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Diagnosis: Depression

Depression.  A scary word, even scarier is the loss of control that comes with it.

womanonthefence.com

I have suspected for a while now that I was suffering from depression.  Was I going to do anything about it?  Nope.  Absolutely not.  Admitting was enough.  Admitting meant that I could work on the problem privately.  The power of positive thinking is not to be undermined.  I thought I could literally will myself happy, after all, I was the one allowing myself to be so affected by things I couldn’t control.  My doctor thought otherwise.

Almost six years ago, I developed an extremely rare condition in which my white blood cells began to attack the covering of my muscles.  I was quite literally being eaten from the inside.  I was put on radiation treatment in hopes that my blood cells could be “tricked” into thinking normally again.  I was on the medication for several years and recovering well when I developed another rare condition.  This time the white blood cells are attacking my skin.  There is no treatment for this condition.  I simply have to wait it out and it will take 4-6 years before disappearing.  Since there is literally nothing to be done about it, I grew tired of travelling 3 hours to see a specialist only to have him hum and haw and marvel over the impossibility of someone having not one but two rare conditions and parading me past his medical students as a learning specimen.  I opted out of our twice yearly visits.  I didn’t want to shun all medical care however so I made an appointment to discuss my case with my local family doctor.  I had a multitude of questions besides just wanting him to keep track of the growing spots on my limbs.  Top of my list was the effects of the drugs I was required to take.  I have inconsistent memory and frequently can’t remember little things like why I’m in the grocery store or forget school events.  Another symptom that continues to plague me is comprehension.  Some days it feels like there is a block in my brain that refuses to allow the messages to pass no matter how hard I try.  I also have difficulty with concentration.  If more than one person is speaking at a time, I become overwhelmed and cannot focus on anything.  All of these I attributed to the drugs I had taken.  Basically, I felt they had destroyed a part of my life.

My doctor had other ideas.  He immediately refuted the drug idea.  They pass out of the body within months after you stop using them.  One concern was the description of a blockage in my brain though.  I have scar tissue built up on my arms and around my ankles restricting movement and he was concerned that some scaring had occurred on the brain as well.  He suggested an MRI.  I wasn’t thrilled, especially since he couldn’t guarantee any fix, simply an answer as to why.  He kept the conversation casual and listened closely to what I had to say and finally told me I tested positive for depression.  There is an 8 question test and I tested positive for 7 of them.  I was devastated.  My dad is bipolar and his condition makes life difficult for my mother.  I did not want my husband or kids to have to deal with me like that.  Up and down.  Unstable.  Out of control.  The doctor insisted he was giving me back the control.  That the pills would help me focus instead of anxiously chasing one frantic thought after another.  I have developed a pill phobia.  Having to take any medication is a major issue for me.  I was in tears.  I didn’t need them.  I was handling things my own way.  He gently coaxed me to give it a try.  He produced a trial box and told me to come back in two weeks.  If I decided I really didn’t want them, I could simply stop.  It was up to me.

It was the hardest decision I have made.  It took almost the full two weeks to accept that I really do need the pills.  They are making a difference and I am happier and calmer than I have been.  Admitting that I had lost control actually gave me back control.  I am glad I took the time to speak with my doctor.

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Address to the Critic

Let’s face it; if you’ve followed my blog at all then you now know I suffer from extreme insecurity.  Today it hit me square in the face.  I should have known it was coming.  I had

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tossed and turned half the night defending myself to mysterious figments.  The problem is I just don’t seem to measure up to anybody’s standards.

I’m not pretty enough.  Really.  I’m three years shy of 40 with grey hairs that refuse to be hidden any longer and now require regular trips to the hairdresser.  Sorry but the whole spring chick window has been closed for me.

I weigh too much.  Yep.  I know.  I just don’t have any desire to do anything about it at the moment.  Talk to me when my stress levels have dropped 4 or 5 notches.  Better yet, come help me eliminate my stress.  I can personally guarantee a drop in weight will follow.

Get a job.  This is a really tough one for me.  I battle just as much with myself as with others who say it.  The trouble is I live in a small town that has the mistaken idea that a part-time job means 2-3 full days per week.  No half days.  This makes it difficult for a mother with children to find work.  We don’t have the option of working only during school hours.  My children would have to walk to and from school, pouring rain, blowing snow, -30 in the winter, +30 in the spring and fall.  I just don’t have the heart to make them do it.  When it’s -30 in the winter with an icy breeze blowing, it cuts your breath off.  I can’t even walk to the end of my block with a scarf wrapped around my face.  Older women have told me it’s not worth it.  Now is the time to spend with my children, a time of precious memories.  This is where my dilemma comes in.  Do I follow the wisdom of the older generation or tread the trail of my time and add extra income?

