Being Hopeful

Journal Entry January 23, 2013

R stood me up yesterday.  We were to meet for coffee at Starbucks and he never came.  I guess I am not too surprised.  I mean, why would he want to go on a date with me in the first place?  I mean, it is me we are talking about.  When I was at Starbucks, I kept thinking of reasons as to why he may be late, and then as to why he had not shown up.  I stayed there a long while, being hopeful.  After the tables around me had been sat a couple of times over with new people, I decided I had better go home.  I don’t think I felt much of anything at the time.  Now I feel upset.  That would have been my first ‘date’ in several years.  I am trying to turn things around for myself, but when something like this happens, it’s hard not to feel like there is something wrong with me.  If I was OK, then this wouldn’t have happened.  But that is a negative thought.  The program is over and I’m not supposed to have negative thoughts.  I should have some strategies that I have learned that will help me turn this thought around.  Right now, I can’t think of any.  I should go to my big blue binder and look through all of the information I collected to help me with this situation.  Truthfully, I just want to go and lie down on my couch.  I don’t have the energy to wade through my binder.  Is this an example of me not helping myself out?  Do I have to report this to Dr. F?  Why does something like this have to happen so soon after leaving the program?  Is this a test?  If it is, then I am failing miserably.

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February 5, 2017

So R stood me up.  Well, what did I expect from a guy without a telephone?  I guess he couldn’t call me to say he wasn’t gong to show up.

I remember that day quite clearly, as the prospect of going on a date was such a novelty after so many years without doing so.  We had planned to meet at Starbucks for a coffee.  We had drank so many of them in the program together, that this seemed like a natural venue to meet at.  I prepared for our ‘date’ carefully.  I didn’t want it to appear that I had taken too much trouble getting ready, so R wouldn’t get the impression that this was a terrifically significant occasion for me.  I think putting together a casually ‘just thrown together’ look takes more time and effort to achieve then one when I am prepping for an evening out where I want to look my best!  I couldn’t decide if jeans, boots, and a jacket were a good look, or if it would be better to wear a long skirt, slouchy boots and a big sweater.  And a hat, or do my hair?  I love hats.  I must have over forty of them hanging in my closet, and in hat boxes in my basement.  Would a hat look too polished?  Or would it appear like I was covering up a bad hair day?  I wanted him to think that I hadn’t put too much energy into my apparel.  But I didn’t want him to think that I didn’t care what I looked like and had just donned a chapeaux to cover an oily, rats nest hidden underneath!  And I put on way more makeup then I usually wear in an attempt to get a non-made up look.  Who knew I had so many neutral colours in my cosmetics arsenal?

One thing the program did NOT help me with is making decisions.  I randomly laid out all of the potential outfit pieces on my bed.  I scrutinized them for quite some time, until a dull ache began to grow behind my eyes.  I closed my eyes and massaged my temples, deciding that the best way to make a decision would be if I made the outfits up as if I was inside them.  I opened my eyes and began putting the pieces together as a whole ensemble.  I arranged the arms of the sweater and the jacket as if I was throwing a ball in the hopes that giving them an action would make them seem more lifelike, and a better representation of what they might appear like on my body.  I then decided throwing a ball was not an accurate example of what I might be doing in my clothes that day, so I tried several other active positions, moving the legs of my jeans and the folds of my skirt as well.  The boots stubbornly just stayed in one place.  I could feel my face starting to redden with frustrations as I was no nearer making a decision as I was when I began this ridiculous endeavour.  I caught a glimpse of my angry self in the mirror, and it occurred to me then that I should try ON the pieces and model them in front of the mirror.  I tried on both outfits more than once, and stood in front of the mirror each time, a marvel of indecision.  After agonizing over my wardrobe for an inordinate amount of time, I finally settled on a compromise.  I wore jeans, the slouchy boots and my big sweater.  My brain was too exhausted from this ordeal to make any further decisions, so I grabbed two hats and flew out the door, my messy hair trailing behind.  I had spent so much time fretting over my wardrobe, I was in danger of being late!  As I noted before, being late is a pastime that I am an expert at.  Or rather, that I used to be an expert at.  However, back in 2013, I was still in the throes of being a specialist, and I continually struggled to arrive at my destination on time.  That particular day, though, it was imperative that I arrive on time so R wouldn’t think that I had stood him up.

I raced through the streets like Mario Andretti, careening around corners on two wheels and screeching my brakes to a halt whenever a red light confronted me.  I couldn’t tell how many yellow lights I ran, but I knew I was lucky that I hadn’t been pulled over en route to the coffee house.  In no time, I arrived at the mall.  Not being blessed with good parking spot karma, I had to putt around the parking lot going under 10 km an hour, in search of a place to park my vehicle.  It seemed like everyman and his dog had come to the mall that particular day!  I finally found a place to park my car at the other end of the vast parking lot from Starbucks.  I tumbled out of my car and began to run across the lot.  The pavement held hard packed snow and ice, so I found myself slipping and sliding, as the boots I was wearing were made for fashion, and not for traversing across the rough tundra.  The wind had a sharp bite to it and it buffeted around my hair, stinging my cheeks and eyes.  I somehow managed to cross the huge parking lot without being hit, or sliding under someone’s car, and I reached the door seconds before I had to meet R.  I saw a reflection of myself in the storefront window and I was appalled!  So much for all the effort to achieve an unmade up face.  My cheeks were bright red and my eyes were watering from the wind, causing my mascara to lay smudged under my eyes.  And my hair!  What a godawful mess!  Good think I had brought a few hats to choose from to cover it up with.  My hats!  I had forgotten them in the car!  I looked at my watch and knew I wouldn’t have time to whip into the restroom and work on my dishevelled look.  In dismay, I opened the large door and slipped inside.

