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.



Monday, July 23, 2018

Short Term Memory Loss and Other Toilet Training Tips for Toddlers

"I thought you should know...I have some short term memory loss.
I thought you should know…I have some short term memory loss."
 - Lora Rossi 
(Yes, I'm quoting myself. What? Sue me!)

Hey...I have no idea what I am talking about.
Do you?
So yeah. I have some short term memory loss.

And I also have some short term memory loss. (It just doesn't get old people!)

You know…the exclamation point is a very interesting little….what do you call it, a symbol? 

Sure we'll run with 'symbol'. 

And the only one that is rather confusing. I mean, you know a period means, 'this is the end of a sentence'. See? That was obviously the end of a sentence. See? That was obviously the end of a sentence. (OK…I'll stop. But it's funny! No?)

Anyways…then there is the question mark which means, 'This is the end of a question.' Simple.

Sorry…what was I talking about?

Oh…sort term memory loss? And the exclamation point? Wa?

Well I want to finish this little lesson so I will continue and then go back. I should be writing this down because I will probably forget the first topic. 

But I digress.

Then we have the comma, which means, 'hold on people, I'm taking a breath.' Like…enough run-on sentences friends. Can't we all get along and use a comma once in a while?

Then…there is the colon. The colon means, 'the part of the large intestine, which passes from the cecum to the rectum and absorbs water and electrolytes from food that has remained undigested'.

(No I did not just Google that. Sorry, what? Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Shit. OK…I meant the other colon. the punctuation mark. Oh..that is what these are…not frickin' 'symbols'! They are 'punctuation marks'!!!!!!!!!! And yes, I will eventually tell you about the exclamation point. And I may or may not have just been reminded that was my point. Ha! Get it? I kill me.)

But I digress.

The colon (to be clear, we are NOT talking about the one up your ass) means, 'Ta da! Here it is!!!'.

The semi-colon means, 'You thought this sentence was over, didn't ya? Well…psych! It's not!'

(Fun Friendly Fact: The semi-colon is also a symbol (in this case symbol works best) that represents the fight of someone with mental illness - i.e., "My story doesn't end here. I have more fighting and living to do.") 

What was I saying again? Ok thanks…the exclamation point.

The exclamation point is challenging because it can mean, 'I'm shouting at you because I'm pissed!!". It could also mean,  'I'm really excited about this!' And still it could mean,'This is very important information I just told you!'.

It is a very nuanced punctuation mark and one must be a bit of a detective and actually look at context and shit to figure out which one it means. Only probably. We can get it wrong and then people get pissed off, and arguments break out and it can get ugly.

So…uhhh…now wadda ya wanna talk about?

Short term memory loss? That's a great idea! Good on ya! And I actually…I uhhh….actually….uhhh….shit! What was I saying? (Yes I forgot mid-sentence. Happens multiple times a day. And when I'm sober to be clear.) Anyways…yeah, so great idea for a topic. And so timely. Thanks for your assistance.

You see, I am undergoing a treatment for my depression and anxiety called 'electroconvulsive therapy' or ECT.

ECT is a psychiatric treatment, given under general anesthesia in which seizures are electrically induced in patients to cause changes in brain chemistry that can quickly reverse symptoms of certain mental illnesses. It's nothing like in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest so don't go there. It…along with medication and therapy seem to be working finally for me…fingers crossed. 

But ECT does have side effects - like headaches, nausea and short term memory loss. And so, I weigh the pros and cons and the pro side way outdoes the cons. I am currently in a place of maintenance treatments bi-weekly and probably will eventually move to monthly.  I'll keep you posted on how things are going. So I will just have to learn to deal with this short term memory issue.

This concludes my post about toilet training tips for your toddler.


(I mean Lora. Or you can just call me Dory. Or Al. Whatevs.)

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Celebrities: Depression & Anxiety

"We are all humans and all deserve the same respect and attention."
 - Lazarus of Bethany

We may feel we are, but are not alone.

This is going to be a very short post…but I wanted to give you a taste of just a sliver of the female celebrities who have opened up about their struggles with depression and/or anxiety to provide some perspective.

I want to show how prevelant mental illness is - and show that 'mental illness" does NOT mean "crazy'.

I know celebrities are human like we are - but these are people in the public eye; people that the public listens to.

Here is a taste:

  • Kendell Jenner
  • Adele
  • Beyonce 
  • Miley Cyrus
  • Dakota Johnson
  • Emma Stone
  • Chrissy Teigen
  • Carrie Fisher
  • Glenn Close
  • Demi Lovato
  • AshleyBenson
  • Khlo√© Kardashian
  • Lady Ga Ga
  • Selena Gomez
  • Kerry Washington
  • Princess Diana
  • Kristen Stewart
  • Kristen Bell
  • Cara Delevingne
  • Brooke Shields
  • Lena Dunham
  • Halle Berry
  • J. K. Rowling
  • Sarah Silverman
  • Olivia Munn

Notice that many of these people are fairly young. I think this is a good sign. People are slowly becoming more willing to give mental illness a voice - because sufferers know how difficult it is.

It also points to the fact that more men keep quiet about their struggles and they shouldn't be made to feel weak or "less than" for having an illness.