Church.   This is a biggie.  Once again it carries so much of my own expectations of myself.  The only time we missed church when I was small was a blizzard or if both my parents were sick.  I feel so much pressure to set the same model for my kids but life is more complicated.  My husband does not share the same ideal.  If I want my kids at every church meeting, I have to be the one to take them.  Then there is church itself.  I don’t attend often enough.  I don’t participate in activities.  I don’t…I don’t…I don’t.

Your son disrespects you.  He is expressing an opinion.

Your house is not clean enough.  The maid was busy.

You draw inappropriate material.  I like it.  It appeals to me.

You are lazy.  I prefer the term “slow-moving”.

You have all these business ideas yet do nothing.  One word.  Fear.

Once during one of my self-bashing tyrants, my mother told me, “God created you equal to everyone else”.  This has become a sort of motto for my life.  When I start to doubt myself, I square my shoulders and repeat this phrase.  It has helped me place one foot in front of the other and march through a new door.  Every so often, innocent comments creep under my bravado and I feel myself stooping under their weight.  I get angry.  If God created me equal, why can’t anyone else see it?!!

 

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A Moment of Vulnerability

image from toniccare.com

A man looked at me today.  He shook my hand and waited until I met his eyes before he let go.  I wonder what he saw.  Did he see the lurking unhappiness?  Did he see a woman who was trying for just a few hours to forget how difficult life is?  That single connection, that moment suspended in time made me feel very vulnerable.  The big question “Why?” haunts me.  Why was it important to see me?  Why did he look deeper?

I spend my days with people who are caught in their own maelstroms.  Life is seldom dull these days.  Everyone has their own trials from home repair wars to battles with children to struggling to fit in with the right crowd.  I am not a reserved person.  I will tell anyone who is willing to listen how difficult my life has recently become.  Rather, I am trying very hard to not spill my sorry story.  I am trying to listen instead of talk.  Most people don’t really care in the long run anyway.  Scandal, gossip, exciting events, these are the things that make up the majority of conversation.  My life stresses haven’t changed.  They cycle over and over with no sign of resolution.  I have seen friends become frustrated with me because there is no change in my life despite their well-meaning opinions.  So the question remains, why did he pause to recognize me?

How often do you truly see the person you are talking to?  How often do you take the time to actually listen to what they are saying, to actually hear the pain and worry in their lives?  I have to admit that I don’t often.  I am usually rushing from one activity to another and don’t have time or simply don’t know what to say so instead I make a little quip and change the subject.  I detest people who make me feel as though I am a victim in my own life and constantly need to try to solve my dilemmas.  They are easily recognizable.  They usually start the conversation with a consolatory click of their tongue and a “How’s it going” sigh.  Most times I just need someone to listen to what I am saying.  It feels really good to share with others.  When I listen, am I genuinely hearing what they are telling me?  Am I looking deeper and seeing the reasons behind the story?

As humans that tenuous thread between us is so important to our well-being.  I watched my kids tonight at youth group building little webs of friendships.  My oldest girl with her shy glances at the boys, my boy still not quite comfortable in the group but leaning against the wall acting cool and nodding casually to ones who passed, my youngest giddy at being with the older ones and sharing giggles with another friend lucky enough to be allowed out.  They are creating little invisible strings flowing from person to person weaving and swaying, binding all together.  Each time two pairs of eyes meet a stronger thread forms.  Friendships are forged.  The eyes really are the windows to our souls.  That single moment of vulnerability when another looks, really looks, at us can cause an immediate retreat like I did but it could also be the beginning of a great friendship.  When was the last time you looked into someone’s eyes?

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2012 in musings, random, Uncategorized

 

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Finding a Sunny Patch

photo from bluebattinghelmet.wordpress.com

I feel happy today.  It is the first time in a while that I can truly say that.  The world shattered around my feet but I am starting inch by inch to creep out to that sunny patch.  I keep stubbing my toes but the light is pulling me forward.