The room was packed full of people sharing hot brews with their chums.  I scanned the room, searching for R, but he had not arrived yet.  I managed to find a small table in the centre of the room.  I unzipped my parka, loosened my scarf, and made a feeble attempt at fixing my hair.  And then I sat…and waited…and waited…and waited.  After some time had passed, I got up and ordered myself a grande, extra hot, non-fat latte, all the while keeping one eye peeled on the doorway.  I took my coffee back to my seat and settled down into the downy warmth of my parka.  I began to imagine a multitude of reasons why R was not here yet.  I knew he didn’t have a car, so he was relying on some other mode of transportation to get here.  Anything can happen when you are taking public transit, I reasoned.  I finished my latte and wondered if I should get another one.  I continued to entertain thoughts as to why he had not yet arrived.  What if his mother, of whom he was fond of, had fallen and broken her hip and R was rushing her to the hospital on the bus?  What if the bus R was travelling in had three flat tires, and R, being of sound mind and body, had gotten out to change all three tires? Maybe when R was running to get a taxi, he slipped and bumped his head and was now wandering around the streets of the city not knowing who he was?  As I stood in line waiting for my second drink, I decided he was not coming.  When I sat back down again, I conjured up reasons why he was unable to make it.  The longer I sat there, sipping my second grande, extra hot, non-fat latte, the more colourful the reasons why R was unable to come, floated into my head.  After I could not think of any other excuses he might have, I stared at my phone on the table.  No matter what he might say to me later, he never bothered to alert me through WhatsApp as to why he was not in attendance.  I started getting ready to go, bundling up to face the extreme weather outside.  I tossed both of my coffee cups away and headed for the door.  And…that was it.  I never heard from R again.

Being stood up on a date is not a pleasant experience for anybody.  I think if it happened to me again, I would definitely be disappointed, maybe angry, but I hope I would not think that there was something wrong with me.  Instead, I hope I would be forgiving of the other person, and gentle with myself.  No matter what is occurring, being hopeful is indeed a positive way in which to live my life.

 

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Thinking Thoughts

Journal Entry January 20, 2013

I watched the sun rise today.  Sleep did not come to me, so I lay in bed while the thoughts swirled inside my head.  A plethora of thoughts, crowding each other out vying for my attention.  Pushing and shoving each other around in a raucous manner that left my head aching.  My blood pumping through my veins, seemingly slowed around my brain, throbbing in rhythmic intensity at my temples.  What am I going to do now?  How will I get through each day without the structure of the program I have grown accustomed to?  Will I slide back down to the depths of my being?  Again.  How will I survive?  Who can I look to when I need support?  What if the black thoughts envelope me in their suffocating folds, overpowering me for once and for all, bringing an end to my miserable existence?  The Beast.  What if the Beast wins?

Finally I got up to get ready for this, my last day in the program.  It was way to early to even think of getting out of bed, but I couldn’t attempt to fend off the army of thoughts marching about in my head any longer.  I knew I had to do something to save my sanity.  I went through my morning routine, acutely aware of the fact that less than three weeks ago I didn’t HAVE a morning routine.  I should have stopped and celebrated that realization, but instead it left me with a sense of foreboding that hung about me like a heavy brocade curtain.  If more than three weeks ago I was still in the depths of despair, where would I be in three weeks to come?  Could I evoke the lessons the program promised would save me, and apply them to my real life in the next three weeks?  And beyond?  All by myself?  And the thoughts began to tumble about my brain again, jockeying for a good position within which they could be heard.

At some point during this deluge, I looked out the window and noticed the deep salmon and scarlet brilliance on the horizon.  The velvet blue of the night sky was dissipating, and replacing it were waves of rich colour that rolled forward and up, chasing the darkness away.  The sun peeked its way out of its hiding spot, bringing with it rose and violet streaks that stretched up to join the clouds.  As the sun began to rise, the thoughts in my head were quieted.  I watched the splendour of Mother Nature unfolding in breathless silence.  Once the sun had risen, I realized that only five weeks ago I would not have been able to appreciate this daily miracle.  I would not have been able to get out of bed to see it.  With this thought in mind, I finished getting ready and prepared to go to my first group.

The day passed like every other day had since I began the program.  In a haze of activity, I moved from one session to the next feeling numb inside.  Most of the therapists acknowledged that today was my last day.  The responses I heard from other patients were varied.  There were those who congratulated me and told me they had enjoyed watching me grow as the long weeks had been passing by.    There were also patients who looked at me jealously, not offering wishes of good will.  But there eyes spoke volumes to me.  And then there were the newer patients who would not look at me at all, drowning in the sorrow in their souls.  At the very end of the day, R came up to me and gave me his contact information.  Or rather he helped me put WhatsApp on my phone so I could contact him, as he didn’t have a phone number that I could call him at.  I was shocked, as R is quite a handsome man and someone I had grown to like very much in our time in the program together.  Did R like me too?  A faint flicker of hope flashed through my heart, as I accepted the scrap of paper he gave me.  On it was a number that held potential for me.  I felt a ripple of happiness, as we arranged to meet for coffee in a few days.  Happiness.  How long has it been since I actually felt that emotion?  I almost didn’t recognize it for what it was.  But niggling in the back of my head was the thought, what kind of a guy his age doesn’t have a phone?  What does that say about him?  What does that say about ME that I am even having this thought? Shame on me for being judgemental.

I am at my house now.  The messy, cluttered space that is my home.  I have finished the last day of the program, and I am standing on the threshold of new possibilities.  As I look around the room I catch a reflection of myself in the mirror.  I take a good, hard look.  Have I really changed?  Do I have a chance at a better life, equipped with the tools the program has provided for me?  Will I be able to move forward, no matter how timidly I place each foot in front of the other?  Is it my time to finally taste success?  Will I be able to handle it if it is?  And so the thoughts chase each other around my brain again.  It’s almost laughable.  The predictability of it.  I start the day ruminating, and I finish the day ruminating.  I look over at my couch.  It beckons to me alluringly.  It would be so nice to sink down into the comfort of its pillowed seats.  But I can’t do it.  That would be like taking a gigantic step backwards into my past.  No.  I am moving ahead.  I am going forward into a realm I know little about.  I am taking what I have learned and I am heading into my future via a present that invites promise.

