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It feels like forever since I posted last. I’m also terribly behind on Dannan’s blog, and on replying to the heap of email in my inbox.  However, I am beginning to allow myself to be the awful correspondent that I always have been, but which I have fought against. Three cheers for self-growth!!

At any rate, things were pretty rough here at The Muse Asylum.  The “trial” med that I was stuck on for three months wasn’t doing me any favours.  Neither was my psychiatrist’s office assistant, who couldn’t find me even a minute of his time.  But that’s a whole other rant, which I might actually have already ranted.

On February 19th, I rounded the corner, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.  That was the day I made my first trip to OneSouth, our local psych ward.  To sum up how I got there (because I’m too lazy to edit):  I was on one heck of a lot of meds, which all had nasty side effects that got together, had a party, and increased exponentially.   And as I’ve mentioned,  my past year has been rough in terms of access to a psychiatrist;  when my original Psydoc closed his practice in December of 2007, he referred me to a great female psydoc named Dr. F.  She was super, except for the fact that she and her husband decided that they didn’t like it here and moved to the Lower Mainland in June of 2008.  Long story short, I didn’t see anyone from June until November, and that was too long.

In November, my new guy (Dr. W.) saw me. I think he will prove to be fabulous if a person can actually get in to see him.  We decided to try a(nother) new med, on the theory that I would see him once a month for at least a year.  Except that he is supremely busy, and I am on the cancellation list until July of 2009.  (From then on, I do have a monthly appointment with him, if I can actually make it until then.)

From mid-December, no matter what we told the office assistant, I couldn’t get in to see Dr. W.  It didn’t seem to matter that I ended up moving home with Mom and Dad because I didn’t feel safe at home alone all day, or that my mood had absolutely plummeted on the new med.  Nothing would get me an appointment.

Finally, The Therapist suggested we tell her that it was “urgent”, which is apparently a code word that opens doors as if by magic.  Except.   Except her response was that their office doesn’t handle “emergencies”, so if it was urgent, I needed to go to the ER or to my GP.

Finally, on February 19th, Mom took me to my GP.  By this time, I was in a very bad way.  GP said she couldn’t do anything except admit me to OneSouth.  I didn’t want to go (OH, how BADLY I didn’t want to go), but I told Mom and GP that I was in no position to be making decisions for myself.  And this is how I came to be admitted (involuntarily, despite both my consent and Mom’s – the only way to get a bed was to go involuntarily), and how life started to be a bit brighter.

I have always been terrified of going to the hospital.  I have never been in the hospital overnight, other than for two sleep studies.  And when I practiced law, a number of my firm’s clients were folks with various mental illnesses.  Often when they called, it was from the psych ward.  And did they ever have awful things to say about it!  It’s quite ironic, actually, that their descriptions would foster this great fear in me.  When I think back to those days, one former client in particular comes to my mind, and I wouldn’t have considered here to be a credible witness on any other issue.  One of the more prominent features of her illness was that she was delusional;  most of what she told us was considered to be questionable in terms of it’s actual basis in reality, until further investigation was done.

However, the lasting effect of her (and others’) accounts of life on the psych ward was that I became extremely afraid of the place.  Certainly, at the beginning, a big part of the fear was probably that I wouldn’t, couldn’t, be admitted to the very ward ward where my clients could be.  (My whole adventure with mental illness began in Victoria, and it really was a possibility that such a situation could have happened.)  Thus began more than nine years of absolute refusal to be admitted to any psych ward (even after I left Victoria), and absolute terror of what would happen to me if I were admitted.

Despite my terror, OneSouth is a good place.  Even the isolation ward (where one wears yellow baggy pajamas and has a bare cinderblock room with only a bed, a pillow, and a blanket) isn’t so bad.  I was terrified when I got there, even under the influence of a hefty dose of Haldol. At GP’s office, I literally begged my mother not to send me to OneSouth.  I even at one point promised her that I wouldn’t be ill anymore, I would be better, if only I didn’t have to go.  In the circumstances, I am very proud of her for having made the decision to have me admitted anyway.

I calmed myself down once I was in the “cell”, mostly because I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to go home if I was hysterical.  (Suffice it to say, I could never have actually calmed myself if it weren’t for the shot of Haldol.)  I was, at first, determined to go home as soon as humanly possible (hopefully the next morning, if not sooner).  As time passed, I began thinking that the isolation ward wasn’t such a bad place to be. (I may write more about this in another post.)