My husband and I are learning to live together again.  We had been seeing a marriage counselor for a couple months.  One session about a month ago, the counselor suddenly informed us that he was only a temporary replacement and would not be returning to our area until October.  We were free, of course, to continue with the returning therapist but both my husband and I were reluctant to start with someone new.  It took us a while to open up and we did not want to have to repeat the process again and then again in October.  I was terrified.  We both give a little but do not meet in the middle.  My husband is very strict and I am a free spirit.  Polar opposites.  Even the counselor looked nervous for us as he shook our hands goodbye.  However, we had learned a lot.  I discovered that while my husband hears what I say, he rarely interprets the meaning correctly.  He found out no matter how demanding he is, it simply cannot change my irritating habits.  Our personalities differ as well.  I am abstract and often distracted.  He resembles an express train, goal in hand, he never stops till he reaches it.  We learned about the relationship triangle and how to step off it, refusing to be a victim anymore.  We were told the proper way to argue, more importantly, I was told NO MORE YELLING!!  I am still working on this annoying concept.  The month following our final session, we were like young children trying to ride a bike without training wheels.  There were a lot of falls, a lot of throwing in the towel.  And to make matters worse, life continued to crumble.

My husband’s job future became very insecure.  He never knew from week to week, even day to day if there would be work for him.  After two very tiny paychecks, he sold his small company and took a regular job.  It means a substantial cut in pay.  We were left with bills and taxes owing on the business and no way to pay them.  His final paycheck was barely enough to pay for food.  I have to relearn how to live on a budget and stick to it.  Remember, I am a free spirit.  Rules are only guidelines and I hyperventilate when forced to abide by them.  I am used to having the freedom to spend when and how I felt the money was needed.  Stress is driving me into the fetal position.  And through all this, my kids started to crumble.

We went from a single parent household with the occasional dad to a dad being present every evening and every weekend.  Every child’s dream, right?  Well, for my kids suddenly having a father demanding that a routine be followed, chores done, and exclusive TV rights, this was like waking up in the middle of a nightmare.  Daily battles with my barely teenage son, torrents of tears from my teen daughter, and clingy hugs from my baby girl [preteen:( ] took place.  Life became a game of survival.  I dealt with the changes the only way I know how, I hid.  I started withdrawing from friends, I slept the entire day while the kids were in school and stayed up till 3am.  I ate, jumped from one crazy and frantic get-rich-quick scheme to another, and cried.  And without noticing, life stopped crumbling.

We learned to adapt.  I went on a diet.  The kids worked out a TV compromise with their dad.  Boundaries were laid out and consequences for breaking rules were drawn up.  Respect for their dad returned.  I still struggle with poor sleep habits and budgeting but over all this has been a positive change in our lives.  We discovered the tools handed us by our counselor really do help.  My husband is happier, my kids are growing.  And I learned a stubbed toe only hurts for a little while.

I am happy again.

 

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The Great Squirrel Rescue

Unfortunately my photo of Theodore didn't turn out good. This is a fox squirrel from wikipedia.org

My daughter brought home a squirrel.

It had been abandoned by its mother.  Actually, we think that the nest had been destroyed to make room for a person house instead.  So wee, little Theodore came to stay at our house.  I have taught my daughter well.  The first thing she did was sit down to the computer and Google how to care for an orphaned squirrel baby.  She printed off sheets, a grand total of 32 pages.  (She hasn’t grasped the concept of copy and print selection yet.  Yes.  Mother did have a heart attack!)  She took her “manual” to the neighbour girl and the two poured over the comprehensive instructions of Squirrel Care 101.  Together they stashed the little guy in the neighbour’s dog house for the night.  They bedded it down with an old pillow case, some peanuts, and a dish of water.  They were “vets”.

Around bedtime, I became curious about this little critter that was causing so much excitement and was the answer to their greatest dreams.  I pulled out my camera to look at the photo taken earlier in the day.  The squirrel was much tinier than I had thought.  I actually thought that it was a fully-grown, newly kicked out of mama’s care squirrel.  The baby in the photo was clearly just that, a baby.  I began to worry.  Babies need milk and warmth.  They need comfort and care.  A dog house was not the place for an orphaned animal.  An intervention was necessary.

123rf.com

So midnight found me creeping through my neighbour’s backyard with a flashlight, praying with all my might that their dog that is really more like a horse was not put outside for the night.  My daughter was terrified.  She kept pleading with me to forget the whole thing.  She was scared of a skinny eleven-year-old girl not the dog-horse!  We both jumped when that girl came flying around the corner to see what we were doing with the squirrel.  I didn’t give them a choice; baby was coming to live with us.  The poor thing was scared and shivering, a lot like the two girls who should have been asleep hours ago.  Quick as a wink the neighbour slipped back into her own cozy home.  Thinking about it now, I wonder if her mother even realised she had escaped the house.

My giddy child scrambled to find the proper bedding and small dog kennel for the newly christened, Theodore.  We settled him down in a soft flannel sheet with a toasty warm bean bag for heat.  He buried himself head first into nest, the most adorable fur ball on the block.  My daughter was sternly directed towards her own bed and I sat down to read her “manual”, all 32 pages.  The internet has very clear information on orphaned squirrels.  The pages included everything from what and exactly when to feed it to how to clean and care for its other needs to releasing it back into the wild.  On every new section, bold letters marched across the page,

Find A Wildlife Rehabilitation Specialitist Immediately.