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January 29, 2017

Well.  What a difference a day makes!  The end of that passage does not at all mirror the day before’s angst at the prospect of a future without the program.  The turnabout of attitude is almost dizzying.  I don’t remember what inspired such a change, but the hopefulness in the writing is resounding.

I am still plagued with sleepless nights, sometimes many in succession.  But as a person with bi-polar disorder, that fact is not too surprising.  When these times occur, I flip between lying in the darkness allowing the thoughts to bombard me, and getting up and doing an activity in the hopes that doing so will keep my thoughts at bay.  Unfortunately, my thoughts usually get the better of me no matter what I do.  At these times, I try to shut my mind down by concentrating on my breathing.  The focus on the regular inhalation and exhalation tends to quiet my thoughts momentarily.  More importantly, it relaxes the muscles in my body, and the tension around my shoulders, neck, and head slackens somewhat.  As these physical changes are occurring, I imagine a white space filling my head.  It is as if I have given myself a blank canvas with which to paint new thoughts.  As I don’t trust myself to let my thoughts run wild across the white expanse in case the black thoughts return again, I do repeated affirmations over and over until I am calm and thinking more clearly.

Does it work one hundred percent of the time?  I would be lying if I claimed it did.  But it settles my brain often enough that it is worthwhile to continue doing.  During the moments I am hit full force with an onslaught of hateful thinking, I try and tell myself that time will elapse and these thoughts will eventually disappear.  And on the occasions when my safety is at risk, I have places where I can go for help.  I have yet to experience a time when I can exchange the abhorrent thoughts for delightful ones, but I believe in my future the ability to do so will become a reality.

Full of Fear

Journal Entry January 19, 2013

Tomorrow marks the end of this program for me.  After that day, I will be ‘free’ to move about the world again.  A world that is not buffered by gentle group meetings where connections are made between others that suffer the wounds inflicted upon them, by self or by society.  Where there is no time or money for private daily therapy sessions that endeavour to uncover the root of the evil inside.  Where colouring a mandala to settle a troubled spirit is considered elementary and downright odd.  Where intimacy involves virtual strangers being brought together to battle the beasts within, and then finding true camaraderie and love as a reward for baring a battered soul, and for listening to those that presently share the same fate.  This is the world that I know.  The world that I feel safe in.  The world as it should be.

I am afraid I have no interest in joining the ranks of the chaos that exists beyond these double panelled steel hospital doors.  When I leave this building I am exposed to the cruel reality that has sent me plummeting, how many times before?  Dare I even try to count the times where being committed to a hospital has saved my life, literally and figuratively?  And yet the average person would think that a long term mandated stay in a psych hospital was something to be avoided at all costs.  Do they even recognize the brutal existence in which they live in the outside world?  The cut-throat actuality that honours the brawniest and most savage of beings as the victors in the Game of Life?  And tomorrow afternoon I am to be sent into that vast jungle and expected to thrive because of the tools I have collected during my stay in this cocoon.  Have I grown to be an exquisite butterfly where I can stretch my beautiful wings and fly out across the city to face my new and improved destiny?  Or am I yet a tender larvae, unready to break through the silky folds of my present environment, but being forced out onto the planet just the same?  I am full of fear.  I should be full of hope.

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January 22, 2017

Living in fear is a terrible thing.  There was no moving forward when my existence was defined by fear.  It strangled the life out of every other emotion, until Fear became my constant and only companion.  It accompanied me everywhere.  Not that I was traversing around very much.  I had become afraid to leave my own house.  But Fear settled like a sour acid in the pit of my stomach.  It wrapped tightly around my chest, squeezing the life out of me so my breath became shallow and uneven.  It filled my head like a toxic gas, its vaporous tendrils enveloping my brain and swaddling it in anxiety and fearful thoughts.  So imprisoned was I by my fear that I became completely unable to cope in the world I was afraid of.

Over time I have learned how to combat my fear when it arises.  I know that nothing is permanent, and that thought helps me realize that the fear I am feeling at the moment will pass.  I have learned how to stop and focus on my breathing when I notice my heart is racing ahead, and my breath is getting laboured.  I can clench and unclench my fists in an effort to get the blood moving to other parts of my body.  When I do this, I become more in tune with how my body is feeling and I concentrate less on my emotional state.  The movement in my hands also acts as a diversion from the thoughts in my mind.

I no longer cultivate such a jaundiced view of the world in which I exist.  That interpretation was ruled by the fear in my heart.  Fear will always be in my repertoire of emotions, as it must be.  It is necessary to experience fear when danger abounds so I can think and act to remove myself from the situation.  But it needn’t control my every waking moment.  Fear has its place within the universe, and I thankfully, have mine.

 

The Leg of the Journey

Journal Entry January 17, 2013

Feeling very black.  That old compressed feeling where the ceiling seems to be forcing my head into my neck hung about me today.  I couldn’t even lift my eyebrows under the apparent weight of this burdensome pressure.  Moving though my groups was like slogging through a bog.  Assertion.  Self-love.  Resiliency.  Anger.  What are they teaching me, and why is it so difficult to learn these lessons?  And who are these people that are going along for the ride with me?  Where have they come from and what do they want?  And why should it matter to me?  Because it does matter.  They and their behaviours affect me and impact on my reality.