I got to see Dr. W. the next afternoon (Friday).  How do you like that?  Three months of begging for a moment of his time…  Admittedly, I wasn’t begging him, but rather his office assistant.  Anyway.  He transferred me to the open side of the ward as soon as we had finished meeting. Our decision was to take me off all of my psych meds so we could start all over again. No better place to do that than in the hospital.

I’m now on a med called Remeron (mirtazapine), and I was in a good place to go off everything else. And I finally got to see for myself what the psych ward was all about.  I have a friend who told me once about one of her other friends who called her times in the psych ward a vacation.  I couldn’t imagine before how anyone could say such a thing, but it is in reality a very nice place to be. Rooms of four, a richly-appointed lounge with a pool table, a table-top curling game, a ping pong table, a piano, board games and puzzles, and lavish comfy chairs. An open kitchen where a person helps herself to whatever she want at any time. A TV room, nurses to look after anything a person needs, and time to do whatever a person wants. I had a grounds pass, so I wasn’t confined to the ward.As long as I wrote on the chalkboard by the nurses’ station that I was going for a walk, I could do it.

I was there from the Thursday of the GP appointment until the following Monday, and it was the best decision I never made.  (I have thanked both my mother and GP many times for finally overruling my fearful protests.)  And, so far, the new med is working well (knock on wood). Not too many side effects (and most of myformer side effects are gone!). I am very sleepy all the time (somnolence being the #1 side effect), and I’m pretty dizzy most of the time (the #2). My appetite is also way crazy (another side effect), but I’m trying to keep my eating in reasonable check.  I had also decided that if I had to choose, I would choose sane and balanced over keeping my girlish (ha ha!) figure.

The big thing:  my mood is better than it has been in many months, and my anxiety (which had become almost unmanageable) is well in control. I haven’t really been doing well since June of 2006 (when I went off all meds to do my second sleep study, which in the end told me absolutely nothing), but I think that I might have turned the corner.

Wow, what a long story.  All to get to the point of writing this:  as I wrote, I am doing better than I have in a very long time.  I nap a lot;  nothing like compulsory napping to make a person feel four years old.  But when I was in my very bad state, having to nap everyday sounded a hell of a lot better than the way I was feeling.  So I’m holding to that memory, and I’m also happy to say that the somnolence is lessening as time passes.

The dizziness, not so much.  I did a trial drive to the grocery store yesterday, having decided that I was okay to be on the roads.  (Fortunately, the grocery store is quite close to my parents’ house, and I can get there and back on roads that are virtually empty of people at the time of day I tried this.)  Turns out, sitting around all day and only moving around the house is a misleading test of how dizzy I am.  I drove home very carefully, on the deserted roads.  So I have to give up some of my independence and allow other people to drive me places.  (Have I mentioned that public transit makes me very anxious?)  And I even have to ask people for rides, which is an exercise that The Therapist will be very happy to hear about.

My appetite is still enormous;  indeed, it seem to grown everyday.  I could eat the world, that’s how it feels.  So we’ve stocked up on fruit, veggies, cereal bars, rice cakes, cheese and crackers, and the like.  I’m not trying to diet, but if I’m going to eat the world, I might as well start on the healthier part.  Get some of my recommended servings from the food pyramid.

I am slowly starting to get back to my routine.  I’m going out to dinner with The Roomie tonight, and tomorrow I am going to a Chamber of Commerce social for the SPCA.  I’m posting here, and I’m catching up gradually on the many posts piled in my Google reader.  I’ll post something soon for Dannan, too.  It’s all so much better than it’s been in so long, I can’t even begin to tell you (even though my 1800 words so far are probably far too long of a start!)

That’s the update.  Now for the next part….  Elton John gives me shivers!

I was watching the last episode of The Bachelor last night (no, I’m not going to bother linking to it;  Google it if you need to find out what I’m talking about), as well as their post-competition wrap-up shows.  (Yes, I watch terrible t.v.  You don’t have to watch it with me, so let me have my vice in peace.)  During the commerical break, I was channel-surfing, and I found this:  Elton John: Live at the Royal Opera House.  As long as I can see him perform songs like “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” and “Your Song”, the world is a wonderful place.

Seriously, hearing him play these songs with a 90-piece symphony sent shivers through me.  And at the time, I was thinking:  I must always remember that life is worth living so long as there is music out there that can send chills through my entire body when I hear it.