A wildlife rehabilitation specialitist?  What is that?

By this time, Theodore had warmed up enough to feed a little.  We warmed some ensure (which I am told was not right although I did get that off one site).  We didn’t even have a syringe in our house.  My kids have outgrown liquid medicine and I must have tossed the last one.  I held the tiny squirrel in a towel and my husband poured fluids into a pen casing, an improvised straw.  The baby, who we determined was about 5 weeks old, was starving.  He drank double, triple the amount the experts suggested.  His tummy full, freshly clean and bathed, he snuggled back into his nest to sleep.  I returned to ponder wildlife rehabilitation.

What I discovered started a new dream for my daughter.  She has decided she wants to be one when she is finished school.  A wildlife rehabilitation specialist is just that.  Someone who takes in the local wildlife who is sick, injured, or orphaned and cares for the animal until it is able to be released back into the wild again.  It is an actual organization monitored with guidelines on care throughout Canada and the United States.  I’m not sure how someone qualifies.  I assume they must have to take some sort of training because I did see some sites with information about certification but the center where we dropped off Theodore was just someone’s home.  The home was on several acres of forested land with several enclosures similar to a zoo.  The lady who met us at the door knew exactly what to do with our little Fox Squirrel.  She had Pedialyte to start him on and even had powdered squirrel formula.  She was amazing with my daughter.  She took the time to reassure her that the squirrel would be very happy there and made sure my girl understood how much work caring for a wild animal actually was and how delicate a process it is to make certain that the animal is not too domesticated to return to the wild.  I was thrilled we had decided to turn the squirrel over.  We left with promises of pictures posted on their web site so we can track the baby’s progress and a newfound respect for the people who give so much of their time for God’s little creatures.  Most wildlife rehabilitation facilities are run entirely on donations and the time willing given by its volunteers.  I don’t know if my daughter will ever be able to fulfill her dream of creating her own center but I fully appreciate and admire those today who are.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2012 in family, musings, random

 

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Your Friend or Mine?

My grandparents still together after 57 years. I hope to be sitting with my husband at the end of our years in spite of the trials of our life.

When my husband and I started having difficulties in our marriage, it affected every area of our lives.  He rarely called during working hours anymore.  He works long hours and is often not home at night so phone calls are our main means of communication.  Home time was spent with him in front of the TV or computer or other electronic device, I rushed around keeping the kids in line, using the opportunity to grocery shop without an entourage, or relax with a book in my bedroom.  Socially we started doing things separately from each other.  It was never a spoken agreement rather sort of a mutual consensus that he had his interests and I mine.  Without realizing it, friends became pawns.

This was glaringly obvious when I attempted to join him one weekend in a visit with one of our friends.  I had thought that this would be a nice way to reconnect.  We were leaving the kids at home and it was just the two of us going to visit with a couple who are easy to be around.  I was surprised, hurt, and more than a little angry when my husband tried to discourage me from coming with him.  This was his downtime and I was most definitely not invited.  I went anyway.  It was not one of my greater ideas.  It only emphasized the gap widening between us.

We often vacillated between friends and strangers, sometimes in as little as several hours.  Naturally with so much emotional intensity, each of us sought an outlet for our angst.  I turned to my mother for encouragement, sympathy, and the occasional scolding.  He talked with close personal friends.  Never once did I think about the aftershock that was sure to follow.  It came as a complete shock one afternoon when a dear friend would not speak to me.  Mystified, I was describing his odd behaviour to my husband during one of our amiable times.  A guilty look crossed his face and he confessed to confiding in great detail to this friend the extent of our marital discord.  Never before had I considered that we would lose our mutual companions.  I myself try to be impartial and recognize that there are always two sides to a story whenever I hear a disagreement.  I naively thought everyone did this.

This started a new chapter for me.  I became more conscious about who I talked to and how much I shared.  I focused more on my children and their friends.  I cultivated anonymous online friendships that required no personal information or input from me.  In short, I became shallow, only concerned with myself and my own feelings.  Deeply hurt by betrayal, I still struggle to fully trust my friends.  After all a friend is someone who makes life bearable and helps us over the bumps in the roads.  Friends are there to laugh with, empathize with.  They are a connection in this world of empty faces, the strings that tie each one of us to the other one.  They are that elusive feeling of belonging that each of us strives for it.  Can a broken person be a good friend?

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2012 in family, marriage

 

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