There are some men celebrities who have come out,  however we need more men to speak about their struggles as well.

The world is slowly changing regarding the stigma about mental health - but so much more needs to be done.

I thank the people above in the public eye for using their platforms to share their stories.

Some people feel that they don't have a voice - or that it won't be heard. I hope that these famous people sharing their struggles will be a positive trend and a start to change that.

Let's keep the conversation going.



Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Weeping and Keeping Positive

"With brave wings she flies."
 - Devin O'Branagan

Coming out from hiding…slowly but surely.

Today I woke up, went for my early morning walk, watched a little Netflix, did some drawing and had my coffee.

I also had a wave of emotion wash over me.

I started to quietly weep.

I was in my bedroom by myself and it just happened. My 16 yr old swung by (to ask to use the car of course) and saw my tears.

My kids are used to seeing mom cry. But of late, almost all my tears have been connected to my depression and anxiety. Sad tears.

So my son asked, "Are you OK mom?"

And I replied, "I just broke down crying my love because I am so happy that I think I'm starting to feel more like myself. I am very hopeful bud."

Needless to say, he was happy.

Needless to say, I am cautiously optimistic. I am exercising almost daily. I am eating better. I am getting out of the house. I am making plans. I'm seeing friends. I am more engaged with my boys. I'm starting to do my hair and makeup again.

I'm writing again!

These are all very positive signs.

And…ironically…I am a little anxious as I'm afraid I will slide again. (IS that irony - or would it fit better into an old Alanis Morrisette song?)

So I'm anxious that my anxiety will start to get worse again and I am doing everything in my power to fight it.

Excuse me…I just got summoned to wipe my 7 yr old's bum because he sucks at it. This gives me anxiety too. Like am I gonna still be doing this when he is 10? Frick!

With my life, it is no wonder I enjoy wine.

But I digress.

So yeah. I think the ball is rolling in the right direction still and it really hit me this morning.

And I may be a little anxious…but that is not gonna stop me. I feel a bit stronger each day.

I do have bad moments and even days…but I am starting to feel more and more…well…lighter. Less weighed down by all the real and perceived troubles of the world. (Or maybe it's the almost 15 lbs I have lost so far with my new regime!).

I am on a roll (or perhaps more of a climb) and I'm gonna act like a stone (or….um…a mountain lion?). Because I have to. It is my only option as I see it.

I've got this.



Friday, July 13, 2018

I'm Back!

"Fate whispers to the warrior, 
'You can not withstand the storm.' 
The warrior whispers back, 
'I am the storm.'" 
- Unknown

So…yeah. It has been a very, long while.

The past few years have been kinda rough and the ol' bloggy blog got thrown onto the back burner (and then somehow fell behind the stove apparently).

Last I updated you, it was last year and I was living at my folks' place for a bit as I really struggled with my depression and anxiety. Per my doctor, I had stopped working and stopped caring for my kids. I needed to focus on myself.

I really don't want to hash out every detail of the past few years, but here is the Cole's Notes version:

Early 2016 - left work due to depression and anxiety. Mid-2016 - was starting to feel much better when I badly broke my leg skydiving. And by skydiving I mean playing badminton. Was in bed for an entire summer. Late-2016 - back to work. Early-2017 - Was struggling hard to keep it all together - working and taking care of my boys - but it got so bad I needed to leave work again.

Then over the next year I would be hospitalized on four, separate occasions - all for depression and anxiety. In between I was in intense group and individual therapy and my medication was being closely monitored by a psychiatrist. I had electro-convulsive therapy (ECT). I even broke my fucking foot for the love of the baby Jesus! Just for added spice of life! Ugh.

I fought hard and I have had my first, really good couple of weeks of late and I even felt like starting to write again. Hence my widely anticipated and now celebrated (I assume, naturally) return to the blogasphere.

So…uhhh…now what?

Well…a quick update about me (besides my struggles above). My boys are now 16 (Julian), 14 (Noah) and 7 (Drew). I am now officially divorced and I continue to co-parent our boys with their father. Julian now has his driver's licence and my anxiety about this has softened now that I see what a good driver he is. It is nice to have a man servant to run my errands and drive me places, I have to admit.

I am still in a relationship with my boyfriend Dave - so it has now been over 4 years. He has been incredibly supportive through all of this shit and I love him more each day. I can't imagine life without him.

I have really gotten into drawing and have started creating what I call "draw-rings" as they are famous and/or inspirational quotes or related words within the shape of a ring. I originally started calling them draw-rings as I was impersonating Mike Myers' SNL character 'Simon' who is English. Anyways…so I filled, like, 7 sketch books with these things and even sold 20 of them in a scrapbook to one of my doctors for a clean $650. I'll show you some more examples in a later post.

But I digress.

I never wanted this blog to become "the depression blog" - because I am so much more than my illness and that really was never the intent or the focus of The Hugging Home. I have and will continue to share bits of my journey as I feel that sharing is important when you are comfortable enough and have a forum to do so. I have both - so I will keep you updated.

Until next time - which I hope will be very soon - I will be back - really back - hoping to make you smile and laugh at the trials, tribulations and triumphs I experience that I know so many of you can relate to.

I'm happy to be back. Throwing you a giant hug!