. Get help. I know it hurts to ask for help. I know how shameful it feels, I know how poorly some people understand it. I know. But if you don’t get help, it could kill you – and let me tell you, there are people out there who will be shattered by the loss of you. Not just family and friends, but the first responders who find you, and the neighbor across the hall and your coworkers. If you can’t do it for yourself, then do it for them. Get help.
  3. Be kind – to yourself, and to others. Mental illness is real, debilitating, and life crushing. Don’t make someone feel smaller than they already feel because you do not understand. Trust me, if I could chose something else I absolutely would. It would be easier to be diabetic than have OCD – but those are not the cards I was dealt. Don’t belittle yourself for something you can’t control, and don’t belittle someone else for it. We are all just doing the best we can, with what we have, battling something no one else can understand. Be kind.

Thanks for reading! I hope you didn’t fall asleep and, more importantly, I hope it help you on some level…whether to deal with mental illness in yourself, or in someone else.

P.S: I think this is the longest post I have EVER blogged. #longestpostaward

#MicroblogMonday – One Job, Two Job, Red Job, Blue Job

If you could pick either of these options, which would it be?

Option A) you run an ice cream shop. You like making something wonderful like ice cream that people love – but you also have to do some things you don’t like… balancing budgets, dealing with staff, inventory, etc.  Your coworkers can be really difficult at times, but the good ones are really amazing. You feel appreciated a lot of the time and you know you’re good at your job. Sometimes, it can be really boring and stressful – but for the most part, you are content. You know you have more potential than you’re using, but it’s comfortable and comfortable feels really good. You make a decent amount of money that allows you to live comfortably, but any big expenses (like adoptions or fertility treatments or car repairs) do require saving up. It is hard to take time off work because you are the only person who can do your work, so every day is spent worrying about how much your work is piling up.

Option B) you are an ice cream company executive. You enjoy most of your work, but it is definitely stressful. You like your team, even though they can be a bit catty at times, but when it comes down to it they always have your back. You are challenged each day with your work, which is thrilling and fulfilling, and it helps you grow as a person and a professional. Some days, you can’t wait to get out of there, but overall it is a fairly good fit. You feel good about what you do. You make enough money to be comfortable, and afford the things you need (like an adoption, fertility treatments, etc). Your team is supportive of you when you need to be off, and you are able to actually enjoy your time without worrying too much about work.

Which would you pick?

*I may, or may not, be using ice cream examples to try and decide whether to make a career shift within my organization….any advice or suggestions is appreciated!

 

 

 

 

To join in on Microblog Mondays – or to see other posts – hop on over to Stirrup Queens!

 

Wordy Wednesday

Today is our first real ice storm this year – and everything (I mean, EVERYTHING) is covered in a layer of beautiful, shiny ice. I will take more pictures today and post them this week if I can.

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Thankfully, this fence is not in use (just a piece of history left on our property) but look at that barbed wire…the ice has coated it making it as smooth as silk rather than barbed wire-y. If I had animals I was keeping out with it, I’d be a little more bummed. As it is, I just find it beautiful!

It took me a solid 10 minutes to skate walk to my car this morning and I am only parked in our driveway – it was just THAT slippery that I could only take one teeny tiny step at a time (and did a whole lot of wobbling). We don’t usually salt because it irritates the Dogs paws – but we may actually need to today!

Example: This morning at 2:30 I got up to let Chops out, and she was so excited she bolted out the door, slide off the deck and continued to slide the 25 feet down our cement walkway…she even managed a little twirl at the end. I awarded her a 9, because her form on take off was a little off (otherwise it would have been a 10). Note: She was fine but her pride was slightly bruised and I think this is further supportive of the need to put down some salt!

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What I’m Reading:

Someone Else’s Garden by Dipika Rai:

This is a sad, beautiful story of a young girl named Mamta doing her best to find her footing in a world where everything is stacked against her. It is very sobering to read about what it is to be a woman in other countries – and it reminds me of how very lucky I am to be born into a free country, and to live in a family where men and women are equal. Mamta’s quiet strength and determination to survive in the face of adversity is empowering.

What I’ve Read:

The Invention of Wings – Sue Monk Kidd:

As the author of Secret Life of Bees – I was expecting something similar in this story. She did not disappoint me, I devoured this book in a single day. It was a tragedy mixed with courage and strength – a truly wonderful female heroine, and I enjoyed following her story. The grit and determination shown by Handful is incredible considering she has only known sadness and struggle.

