Friday, February 28, 2014

Depression: Let's Talk

“When you're lost in those woods, it sometimes takes you a while to realize that you are lost. For the longest time, you can convince yourself that you've just wandered off the path, that you'll find your way back to the trailhead any moment now. Then night falls again and again, and you still have no idea where you are, and it's time to admit that you have bewildered yourself so far off the path that you don't even know from which direction the sun rises anymore.”  
- Elizabeth Gilbert (author)

Depression is a difficult thing to talk about.

It is also a difficult thing to write about...especially if you are considering actually publishing it.

Any illness that falls under the category of "mental illness" is - if it is something from which you suffer.

While taboos about mental illness have certainly decreased over the years, it seems as though "mental wellness" is what more people focus on.

I am not saying this is a bad thing. Overall emotional and mental wellness is important. Social media is lit up with inspirational quotes from everyone from Chopra to Gibran to famous celebrities to life coaches and motivational speakers.

But sometimes - to someone suffering from a mental illness - particularly depression - the whole "pull up your socks and keep moving" messages can be...well...frustrating.

There are still many a person who believes that depression is more about a "state of mind" rather than a medical issue involving a chemical imbalance in the brain.

Now yes. Like many illnesses and conditions or whatever you choose to call them, there are a myriad of "severities".

Some people suffer from "clinical depression" - which, in short - involves an issue with optimal levels of serotonin in the brain.

Some people suffer from "situational depression" - which involves a depressive state brought on by an event or events in one's life (for example, the death of a loved one, an accident, the diagnosis of another illness/disease, chronic pain, the loss of a job/financial hardship, addiction, the break-up of a relationship/marriage, etc - the list is endless.)

Then there is postpartum depression which is common to mothers after the birth of a baby.

Let me stop here to remind you all that I am not a doctor. Nor a nurse.

I am not here to give you long, detailed information about different kinds of depression, nor do I claim to know all of it.

I don't.

I am here to remind you that depression is very often an "invisible illness".

Someone can look happy on the outside and be crying on the inside.

Someone can seem to have it "all together" when they feel as though everything in their world is falling apart.

Why am I sitting my laptop...reminding you of this?

Well...I am doing this because I have struggled with clinical depression (and anxiety) for the better part of my life.

There I said it.

I am also someone who many people look at and thinks she has is all together.

I post inspirational quotes on Facebook and Twitter. I write about health and wellness and being present and how happiness is all in how you react to what life throws at you.

Photos of me smiling, of my children playing and being silly, status updates and antidotes filled with witty banter about my "crazy yet wonderful" life fill Facebook and this blog.

And I am not in a depressive state all of the time. I have a blessed life. I consider myself extremely lucky.

I have three, beautiful, healthy sons. I have my own home. I have a job I enjoy. I have amazing friends and a family that is probably the best and most supportive family in the world.

I am usually someone who is what many would call a "high-functioning" person who suffers from bouts with depression. I have had ups and downs, but I have been able to manage it (with help) for many years. Sometimes fighting harder than I should have, in retrospect.

But right now I am admitting that I am currently struggling.

Clinical and situational depression, some physical health issues, stress and lots of life change (including the break-up of my 17 year relationship with my husband - the father of my three boys) have resulted in my body finally reaching its limit.

The "what comes first - the chicken or the egg" scenario applies. Did the stress cause my physical symptoms or was it the other way around?

Well...after many consultations with several doctors, it seems it really is a miss-mash of the two.

I am currently on leave from my full-time job - as prescribed by my doctors - to take stock of my health.

I don't like to seem "weak". When I work, I want to be fully present and top-notch. When I parent, I want to be engaged and really there for my kids.

But when it is all that you can do to muster up the physical and emotional strength just to get out of bed in the morning (usually after not sleeping very well - very common when one is depressed and anxious) - it is next to impossible to work and parent effectively.