Today S dismantled our morning group again.  The group was about unhealthy thoughts, and her negative interjections wrecked any chance for the rest of us to benefit from our guest leader’s expertise.  The key to the lesson was in the group activity at the end, which we didn’t even get to engage in because S demanded so much time and attention.  Just ruminating about her behaviour makes my insides boil because I am at a point where I know I need to learn how to live another way.  I won’t make it much longer on the path I have trodden for all these years; a path riddled with gaping holes that threaten to swallow me whole and deposit me into a bottomless void.  I NEED to escape myself, and the only way I can achieve this goal is to change all that I know.  To change all that I am.  And I need help to do this.  I am on my knees grovelling for an assistance I never dreamed I would ask for.  And my receiving it is threatened by the actions of one girl who herself is lost and suffering.  A girl not unlike me, but one who is on a different leg of her journey.  A leg I know all too well.  A leg I have no interest in travelling anymore.

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January 15, 2017

I am left wondering how many times I have been the ‘S’ in some other girl’s journey to recovery.  Caught up in my own self-hate and destructive ways, oblivious to those around me and how my  actions affect their realities, as well as my own.  Because we are all interrelated in some way in the every day comings and goings that make up life as I know it.  What I do, no matter how much I intend it only to affect myself, will touch other people around me, too.  Both those whom I know, and those who I don’t know.  That can be a scary thought.  But it can also be an incredibly empowering one.  I have the ability to make a positive impact on the world in ways that can be great, or little.  It is within my power to be a force of good, pure light to people and animals.  I have only to choose a thought, and couple it with a course of action that can be beneficial to all that it touches.  This is the leg of the journey I now traverse.  May it be long, and intermingled with many others like it.

Telling Time

Journal Entry January 16, 2013

Today I feel a little bit glum, although after I got up I dressed nicely, dabbed on some of my favourite perfume, styled my hair, and arrived at my session early!  Wow!  I haven’t done so many tasks in succession in a long while.  AND in an attempt to make myself presentable!  I haven’t cared about doing that since I don’t know when.  The fact that I got to my destination early, even if it is just a walk down the hall, is also mind-boggling.  I’m NEVER on time.  In my family I am famous for showing up to a planned event over an hour late…or more.  I don’t know where the time goes.  I try to get to places on time.  No one believes that, but it is true.  Somehow during the time I am getting ready I drift off.  I’m not even aware that I am doing it.  And when I become conscious of my actions again, I find myself staring fixedly at the paint on the wall.  Or at the fibres of the towel I have used to dry my hair.  Or at the grain of the wood on the hardwood floor.  Or anywhere really.  I seem to be examining whatever I am looking at extremely closely without knowing what it is that I am doing.  My mind floats to somewhere else and time passes unbeknownst to me.  What it is I am thinking about I have no idea.  Or IF I am thinking about anything.  My brain is a vapid space, a wasteland where thought does not exist.  When I realize I am sitting on the bed, or on the floor doing nothing, I get up and proceed to get ready.

At some point I think to look at one of the clocks I have sprinkled generously throughout my house, and I am aghast at how much times has passed.  In a panic, I rush through my routine and prepare to leave the house.  But even my ‘rushing’ is dialled back from the regular definition of what “rushing” means.  My every movement is slow and deliberate, and I seem incapable of moving quickly.  My limbs feel dreadfully heavy and weighted down.  My head is a giant boulder on my stick frame, balancing precariously.  It’s as if my body functions have slowed down to match the speed of which my brain is able to process.  The resulting consequence is that I am late…for everything.

But not today.  I wonder what Dr. F would make of that?

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January 8, 2017

In my world today, I feel it is imperative that I arrive on time.  Whether it’s to go to work, or a family function, or a rehearsal, or an appointment, or a meeting, be it personal or professional, or…and so on, ad nauseam.  Am I able to achieve this goal?  For the most part, I think I am.  But I still struggle with time and the management of it.  To wake up early in the morning for work, I have five alarm notifications set on my phone in 25 – 30 minute increments so my rise from slumber is gradual.  As I strive to arrive at work by 7:45 AM, I have to start ‘waking up’ at an ungodly hour.  Then I have a few more alarms set so I know how much time is passing between the normal activities that are involved in getting ready to leave my home.  How crazy is that?!  I do not move as colossally slowly as I did back then, but nobody is going to award me the gold medal of speediness any time soon!  The rest of my day is not stridently organized like my morning practice, but I seem to need this particular regimented schedule at the beginning of the day in order for me to arrive at work on time.

I am also better at focusing on the task at hand.  It is not often that I find myself on my bedroom or bathroom floor when I am prepping to go out, unable to account for the past 45 minutes.  It still might take me longer to organize myself for an outing, but I am now able to concentrate and propel myself forward towards my destination.

To me, the hardest part of being perpetually late, was in having people believe that I thought my time was more important than theirs, so it didn’t matter when I arrived.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  Instead, I was acutely aware of how important the people in my life were, and how worthless I was.  I didn’t feel like I deserved to be with them, so it was hard to get myself there.  The fact that I showed up at all is an amazing feat in and of itself.

The most pertinent lesson I learned about time is telling.  It is a message that I have only embraced within this past year.  So much time has gone by, frittered away in a kaleidoscope of lost and lonely years.  But I now know one thing for sure; the passage of time has taught me that Time itself is too precious a commodity for me not to be accountable for it, in all of my waking moments.

 

Progress?

Progress

Journal Entry January 15, 2013

Today I don’t want to be here.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps I feel impatient and I want to move on.  I am restless, that is true.  But I have nowhere to go.  There is nothing out there for me.  And if there was, I wouldn’t be able to cope with the reality that would be confronting me.  I don’t seem able to manage any aspect of living that presents itself to me.  Instead of meeting a challenge face on, I cower uncontrollably in one spot.  Fear wraps its crippling fingers around my throat and squeezes until my eyes feel like they will burst violently out of their sockets.  My breath becomes ragged and laboured, and I gasp for air in an attempt to control my breathing.  As I fight for my breath, I find myself slowly slipping down and forming a pool of defeat on the floor.  Overcome and fatally fetal.