The Mountain Story – Lori Lansens:

This is the kind of book that you don’t know how great it was until it’s finished. Truly a must read, and I think it should be included in high school curriculums.

It covers some fairly controversial topics, mixed with coming-of-age-meets-survival story that is filled with suspense, drama and heart rendering truths. Wolf is a multi-layer character, who has only know cruelty and by all rights should be just like his father, but instead he is a kind, caring young man in the throes of grief and trying to find his way. It’s a reminder that even in the darkest, more horrible moments – kindness and love prevail.

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What are you reading? Read anything good recently? Doesn’t have to be books, I love articles and blogs too! I am always looking for new suggestions!

Thanks for stopping by!

Microblog Mondays – Baby Birds

I was walking the dogs last week and I stumbled across a fallen nest. Well, actually the dogs did. I carefully picked it up and looked inside to find two perfectly preserved little skeletons, in a nest of downy feathers.

I felt so sad for the little birds, not even given a real chance at life. They had probably just hatched and then the nest fell and they died. I tried not to think about whether they starved to death or the fall did them in…

I like to think that infertility, loss and all of the other ups and downs of life have weathered me so I am stronger when it comes to facts of nature – but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to feeling bad most of the day about it. Poor little baby birds.

I took the nest and placed it up in the tree (as far as I could reach) and am hopeful that when I walk down there this Spring to check on it, I will find a new Mama and (hopefully) some new babies! It served as a gentle reminder that, as final as something may seem, life does go on and hope can bloom.

Want to link up? Visit Stirrup Queens for more information!

Friday Favs

Being the aunt of three rambunctious and hilarious boys has its perks…I have said things I NEVER thought I would say, done things I NEVER thought I would do and heard things I NEVER thought I would hear. One of my favs is the stories I get to share about the hilarious things they do.

I have to say over the last 8 years and three funny boys, there is one story that sticks in my memory and I love to share.

4 years ago when my sister (Ab) was pregnant with Beans, she came over to visit me and my other sister (Cb) and our only nephew (Stark) at the time who was 4. My sister Ab explained to Stark that she had a baby in her tummy. Stark looked at her and then shrugged and went to play.

20 minutes later Stark came running back to her, looked her right in the face with his little eyebrows raised and exclaimed: “You eated your baby?!?!?”

We all died laughing, we could hardly get it together enough to explain she didn’t eat the baby but it is living there until it’s big enough to come out. But OF COURSE a 4 year old would assume something in your stomach had been eaten. 

Hilarious!

Obligatory 2016/2017 Post!

It’s 2017 – can you believe it? I feel like it was just yesterday when I was counting out that I would be 13 years old in 2000 and COULDN’T IMAGINE EVER BEING THAT OLD. Now here we are 17 years later and I still can’t ever imagine being that old!

I love to make and fulfill goals each year, and always set them at the beginning of the year. I have two basic rules:

  1. Must be attainable (doesn’t mean easy, just means I actually have a chance at completing it)
  2. Cannot include family building. Too many years have passed where I have been propelled into depression because I cannot check off that goal – so I have banished the option. Family building will happen when it happens, but making it a goal tricks me into believing I have some control over it and then leads me to believe I’ve failed when I can’t fulfill it.

My 2016 Goals were:

  1. Go on a real vacation/be in the process of going on a real vacation! (Done – even though its booked for later this month, it still counts! We booked and planned it last year!)
  2. Start Mr. Big’s retirement savings (Done!)
  3. Mr. Big finish Firefighter school ( DONE!)
  4. Learn to drink and enjoy wine (I tried, I really, really tried but every single glass I had ended up down the drain, and instead I drank rum from my wineglass…so that kind of counts, right??)

We were also blessed with health and happiness in 2016 (despite a couple scares) and for that I am so, so thankful. 2016 was a good year.

My 2017 Goals:

  1. Pay down credit cards
  2. Buy a new house/be in the process of buying a new house (ours is TOO small!)
  3. Learn to love myself and be true to myself (the trickiest of my goals, for sure!)

 

Do you like to make goals? Do you do them at the start of the New Year? What are you striving for this year?