And so guilt and worry come in to play. And I am a self-proclaimed "guilt and worry" junkie. I want to be the "best employee" and "the best mom" and "the best friend" and "the best daughter"...and the list goes on. And if I don't feel I am doing my "best", then I feel like I am just not doing whatever it is...well enough.

Intellectually, I know that I am good enough.

I know I am a great person, a hard worker, a good mother, a reliable friend and all that wonderful stuff. But lately, this often does not translate over to the emotional side of my inner voice or "critic".

But there is good news.

I am finally....FINALLY...putting myself first - as much as I can.

I have realized that I can't be as effective as I know I CAN be at work or at home or at play unless I take the time to stop and take care of ME.

And I wanted to let you know this because I am sure many of you reading this struggle with similar things.

And I want you to are not alone.

So that's it.

Now the question is...will I actually publish this post?

Will I have the courage to really put it out there?

So much has been written in my personal journals...but will I actually but this out there in the blogosphere?

Well one thing I always venture to do with my writing is to help people. To extend my experiences outward in hopes of making others feel that what they are going through is not something they are experiencing by themselves.

So if you are reading this now...well...there is your answer.


And courage.

I had to put a "Wizard of Oz" reference in here.

These are the four cornerstones that I am addressing to bring myself back to the Lora I know I am.

I'm gonna get my sparkle back.

The one that sparkles.



Sunday, February 23, 2014

CANADA: We Own Winter!

"Canada is hockey" 
- Mike Weir

As I sit to begin writing this post only a few short hours after the Canadian Olympic Men's Hockey Team won the gold medal.


The games being in Sochi, Russia this year, Canadians had to get up as early as 4:00am (in British Columbia) to watch the game live. Here in Ontario, the game started at 7:00am.


In any case...what this post is really not that we won gold (in both men's AND women's hockey, thank you very much!) - but that it felt so cool to feel so connected as a nation as so many of us rose with or before the sun to support the sport, the team and the country that we are so proud of.

Facebook and Twitter lit up like the Olympic torch with Canadians giving their personal play-by-plays, spouts of excitement with each goal and fun-yet-friendly jabs - less at our opponents the Swedes...but more at IKEA.

As I have been struggling with my health of late, my three boys were at their dad's house watching the game (which, I think, is probably a special father-son experience they will always remember...and I can appreciate that).

I was, therefore, alone at my place. I could have taped it and not checked any TV or social media and watched it later after a nice sleep-in. I could have just watched the highlights that will certainly be playing over and over and over and over again over the next several weeks.

But no.

Even after a night of on and off insomnia, I just HAD to watch....and I had to watch it LIVE.

It is all part of the total experience.

I hopped on to my iPad and joined in the Facebook fun. I even virtually "watched" part of the game with my mom as we chatted back and forth. She knew I felt the need to be connected and that I was not with my boys. She also knew I was not up to going out to celebrate with friends or go to a local pub or restaurant to party.

The instant feed of Canadian camaraderie that social media provided for me during this moment in Canadian history really helped me in my situation.

Even just looking out my window to see the condos of downtown Mississauga at 6:30am with so many lights on made me feel a sense of community with my fellow Canadians.

Downtown Mississauga (just outside Toronto)

Sure, hockey is like a religion in Canada. It is a religion in my house given I have two VERY active hockey-playing sons (and my toddler is probably not far behind - although I am pushing for banjo lessons quite frankly).

My Noah after winning the championship at a tournament in Ottawa, Canada's Capital

My Julian, a competitive hockey player and defenseman for The Mississauga Braves

But to see our country - "our home and native land" (as our anthem goes) - and to feel "true patriot love" just felt AWESOME.

And of win...well THAT was the icing on the cake.

Mike Myers - a famous Canadian and avid hockey fan!

But did we have any doubt as we sat on our IKEA couches or in our IKEA beds drinking coffee from our IKEA mugs?

Nah. Not really.



Congrats to ALL of our Canadian Olympic athletes and to the athletes from around the globe. What a great games!

