Friday, November 16, 2018

The Invisible Illness

"Pain is real. But so is hope."
 - Unknown

I really don't want this to become a "mental health" blog - and I know I have been talking about my battle with depression and anxiety a fair bit - but the struggle has been a part of my life for a long time and this is becoming a run-on sentence and sorry if you don't like it - if so there are many other blogs out there for you to enjoy.

So depression and anxiety are considered "invisible" illnesses because you can't see them outright. For example - one can't usually tell if I am feeling depressed or anxious simply by looking at me.

In fact, sometimes I use other aspects of my personality to try to counter act how I'm feeling.

For example, if I am feeling low, I may not come out and tell you - because who wants to hear depressing shit all day? I do have a sense of humour…and sometimes it is my saving grace to be honest.

Making other people smile and laugh is great medicine for my soul - and for my mood - so I try and make others - and hopefully myself - feel better with a funny quip, witty banter or a silly joke.

Now does that paint the picture of someone who is suffering?

No. It doesn't.

I know this all to well because I am very familiar with letting the tears flow in the bathroom or somewhere private.

And it feels very lonely.

To outwardly present oneself as fine when you really are not is sometimes self-preserving and sometimes it hurts like hell.

By self-preserving, I mean that sometimes forcing myself to look like I am fine actually makes me feel somewhat better - and so it goes.

But when you feel like you are crumbling inside…when everyone is laughing and you feel like crying…it's frustrating.

I'm sure people look at me sometimes and say,"How could she be depressed? She is smiling and laughing and having a good time".

Well…often I am. I am not feeling sick all of the time. I am learning to manage my illness and use the tools that work best for me. Being social and laughter are two biggies for me.

But…I'm a decent actress.

I mean...I know how to act the part. I know how to make others feel comfortable so that they don't have to see the real me.

The thing is…when I am feeling like myself - when my anxiety and depression are under control - I am a pretty happy, good-natured, goofy person who loves to laugh. So I'm not always acting.

It's hard when people don't know how you are feeling. Parenting is difficult - I want my illness to touch my three sons as little as possible.

And there are many other invisible illnesses.

All I ask is that people be sensitive to others and know that things are not always as sunny as they look. Sometimes people need support but feel they can't ask for it.

Don't be afraid to ask me how I'm feeling.

And don't forget to laugh at my bad jokes.

Because while my depression and anxiety are difficult, they do not define me - regardless of what I am saying here.

And laughter is my best medicine.

A goof-ball at heart



Friday, October 19, 2018

Of Babies and Pets

"With eye upraised his master's look to scan,
The joy, the solace, and the aid of man:
The rich man's guardian and the poor man's friend,
The only creature faithful to the end." 
- George Crabbe

A lot of people say that their pet is "like their child".

OK...fair enough.

If you don't have children of the human kind, I suppose if you have an animal "child" he or she IS your baby.

But at the risk of being criticized, let's get real here for a sec.

Being a "parent" to a dog or a cat or a hamster is quite different than being a parent to a human being.

And I have been both. Sort of.

I had pets before I became a mother.

I know that the love between a human being and their pet(s) is indeed, very real and very strong. To say that your pet is "like a member of the family" does not even say it.

They ARE a member of the family.

True love.

But it kinda bugs me when I hear people say that having a dog or a cat is like having a child.

I'm sorry, but it's not.

Can a pet compliment your family? Of COURSE it can! It complimented mine when I was living with my parents and we got our dog Toby (RIP).

Toby was a pure-bread, American Cocker Spaniel that my parents surprised my brother Matthew with on his 14th birthday. As Matt is eight years my junior, I was 22 when he arrived, but I was there at the breeders when "Matt picked him out".

I put that is quotations because if memory serves, I kinda picked him. Amongst the litter of tiny, little puppies, I saw little Toby and knew that the first puppy Matt held would be the I quickly handed him to my brother...and the rest, as they say, is history.

My bro Matthew with our beloved and much missed dog Toby.

Toby lived with my family long after I left the nest and started having human babies. My older sons grew to love Toby as well. He was a member of the family, after all.

But my boys...well...they are not dogs. Or cats. Or hamsters.

Raising children is nothing like raising a pet.

And raising a pet does is not a preparation course for raising a human child.