Music is so powerful, such a gift to humanity.  For me, many pieces of music (from all sorts of different genres) evoke this kind of response.  Elton John (at least his older work) is an example.  If death metal, hip hop or even Marilyn Manson give you chills, then I’m glad for it.  Even if I don’t understand it, I’m glad for it.  If there’s someone out there with this kind of musical taste who can tell me that it makes you shiver, please leave a comment.  For me, this is the magic of music, and I’m curious to know if you fans feel the same way.

Enough for today.  I’ve got many other ideas for posts bubbling away in my brain, so hopefully my next post will be soon!

Yesterday was a very bad day.  My mood was about as low as it’s been in years.  I actually had a strong urge to swallow all of my sleeping pills, just to escape the pain.  (This is not something I have experienced before, this urge to just reach over, open the bottle, and swallow all the pills there.  My previous episodes of suicidal ideation have not been like this.  Perhaps I’ll write about them another day.)

Dannan did his job, as Suicide Prevention Dog, and the urge remained only a compelling thought.  So long as I have Dannan, I will not attempt suicide.  I will not leave him wondering where his person has gone.

(I know that this reasoning should apply to my other loved ones as well;  all I can say is that in the deepest, darkest pits of despair, I can convince myself that my human loved ones will understand that I had to end the pain.  But I know that Dannan will not understand.  And, you know, whatever works to keep me alive.  I know that feelings are transient, and that if I wait it out, my despair and desperation will pass.  Dannan is what gives me the strength to hold on while that happens.)

Then, I went to my appointment today with The Counsellor, and discovered that I was late – by 24 hours.  My appointment was yesterday.  I was so ashamed to have totally stood him up like that.  That’s just not me. I know that this is an unreasonable response, but that was the emotion that I felt.

I read this saying today:  Sometimes you have to take one step backwards so you can see the path that goes forward. I sure hope this is true.  I’d like to think that I’m still making progress, somehow.

I also received a message on facebook from a woman I knew years ago.  She included this story, one that has helped her through her own period of stepping backwards.  It is something that I think I’ll print out and re-read from time to time:

A poor farmer lost the only horse he had. When the villagers heard that the horse had run off, they sympathised with the farmer and said, “Bad luck.” The farmer answered, “Who can say?

On the next day, the horse returned home with ten other horses.  When the villagers heard this, they returned and said, “Good luck.” The farmer replied, “Who can say?”

Later that day, while training one of the new horses, the farmer’s son fell off the horse and broke his leg. Again, the villagers sympathised and said, “Bad luck.” The farmer replied, “Who can say?”

On the following day, the army came into the village and took all the young men away to fight at war.  The farmer’s son was not taken because of his broken leg. All the villagers rejoiced: “Good luck.” The farmer replied, “Who can say?”

Sometimes we succeed in getting what we think will be good for us, and it turns out to be a disaster.  And sometimes apparent disaster turns out to be good fortune.  Who has not experienced this paradox in his or her life?

I am a ruminant.  I allow my mind to focus on some thought, and I worry it to death.  Often, people liken this to a hamster, stuck in a wheel, careening crazily to nowhere.  Apt.  The more I ruminate about something, the higher my anxiety level shoots.  The higher my anxiety, the more frantically I ruminate, I think in an attempt to try to control something.  There is definitely a component to this kind of anxiety that makes one believe that if only one worries hard enough, obsesses long enough, one will have a talisman against bad things happening.  Not true, of course.  All that is guaranteed by this rumination is that one’s stress level will be off the charts, and the bad thing will either happen or not, just as it would have done without the rumination.

At any rate, my ruminations right now have a particular focus.  (Sometimes, they have no focus at all.)  First, the background.

I have begun to see an new psychiatrist, Dr. V.  He has a whole list of new meds for me to try, in the ongoing attempt to reduce my anxiety and improve my mood.  I have been working on Cymbalta since the beginning of December;  it is hard to tell whether my high anxiety and desperation were side effects, or if they were just par for the December course for me.  Perhaps everything would have been even worse without the Cymbalta.  I did wean myself off of it, but then decided that I needed to try it again before my next appointment with Dr. V.

I have to admit, I don’t really think that I will ever find the magic combination that will make me “well”.  (“Well” being a relative term, of course.)  So the rumination that I have been working on lately is this:  if this is the best I will ever get, can I accept it?