As for all my fellow Canadian hockey fans?

You know it.

Our 2014 Canadian Women's Hockey Team.

I know it.

Our 2014 Canadian Men's Hockey Team.

We own winter!




Thursday, February 20, 2014

Mourning a Marriage

"It isn't for the moment you are struck that you need courage, but for that long uphill climb back to sanity and faith and security."
 - Anne Morrow Lindbergh

The break-up of a marriage is not something that happens over night.

Sometimes, the actual event itself happens very suddenly - at least for one person - but it is never something that happens and then life goes on.

I know you already know this. Even if you have never been through a separation or divorce, everyone knows that there is a mourning process that happens when a major relationship falls apart - even if it was not a marriage.

What some people - I find - don't always grasp - is that if two people mutually decide to go their separate ways - that there is still a great deal of grieving that almost universally takes place.

Sure, some people seem to bounce back pretty quickly. Sure, some people already have alternate relationships already on the go. Sure, some people finally get out of extremely abusive situations that would seem like only a miracle to outsiders looking in.

But the mourning is still there.

Dreams of "happily ever after" are shattered.

I will stop making generalizations at this point and will speak of my own experience. Not my husband's experience (we are legally separated) - but mine and mine alone. I really don't know what his experience is or has been - nor is it any of my business to talk or even speculate about his reality and truth.

This is my truth.

Since the final decision to separate was made and out children were told, it started to feel real.

There was about a month in there where we knew, but the kids didn't. The school year was almost finished, so we wanted that to be behind them and so we waited. We also wanted to be able to have firm answers to questions such as "Where are we going to live?" and "Will we have to switch schools and/or hockey teams?" and "How much time will I get to spend with Mommy/Daddy?"

During that month or so before we sat down with our boys to deliver the news, my emotions were on a roller coaster ride. One moment I felt relief. The next I felt terrified. Then I would feel hope. Then I would feel despair. I would have a day where I was excited about what the future may hold. Then I would have one where I thought my world had crumbled.

It was a very busy time.

Once we had made the decision, we moved fairly quickly in getting things rolling. We found a family mediator and started meetings with her to sort out details of what would eventually become a legal separation agreement - mostly pertaining to the custody and caring of our children and finances. Luckily, we are pretty fair-minded people and were on the same page about most of the major things.

During this time, I also started looking for a house.

I knew I did not want to stay in our matrimonial home, nor could I afford to. I had a good guesstimate of what we could sell our home for (or what my husband's buy out would be if he were to stay - which he didn't) so I quickly found a real estate agent and started looking at townhouses in the same area as where I already was. Within two weeks, I had purchased a another home.

So when we did finally tell our kids (yes, the most dreaded moment of my life), we could tell them that they would be living in two different homes that would be in close proximity but that we were going to be selling the matrimonial home. We could tell them that they would remain at the same school with the same friends and would play for the same hockey teams.

It was a difficult period...needless to say.

Now instead of giving you the play-by-play of there was so much...I will tell you that we worked together with a family mediator and not separate lawyers (until we legally had to in order to have separate representation to review the final separation agreement) - and this not only saved tons of money, but helped us to communicate openly and focus on what we wanted to focus on - what was best for our children and what was best and most fair for the two of us.

I highly suggest this to couples who feel they are civil and mature enough to put any differences aside (which CAN be discussed as well) in order to keep everyone on the same page, keep the same focus and reduce stress on the entire family.

Fast forward to now. It is February. Some time has passed.

And for me...this has been the hardest part so far. I am not saying that it will be for you...but for has been.

There are many stages that one must go through as one stumbles through the separation and divorce process. I won't go on about them here...but the following is a good overview:

The busy work of the mediation, the selling and buying of homes, the changing over of utilities, the real estate lawyers, telling everyone, moving, la la la...that is over.

The dust has settled.

Almost like a death (and really, separation/divorce IS a death - of a key relationship) - once the flowers stop coming, people stop visiting with hot meals, friends go back to their lives...YOUR life continues.