They are quite simply two different things; two different types of relationships.

I probably would have a pet if I lived alone. Probably a dog as opposed to a cat - simply because I am more of a "dog person".

They involve more work, yes, but that is just my preference.

And cats have caused me allergy issues in the past. (Thankfully my boyfriend's cat - while she sheds like a mo-fo - white hair on everything…and of course I am usually wearing something black - she is a good-natured feline…and very pretty to boot - even if a little needy. Her meows in the early morning? OK…that is like having a baby sometimes! But at least she doesn't make me sneeze.)

My pants usually look kinda like this after a visit to my bf's place.
You'd think I would have smartened up by now - but I refuse to give up my beloved black pants.

But I know she gives my bf a lot of joy and simple companionship. Like me and my three "human babies" - she is part of his family and I have grown rather fond of her.

Now don't get it twisted sister.

 I'm not here to preach about having kids versus having pets. Many people have both and if I had the time, money, space and lifestyle for a dog (that my boys keep telling me they want - a Golden Lab puppy if you please) - I could see myself getting one.

I love me a Lab puppy.
But how can you not?

But I'm a single mom and I'm busy and it's just not feasible for my family now.

But having a pet will not prepare you for having a baby. I'm sorry peeps.

Nothing prepares you for having a baby.

Even having a baby does not prepare you for having (another) baby!

And don't get me started on having baby number 3.

That is just for nutty people like me.

The other side of the coin I want to mention here is that having a pet(s) rather than children - whether my choice or otherwise - is a wonderful way to compliment a life. As I said, I would probably do it myself. Some people revel in having several pets and get tremendous joy from them - and I think that is awesome.

But it does not prepare you to have a baby.

It prepares you to give and receive love.

And isn't that what life is really all about?

(Wow. Cheesy blog post ending alert!)



Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Thank You

"Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."
 - Melody Beattie

A smile always helps as well

We just celebrated Thanksgiving here in Canada a couple of weeks ago and this year I am especially thankful.

The last couple of years have been long and hard - and while I continue to fight - I have fought enough to come out the other side feeling much better than I have in a long while.

And instead of focusing on the rough road it has been - and the small battles I will have to fight along the way to remain mentally healthy - I am choosing to turn my attention to all of the many amazing and wonderful people and things in my life.

Gratitude is a great way to keep things on a positive note and give perspective.

There are always at least little things to be thankful for. Some days it will feel difficult to have an "attitude of gratitude" but it is always possible.

Even if it is for the ray of sun beaming through your window or the smile that the man on the train gave you on the way to work…there are aways things for which to be grateful.

Of course there are the biggies - like the people with whom you share love, your health, etc - but on a bad day, when things seem to be a never ending road of bad - just remember the little things that make life a little better.

And if all else fails, eat chocolate.

Works for me.



Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Morning Warrior

"I'm not a survivor. I'm a warrior."
 - unknown


This morning I woke up at 3:30 am feeling quite anxious. Not too strange.

I got up, took an anxiety pill, went downstairs, watched a bit of TV and then returned to bed and was able to fall back to sleep.

Until 6:30 am.

I woke up again, seemingly with a start, feeling even more anxious than before. It was kind of a feeling that I can only describe as a feeling of some sort of impending doom.

My first thought was that I was in the early throws of a panic attack…and that is when the fear of doom got worse as I worried about my anxiety getting worse.

Which was not a good way for the snowball to be rolling.

'OK', I thought. 'So I have a couple of choices.'

One, I could stay I bed, keep worrying about having a panic attack and this would probably turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Or two, I could take some action.

I was feeling like shit, but I had to choose between sick mode and warrior mode and I knew what needed to be done.

I could feel the storm brewing inside me and I knew I needed to get moving.

When my anxiety is bad, I often get so worked up that I feel sick and throw up.

So I did that. Always a fun time.

Then I quickly changed into my workout clothes and my running shoes as if nothing had happened, grabbed my iPod and concentrated on deep breathing.

I drank some water and I was out the door by 6:45 am.

I turned up my tunes, did some stretching and started to walk. And breathe. And walk. And groove to my music. And breathe. And walk.

Slowly, my anxiety started to dissipate.

I did this until my breathing was under control and I had walked about 45 minutes - roughly 4 kilometers.