To date, I have not made any concrete plans about my near future, other than asking P to help me get my resumes out for teaching positions next year.  This in itself is a major step towards rising from the abyss to attempt an approach on Life, one more time.  Without the help of the courses I am taking in the hospital, I would not have been able to even contemplate such a task, let alone face the ensuing repercussions that will come from such an act.  I don’t know when this will occur, but Dr. F said just having asked P shows me and him that I have made a little progress since I began this program.

I wish I shared his enthusiasm.  To counter this, yesterday I spoke with A.  On her volition, we began brainstorming how and who to contact regarding starting a program like the one I am in, within the school system.  She became increasingly excited as her plan began to percolate in her mind.  For me, however, the more we talked the more overwhelmed I became.  I could feel myself sinking into the pit of my stomach, on a feeble raft that would not withstand the enormous waves that were occurring in my gastric juices.  I began to feel physically sick as my tummy churned and the back of my neck got damp.  Beads of sweat began to gather at my hairline, while the sensation of lightheadedness washed over me, leaving me dizzy in my seat.  When I felt like I might pass out, I pushed my chair back abruptly and hastily excused myself.  A seemed surprised, but she let me go.  I rushed to the ladies restroom and locked myself in a stall.  Why is ‘overwhelm’ my ‘go to’ response?  I feel defeated before I even begin anything…everything.  I don’t give myself a chance to even contemplate a, “What if?”  That’s not exactly true.  But the, “What if’s?” I ponder about all have to do with failing.  And I really don’t have to think about that at all.  I know I can fail…spectacularly.

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January 2, 2017

As I read the above, I get the sense that I was reluctant to accept the fact that I might be getting somewhere.  That after so many years of false starts and mind-numbing depression, it was almost impossible to believe that an alternative existence could occur.  ‘Hope’ was not an entity that existed for me.  I had long since given up believing that good would come my way.  The development of the habit where I believed I did not deserve, happened so long ago.  I had cultivated that thought from the time I was a small child of five.  I might not have been able to state that back then, but the belief was as real to me as the glasses I wore on my face.

Any change for me is difficult to accept, whether it be positive or negative.  I struggle to maintain the reality I presently exist in, for fear the change that will inevitably transpire will be worse than the reality that encompasses me now.  So I kick, and scream, and pull out my hair until I am forced to adapt to the actuality that greets me. But I am learning that moving forward, or for that matter, any direction but backwards from where I am now is progress because it is a chance to change myself and my settings.  Change is not necessarily good or bad.  It is just change.  Whether I progress forward from it or not depends on the decisions I make as it approaches.

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Happy New Year!  With the advent of the New Year, I must return to my place of employment.  As it is a demanding occupation, I will only be able to write in my blog once weekly.  I would like to write in it every day, but presently that is not possible.  Please continue to read, knowing that the frequency with which I write will be slightly diminished.  Thank you for reading, and I wish you all the very best the New Year has to offer!

 

The Act of Being Grateful

Journal Entry January 10, 2013

It has been a long day.  I’m tired of being in groups.  Groups that change and reform for each new session we do.  It’s hard to make connections with people, but I guess we are not here to make life-long friends.  In fact, the whole place reeks of detachment.  It drips from the ceiling and is blown out through the hot air vents.  It’s interwoven into the fabric of the chairs we sit on.  It leaks out of the coffee urns that are placed in strategic, low traffic areas around the rooms so there will not be a general place for patients to gather in.  Even the nurses and counsellors are cloaked in it.  They only seem obliging when THEY approach you, and not the other way around.  Everyone’s agenda seems to be to glean whatever information they can from the resources around them, and then hightail it out of here.  And I am looking to meet people I can talk to.  People who have travelled a road similar to mine, who are willing to share and to listen.  But as I think of it, who would want to talk to me, or relive any of the nightmare they have experienced through a friendly chat?  Again, I am on my own.  The Purple Sheep Syndrome.

I should be grateful for this opportunity.  I should be thanking Dr. F profusely for hooking me up with this agency.  I should be reverently gobbling up whatever self-help information there is that is thrown my way.  Digesting it carefully in the evenings as I revisit the day’s events.  Regurgitating it mindfully during the nights when sleep won’t come.  But I don’t feel grateful.  Instead I feel angry that I need to be in this hospital.  Angry that I am in dire need of the lessons that are being taught here, because without them I will slide down further into a pit where there is no escape.  Where the one exit stretches into an unknown eternity of which there is no return.  Angry that after all these years, after all these battles I have fought to feed my soul and save my sanity, I remain an unknown and broken soldier in my own life.  Who am I, and why do I continue to fight?  What do I have to be thankful for in a life peppered with failure?  Where each new attempt to succeed is buried under a mountain of criticism and cryptic laughter.  Where my own existence is a cruel joke played on me.

Gratitude…what is it anyway?  I have forgotten.

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December 26, 2016

The act of being grateful is a skill that must be honed.  I don’t think I was born with a ‘grateful’ gene.  Gratitude is developed as I learn to appreciate what I have; to be thankful for the world around me and my place in it.  I believe it is an entity that grows throughout my life when I cultivate it.  When left unattended, it drys up and crumbles into unrecognizable pieces.

I just celebrated Christmas with my wonderful family.  It was a time filled with laughter and joy; of giving and receiving.  We sang, and we ate, and we drank, and we played!  My young niece F exclaimed with great fervour, “This is the best Christmas EVER!”  Which is a sentiment that was felt by all.