After many days of obsessive consideration, I think that I might just be able to accept my life this way, if and only if I can somehow believe that it is okay to let go.  (I was going to type, “give up”, but if I’m talking about acceptance, those words have no place.)  I would really and truly have to believe, based on (probably) input from Dr. V and the Counsellor, that it is okay to live like this for the rest of my life, that I am not giving up, that I am not being the bad person who malingers.  I am not really certain about what would cause me to have such a real and true belief;  at this point, I cannot envision that it could come from within me.

At the same time, I think that I would be driven truly insane if I had to live decades as I now do.  I am coming up on the anniversary of the day my mind broke;  on January 25th, it will be nine years;  in some ways, I cannot believe that it has been that long but in others, it seems like I’ve lived like this forever.  I hope that if I had the real and true belief, I could be satisfied and content.  But it is hard for me to imagine.  Some days I cannot see how I will live through one more day like this, never mind the rest of my life.

I’m losing focus here, so perhaps I will end it now.  The post, I mean.  (Obligatory black humour of a chronic depressive.  Forgive me.)  I am on the cancellation list for appointments with Dr. V until July, so I have no clue when I will see him again.  I am supposed to see him monthly, but it has been eight weeks since my last (and only) appointment with him.  NOT helping my anxiety!

Read the rest of this entry »

Well, it seems to be Doctor Days here at The Muse Asylum.  Appointments today and tomorrow… nothing to worry about.  Today was all about prescription renewals, updating my GP about which specialists I’ve heard from, and talking about the icky way I’ve been feeling lately (headaches every day, wheezing, tight chest, and feeling just a bit unwell).  She confirmed my suspicions of why I’ve been feeling that way.  An appointment with her takes up most of the day, because she runs far, far behind schedule.

Tomorrow is therapy day.  So it’s always fun, fun, fun.

I also did some shopping today for Halloween.  I’ve been trying to decide on a costume, and I’ve narrowed it down to two:  Queen of Darkness, or a dust bunny.  I can’t make up my mind, so I’m touring all the second-hand shops and dollar stores for supplies to make both.

Must go do my homework for therapy.  Yes, I have had two weeks to do it, and yes, I put it off until tonight.  Not technically the last minute, although I was thinking that perhaps I could do it in the waiting room before my appointment…  The Counsellor is always late, too.

My Thursday Thirteen tomorrow might not be posted until later in the day, but it’ll get up there eventually!

That’s one of my favourite Matchbox 20 songs.  Okay, I love all the Matchbox 20 songs.  And that song really has nothing to do with what I’m going to type.

Thanks to everyone who posted during the National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week, and everyone who posted supportive things after my last therapy session.  I’m gradually catching up on things, but I might not reply to all the comments made last week.  I usually like to reply to all the comments I get, but that just might not happen.  Thanks to everyone, though, for reading and sharing.

So, Tuesday was a bummer of a day.  Therapy is hard work.  Sometimes, it really hurts.  Tuesday was one of those brutally painful days for me.  Neither The Counsellor nor I thought we’d end up where we did.  I didn’t even know that what we found was in there.  One of the things we learn about in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is core beliefs.  Here is one way to describe what a core belief is (from mentalhealth.net):

Core beliefs are fundamental assumptions people have made that influence how they view the world and themselves. People get so used to thinking in these core ways that they stop noticing them or questioning them. Simply put, core beliefs are the unquestioned background themes that govern depressed people’s perceptions. For example, a depressed person might think “I am unlovable” or “I am inadequate and inferior” and because these beliefs are unquestioned, they are acted upon as though they are real and true.

So I found out that I had a core belief that I didn’t even suspect that I had.  I’m not going to go into it;  suffice it to say that it totally threw me for a loop.  A painful, icky loop.

However, the fact that it’s there explains a lot about my life to date.  And while I feel like I’ve poked a big monster in the eye with a stick, I’m going to keep working on it.  I know that it will probably really hurt and be really hard, but let me tell you this:  if I can change this core belief, then I can change my life.  Seriously and truly change my life.

The Counsellor is a very gentle and supportive guy, and he lets me call stop when we hit something I’m not ready to deal with.  It’s a safe place to work with him, and when I said that I didn’t want to go any further, he accepted that and we stopped.  He’d always told me that we’d work at my pace, and to let him know if I wasn’t ready, but I’d never tested that before.  I trusted him before, but it’s always nice to have trust proven when you’re dealing with bits and pieces of the mind and soul.

So I’m going back, and we’ll continue to explore this new bugaboo we’ve discovered.  At my pace, which might not be fast, but I will get there eventually.

Just wanted to let you all know that I’m back on my feet, and feeling positive again today.  Back to good.

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