And I felt much better.

Because I had one more morning under my belt where I chose to be a soldier instead of a person with a chronic illness.

I decided to fight.

And I fought through this storm and made it.

Because I am a warrior.



Thursday, August 09, 2018

Passion is in Fashion

" Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you."
 - Oprah Winfrey

All made up and nowhere to perform.

Sometimes you get to a point in your life when you need to reevaluate everything - or so it seems.

Some items taking up too much space need to be edited out and some new things need to be added to reflect where you are now.

I am going through this kind of metamorphosis right now.

If you've been reading, you know I've been struggling really hard these past few years with depression and anxiety.

One thing I knew I had to address was the fact that I was not really doing much that I am passionate about - just for me.

I had stopped blogging (which I have obviously started again) and began getting more into drawing - creating art is something I have always enjoyed.

Now I'm ready to address my love of performing. I love to act and sing and music and to be on stage but it has been a long while.

While acting in community theatre is a little too time consuming for where I am in my life at the moment - I am seriously looking at joining a contemporary choir. I'm really excited abut it and hope to participate in this at least a few times a month.

Bringing writing, art and singing/performing back into my life is all part of my plan to acknowledge the fact that I need to take care of my needs and passions just as much as those of my kids.

Like so many mothers of school-aged kids (my boys are currently 16, 14 and 7), passions and interests are so often pushed aside - and this (I have found out) can make life much smaller - less fulfilling.

And I would sometimes feel guilt for wanting to do some things for myself. I'm a mother - isn't that enough?

Shouldn't my beautiful children satisfy all my needs?

In a word….no.

I have learnt the hard way that letting things slide and losing myself in motherhood - especially after my divorce - has been more detrimental than helpful.

Kids need happy parents. Kids need good role models.

Kids need to see that feeding your passions and trying new things (within reason!) are good things and add the colour and texture to life.

So I'm cutting the mother-guilt bullshit.

And I'm slowly coming back to myself.

Which is cool…because I kind of like that chick.

She's pretty extra.

And if you take a look in the proverbial mirror, you will see that you are pretty rad yourself.

Give yourself the time and energy you deserve. When you fill your own cup and give to yourself, I am learning that you then have much more to give to others.



Saturday, July 28, 2018

Life is Love and Other Epiphanies

"You may say I'm a dreamer, 
but I'm not the only one."
 - John Lennon

I'm a dreamer fo sho.

Always have been.

I daydream a lot and also literally have a lot of dreams when I sleep.

I'm also someone who sometimes thinks the impossible may somehow be possible and that perhaps the grass is greener on the other side.

At least I used to.

One thing I've learned of late is that the grass is greenest where you water it. And I have a very healthy and lush lawn of gorgeous green grass and this metaphor is going a little off the rails.

What I'm trying to say is that life is not about things. Life is about people. Relationships. Love. Savouring experiences together even when times are tough.

I've always believed in this…however…I've been off kilter before.

Now….I have been to hell and back heath wise and it may seem like a cliche, but it really does have the ability to change your outlook on what is really important in life.

I have learned that I have some very serious and wonderful love in my life.

I have amazing parents who I love to the moon and back and who have been by my side always, always, always.

Then there are my brothers who know somewhat of what I suffer and who have amazing shoulders to lean on as always.

Then there's my boyfriend of over 4 years. He truly is both my lover and my best friend and that sounded kind if cheese-ball but it's true. He has been my rock during the last few rather shitty years of my life and he has never wavered. He can make me smile and laugh and reminds me why I should feel good about myself.

I got one of the good ones and I hope the universe blesses us with some years without so much drama and pain. In any case, I know my boyfriend will be there - as I will be for him - I hope…forever.

Then all my beautiful friends who have sent me messages of support and who have offered to help in any ways that they could. you really do find out who loves you in a crisis situation.

Last but not least there are my three, beautiful boys. Some days can be challenging - but I'm a single mom of three boys…what duh ya expect…paradise? Well, perhaps in a strange way…but with tones more noise, dirt and attitude.

In a nut-shell, I've learnt that life is about love. It's about people. It's about time.

And it's a very beautiful experience to realize these things with such focus and clarity.

I am one very, lucky gal.

Sometimes hardship has a silver lining.

This is mine.