And there is a gap. A void. A something that you were used to having for so long (as good or as bad as it may have felt or been) is now gone.

There is an emptiness. A feeling of hopelessness at times - for me.

Moments of regret. Moments of gut-wrenching emotional pain. Moments of "What the frick have I DONE to my life? To my family?!!?"

All very normal - so the experts tell me - but still very difficult and real.

Major life changes involve major emotional shifts...and this often means a period of mourning.

I am mourning my marriage. I am mourning the loss of my family unit as I once knew it.

And that's OK. It has to be OK.

I know my family is different. I also know my family - or my home -  is not broken.

I have supportive family and friends. I have a home. I have my boys. I have their father who is a reasonable, nice person and a good, responsible dad.

I tried to deny my feelings of loss for a while. I tried to fight them. Put on a happy face. Do the jig of the "happy, single woman".

But then I started feeling unwell. Then worse. Then pneumonia. Then it was not getting better. Then the realization that my physical state was in part cause by my emotional state and vice versa.

I needed to stop.

I needed to focus on me. My health. And that was hard.

I needed to stop working for a bit. I needed to get major extra help with my boys.

I needed to rest.

And so that is where I am now. I am seeing doctors and seeking help.

I am building a new foundation so that I can grow. Almost like a re-birth into a new chapter of my life.

I am going to get through this and come out stronger. I don't think this...I know this.

And that's what hope and strength is all about.



Sunday, February 02, 2014

My Home is Not Broken

"When two people decide to get a divorce, it isn't a sign that they 'don't understand' one another, but a sign that they have, at last, begun to."
 - Helen Rowland

Separation and divorce is never fun. It is never easy.

It is no walk in the park.

Especially when children are involved, it is a long, emotional, painful and confusing process.

No one enters a marriage thinking that one day it will end.

Sure, we all know the general stats but we never think that we are going to part of the estimated 50% of marriages that cease to last until death do us part.

Unfortunately, my marriage was one of those marriages.

And it is still fresh...still new. It was May, 2013 when my husband and I made the very difficult decision - after many years of ups and downs -  to go our separate ways.

We do not hate each other. There were no third parties involved. It didn't explode due to a giant, single argument of he saids and she saids.

We just came to the conclusion that we had been unhappy for long enough. We decided that we were not the best suited partners.

We also knew that we would forever be connected as co-parents of our three, beautiful sons.

We did not fight over the children or over major financial issues. We knew that we wanted what was best for our children and what was best for each other.

We knew we wanted what was best for our family.

Yes...that's what I said.

Our family.

Present tense.

People still refer to families that involve separation and/or divorce as "broken".

My family did not break. My family is not broken, thank you very much.

My family has been re-organized.

My family has shifted from being a nuclear family to a bi-nuclear family.

I am still the mother. He is still the father. Our children are still our children.

And no matter what happens in the future - new partners, children growing into adults, etc...the above facts will never, ever change.

Our family will evolve - just like any other family does.

But we are not broken. My boys do not live in a "broken home".

They live in two homes that are quite intact.

They are both full of love, hugs, kisses and the same trials and tribulations, ups and downs, victories and challenges that any other home experiences.

So please don't refer to families and their homes that go through separation and/or divorce as "broken".

Sometimes...a nuclear family does not work. Sometimes it is somehow broken.

It takes a lot of soul searching and time to come to a realization that something needs fixing.

And you can only try so many tools and so many blue prints until a family sometimes comes to the conclusion that in fixing the family, the marriage must end.

In looking at all the variables...the partnership between the husband and wife is the broken part.

And sometimes the only "fix" is to realize that things need to be re-organized.

So is my family then "fixed"?

Well...I think in our case, we did what needed to be done. I think we are all still struggling with the transition - but it seems to be working better.

But our home - or homes - are certainly are not broken.

We are still a family.

And we always will be.