On my early Christmas morning drive to my sister L and her partner’s home, I drove by the hospital from above where I have been an inpatient many times over.  A memory played before my eyes that I had long since thought about.  It was Christmas time, 1995.  I had been admitted into the hospital in November for major surgery.  Four days later I was operated on again because a blockage had occurred.  That surgery was very long, and it went horribly wrong, not due to the brilliant surgeons who were working on me.  I became very ill and my stay in the hospital lasted several months.  I had a PIC line in my heart, which was attached to several feeding bogs on a pole, and a thick tube that ran through my nose, down my throat, and into my stomach.  I had a catheter and a steady Demerol drip, also hanging from the pole.

When it became apparent that I would be spending Christmas in the hospital, my mom got to work transforming my private and sterile room into a winter wonderland. I took a red marker and made a round circle on the bandaid holding the tube in place in my nose so I resembled Rudolph.  Finally, we decorated my TPN pole with tinsel and a star because I wasn’t able to have a Christmas tree in my room.  I wanted the spirit of Christmas to be with me wherever my bed was rolled in the hospital!

On Christmas morning, Doctor L, the head surgeon, came into my room.  He said they had decided they would grant my wish to go home for 1 1/2 hours so I could enjoy Christmas with my family and see our Christmas tree!  I was absolutely thrilled!  When I had made the initial wish to Dr. L, he had kindly and gently let me know that this was impossible.  Now to have my wish granted was my dream come true!

My favourite nurse came into my room and gave me a special sponge bath so I was clean and ready to go for my visit.  She even put a little perfume in the water so I would not carry the antiseptic smell of the hospital with me.  The nurses gathered up all of my tubes and lines and detached what they could.  They transferred me from the bed to a wheelchair and rolled me out to be met by B.  We were both excited!  He carried me to his car and then we were off.

When we got home, B carried me into the house where a chair had been prepared for me.  It was decorated with green, red, silver, and gold bows and ribbons.  It sat right in front of our Christmas tree!  Mom and L were there and I thought I was going to faint I was so beside myself with excitement!  I got to cuddle with my doggy and my kitty, and I drank in the homey Christmas atmosphere like a workhorse quenching its thirst at the end of a long day working in the fields.  Suddenly it was time to go back to the hospital.  I wasn’t sad because I had spent Christmas with my family in front of our Christmas tree.  B carried me back out to his car, and then back into the hospital.  By the time I was situated back in my bed, I was exhausted and in considerable pain.  But it didn’t matter.  I had got my wish.

For the remainder of the day, I was in and out of consciousness, sleeping fitfully.  Later in the evening I heard an unexpected sound.  Three exuberant voices came ringing out singing, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas!”  At first I was alarmed and confused.  I didn’t understand what was going on.  I was awakened by a raucous noise that grew increasingly louder.  I started to panic in my disoriented state, and then L, B, and C came barrelling down the hallway that led into my room, which was right off of the nurses station.  When I saw them I smiled gleefully!  They were bedecked in Christmas sweaters, toques, and scarves.  They wore enormous smiles and their cheeks were red from excitement and the frigid temperature outside.  They were so boisterous and full of joy!  L carried small beautifully wrapped gifts, B had a bunch of festive Christmas balloons, and C carried a plate of both Mom’s homemade shortbread cookies and toffee cookies, even though I couldn’t take anything by mouth.  What a jolly time we had!  We all giggled and laughed as I tried to open the goofy gifts L had brought in.  There were funny fridge magnets I could attach to my pole, and silly toys that they dispersed around my room.  I began to fade rather quickly after the gift opening was completed.  The nurses then came in and kindly asked the three to go.  They had stayed well over half an hour, which was way longer than any of the other visitors I had had.  L gave the shortbread and toffee cookies to the nurses.  Instead of taking them to their station, the nurses decided to leave them in my room, so they could have a treat every time they came in for a scheduled, or unscheduled visit.

As I lay in bed thinking after they had vacated my room, I realized L, B, and C had left our marvellous family dinner to come and visit me on Christmas night.  What an amazing day and night!  Undoubtably my best Christmas EVER because of the simple fact it was all about love.  Family love.  And my real Christmas presents?  They were left under the tree for me to open months later when I was finally discharged from the hospital.  But that didn’t matter.  I don’t even remember thinking about gifts at all.  My joy came from the most pure source.  My heart was full and bursting with love for the family that was so good to me.  It was a Christmas we will always remember.  And the gratitude I feel for all of that and a lifetimes more, is one I intend on cultivating for the rest of my life.

Help!

Journal Entry January 7, 2013

Dr. F enrolled me in a six-week program at the hospital to help me learn how to cope and deal with my life.  I didn’t want to do it, but I figured if I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity, I couldn’t say I was doing my best to help myself.  I don’t know why I want to help myself.  I don’t feel like I deserve to have help.  I am enormously embarrassed at the thought that I need help, and yet I would be the first to say how hopeless I am at the art of living life well.  At the art of living life at all.  I just want to curl up and go away forever.

After we finished a session this afternoon and we were on another break, I began to panic.  Thoughts flew through my mind.  What should I be working on…thinking about?  What are other people working on…thinking about?  What did I just learn?  Words swirled around in my head in a smoky haze that left my throat and mouth dry.  I couldn’t think through the fog.  I strove to clear the cloudiness that surrounded my brain, but instead of dissipating, it intensified.  With it came a pounding sensation that threatened to split my head apart.  I could feel my blood pulsing, as my heart began to race.  I felt like I was suffocating and the sweat began to trickle down my forehead and at the back of my neck.  Suddenly I knew I had to leave the room, so I exploded from my seat, flung open two sets of doors and flew to the bitter cold outside.  The wind rushed to greet me and I breathed deeply in, saturating my lungs with icy cold air.  I stood out there breathing for awhile, opening and closing my eyes until my breath regulated and my heart slowed down.  When I finally went in I felt more calm, and all thoughts had vacated my head.

I feel far removed from the people in my group.  They talk about friends; jobs; relationships.  About how they are changing themselves.  About how they are using the tools the program has taught them in their lives today.  And I was in bed the entire weekend.  How to break this pattern?  Do as N says and just, “DO!”?  But I lack the physical energy.  I am exhausted just having to get out of bed or off of the couch to let my dog S out and then back inside again.  They talk about setting boundaries in relationships…I don’t even know what my own boundaries are!   And the only relationships I am a part of right now are within my immediate family.  “Boundaries,” they parrot.  “Boundaries accompanied with assertion”

Daily life is overwhelming for me.  Daily life IS overwhelming me.  I get increasingly lost in the everyday activities that other people move through with apparent ease.  Why am I unable to cope?  Why do I need sessions to assist me in this area?  Why am I not moving forward with the cohorts in my group?  I seem to be missing the point of the program.  I seem to be missing the point, period.

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December 22, 2016

Asking for help has never been an area that I excelled in.  To this day, I struggle with putting myself first in order to get my needs met.  But I believe that the ability to look after myself adequately depends greatly on knowing that I deserve to be happy and that I have the right to live a full and rewarding life.  I am growing more comfortable with these thoughts at present, and I feel that I am moving ahead.

Anxious times occur less and less, and when I do experience them, I am usually able to work through them until they are dispelled.  Deep breathing, positive affirmations, and meditative moments all help to relieve me of my anxiety.  It is a terrible thing to be incapacitated by fear and angst.  These emotions have crippled me until I have been rendered incapable of forward action.  They have strangled the life out of me on countless occasions, leaving me prone and unable to function.  My goal is to live free of fear, which is a massive undertaking on my part, as fear has paralyzed me in every area of my life in the past.  I could even say I have been afraid of fear itself.  I am determined, however, to come to terms with it so I can own my life in its entirety.

I now understand I am worthy of a good life…a great life.  I am terrifically lucky to have been born in a place where this is a possibility.  And I am forever grateful for the help I have received along the way.

 

 

The Quest for Perfection

Journal Entry December 31, 2012

Thank God the last day of the worst year of my life is finally here.  Will 2013 be even worse?  Please God, not have it so.

After so many years of trying to be perfect, I realize now I will never get anywhere near attaining perfection.  And yet I am a perfectionist.  The incongruous aspect of the situation is almost laughable.  I strive for an ideal I don’t believe in.  The world around me, however, and the people in it, seem perfect to me.

I have always considered myself to be the Purple Sheep in my oh so perfect family.  Not black.  Black is too sombre, and, well, black.  Purple presents options in shades of complexity.  I am the person that is different.  The one that doesn’t fit in.  Things just don’t add up where I am concerned.

I think self-confidence gets eroded away when you are surrounded by people who you don’t think you are like.  Or who you don’t feel you belong with.  That is the loneliest of feelings.  To be a part of something you don’t feel you are a part of.  I am a mangy, stray dog amidst a pack full of pristine purebreds.  Who are well fed and well cared for.  Who are perfect in appearance and manner.  Who know they have the right to command a presence in their own lives, and the lives of those around them.  But I hang back with my tail between my legs and my head bent down in submission.  No wonder a sense of self-respect, or a positive self-concept is impossible if those around me are different than what I perceive myself to be.  And my perception of them is that they are perfect, something I’ve already decided is an impossibility for me.

Will I EVER fit in?  Will I ever be anything but a lone, flea-ridden mutt, traversing the earth in a solitary path that leads to nowhere?  Round and round I go, cutting deep ruts in the ground that I perpetually revisit each time I circle back, searching for a place of peace that never comes.

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December 19, 2016

I am a little lost today, as I reread my December 31st journal entry.  The pain of those days, and the acute sense that I did not belong to anyone or anything, let alone myself, looms over me like an ominous spirit.  The ghosts of my past lick at me like the flames threatening to devour the logs in the fireplace.  I am left feeling unsettled and empty inside.

Although now I know that I have my place in the world.  Defined perhaps, by the things I do, as opposed to the things I am.  But I believe I will arrive at a time when I can embrace who I am and love the person I have become.

The quest for perfection is long since dead.  Although it was not laid to rest without considerable struggle and epic hardship along the way, it remains a distant myth I once believed in.  The idea that anyone is perfect is ludicrous to me now.  I can accept that perfection belongs to the snowflakes and the beauty of Mother Nature.  People do not have a rightful place in that realm.

I also have a place in my family, although at times I still endeavour to define myself within the confines of that institution.  Possibly I am not alone in trying to navigate through the complicated intricacies that make up the entity of ‘family’.  The ever changing flux of dynamics that makes families so interesting and so real.  And so imperfect.  I might not always be in tune with the cacophonous strains of my family’s exuberant existence, but I know I do belong, imperfections and all!

Remembering with Laughter

Journal Entry December 30, 2012

I have forgotten so much.  The Del Ammo Psychiatric Hospital in Torrence, CA back in ’85, for instance.  I spent the better part of a year there.  A committed ‘inmate’ in a hospital reserved for the crazies, of which I was one of the worst.  Weighing 65 pounds and receiving ECT.  It is no wonder I don’t remember much of that black time.

But here I am, almost twenty years later, wishing I could go back.  I would be better able to do the therapy now.  Then, the battle was to keep me alive.  Therapy came second.  And I don’t remember any part of it.  I don’t remember what I did with Dr. S.  I don’t remember the countless sessions we had.  Daily.  I have little windows where I remember an event, or a person.  I remember leaving Calgary to get there, and my tumultuous first day.  I remember a few of the van rides when the psych counsellors took the ‘Young Adults’ on outings to introduce us back into a ‘normal’ world.  We were an intimate collection of people under the age of 25 who all were hospitalized in the Del Amo Psych Hospital.  There were recovering drug addicts, alcoholics, and people suffering from depression. I was the token anorexic. But we banded together and supported each other. I just wish I remembered how we did it.

Now I struggle just as much as ever. The blanket of darkness that has suffocated my soul for so many years has snuffed out most of my memories. The good and the bad. I sit here in a pool of despair with a blank mind. Why go forward? I will just forget my life as it unfolds before me. What’s the point of existence? What’s the point of MY existence?

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November 11, 2016

It is true my memory is not the greatest. Perhaps in some ways that is a blessing. But in other ways it is not. I do wish I remember the therapy I underwent. And although those times were bleak, remembering them helps me put today into perspective.

I do remember how I got to the hospital in 1985, though. One cold winter morning my mom deposited me at the Calgary International Airport. Apparently and according to her, she had been told by the South Bay Hospital in Redondo Beach, that she could not accompany me to LAX.  I had to sign a medical waiver before I boarded the plane that stated that if I died en route to LA, the airline would not be liable.  The agent gave me a pen.  He couldn’t take his eyes off my emaciated form.  I tried to hold onto the pen, but my hand shook uncontrollably because my electrolytes were so out of whack due to my starvation state.  I managed to scrawl something that barely resembled a signature and then I was assisted onto the plane.  Walking distances had become problematic for me.  My bones seemed to crunch and grind against each other when I moved, and the all too visible bones in my feet had no padding underneath to soften the blow of each forward step.

When I arrived in LA, I saw someone carrying a sign with my name emblazoned across it.  I remember feeling excruciatingly embarrassed because of the attention it awarded me.  When I got to South Bay, the eating disorders hospital, I was herded into a room and told I would be eating shortly with the other patients.  Anxiety rocketed through me as I thought about facing the arduous task of eating a meal.  A meal I would do anything to escape from eating.

I don’t remember how I got to the dining room, but when I did I nearly fainted.  The room was stuffed with severely obese people…men and women…and I felt engulfed in their presence.  I’m sure as upsetting as it was for me, it was for them, too!  I swayed in the doorway, not knowing what to do.  A nurse came over and escorted me to a seat around the large table.  I was sandwiched between two huge men, who kindly tried to shuffle their chairs over to afford me some room.  It was nigh impossible though, because everyone was squished together in order to fit, but I appreciated their effort just the same.

Little snatches of conversations began to bubble up between the patients.  I sat in a panicked silence, dreading the meal that awaited me.  Eventually, plates began being placed in front of the famished patrons.  Their plates were loaded with raw veggies, humus, undressed salad, and cottage cheese.  The amount of food on the generously sized plates made my sunken eyes bug out.  How would I manage eating that enormous plateful of food?!  I had limited myself to copious amounts of Hubba Bubba bubble gum and three pink or purple jellybeans at midnight as my daily staple for the last six months.  And now this?!  I quickly closed my eyes to try and stop the flood of tears that threatened to cascade down my face.

When I opened them again, I was faced with an even more horrific sight.  There, in front of me, on a ginormous platter-like plate, sat a mountainous slab of gooey, cheese topped lasagna, with what appeared to be an entire loaf of garlic cheese bread, and a plentiful serving bowl of caesar salad.  The croutons in the salad were the size of the giant cockroaches on the pavement outside!  This time I squeezed my eyes shut in disbelieve, praying desperately that I was suffering from some kind of delusional episode, and that what lay before me was a wicked apparition that my dwindling mind had created.  When I finally opened my eyes again, the abundant pile of disgusting food lay innocently before me.  I stared at it balefully, wishing the floor would open up and swallow me whole.  When I looked up from the food, I realized I was in considerable danger!  The contorted faces of my enraged fellow patients signified one thing, and one thing only.  Mutiny!  Weeks of enduring measured rations of rabbit food morning, noon, and night, had left them ravenous!  The sight and aroma of my veritable feast drove them to the breaking point.

It began with an eruption of cacophonous sound that could be likened to the multiple motors roaring in readiness before the Grand Prix begins.  Then people began standing up.  Chairs were abandoned and pushed away from the table with great force.  A couple of them even tipped over!  The man on my left grabbed the garlic toast!  He tried to make his way through the angry throng, but collectively they were too strong.  He went down, and so did the badly misshaped garlic cheese bread.

The man on my right grabbed the lasagna off of the plate with both hands and began to devour it as if it were a sandwich!  The ferocious mob became more frenzied at this unfortunate event, and they converged on the hapless lasagna man in one fell swoop!  I do not know the fate of the caesar salad, because at this point, I dove under the table in great haste.  The elephantine feet of the folk fighting for the food had all gathered at the end of the table where I had been sitting.  I crawled to the other end of the table and I slipped unnoticed out the door.  I headed back to my room, slightly dishevelled, but completely intact.  My heart began to pound less threateningly and I lay down on my bed with relief.  After a few moments, I began to smile just a little.  It had been an exhausting day.  But at its end I tasted real victory.  I was able to escape from eating another meal!

After five weeks of hell in this eating disorder hospital, sadly I cut my wrists and was taken to Del Amo Psychiatric Hospital and placed in the locked unit, where I stayed until the fall 0f 1986.  But it was there where my life was saved.  It was there where I began to recover.  And it was there where they taught me to laugh again.

I am laughing now as I recall that historic event.  How wonderful it is to be able to laugh at myself and the experiences I have had, knowing that I have grown and have benefited from those tough times.  How wonderful it is to be able to laugh at all!  As I am writing this, more memories of that troubled period have begun to surface.  I am glad I am remembering.  My past shaped my present, as my present shapes my future.  I have the power to make today one that I can remember with joy.  That power, coupled with abundant laughter, makes my present and future days worth living.