Thursday, February 28, 2019

A Choice

A few weeks ago I texted my therapist on a Sunday afternoon and said, "You're posting such good stuff online today and I am refraining from commenting oh fuck.

This picture was one of them. I'd rather grow exponentially in an easy peasy way with no swear words in the mix, wouldn't you?

Last night, as I was getting ready for bed, and observing what was occupying my mind (which might interfere with sleep), I realized that I was consumed with other people and their problems. Everything from relationship issues to teenage children and a couple of people with terminal diagnoses. Into my mind popped that poster where it has a list in an inner circle of things I can control (me) and an outer circle with a list of things I can't (others). Ha. Oh fuck I thought to myself. Everything that was taking up space in my mind was all stuff I had no control over. Well, then. I used another tool my therapist has taught me and that is to put stuff that is overwhelming me into an imaginary container to look at later, often in the safety of her office. I regularly put thoughts in and take them out like a bank card being spit out of  an ATM. In, out. In, out. Ad nauseum. But sometimes I manage not to.

This is where one is supposed to write that they put everything out of their mind instantly and life was so much better. Ta da!

Ya. Life isn't so straight forward. Sometimes, I wonder if it could be. But recognizing that worrying about stuff I had no control over, doing the same old thing, and realizing I had a choice. That? That helped. It felt like a sliver of light shining through a crack.

I slept just fine.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Be You

I keep journals for my grandchildren, expressly for the purpose of telling them to be everything the quote in that picture says to be. Be you is what I keep writing to them in so many different ways. I note little stories about them. Things they say that stick with me. I tell them again and again that I hope they will always have the courage to be who they were created to be. That who they are is enough.

When I was growing up my goal was to be perfect. In my mind being perfect would keep me safe. Perfectly invisible would've been even better.

I was about seven when I shuffled across the kitchen floor in shiny red shoes whose black rubber bottoms had separated from the rest of the shoe. I tried my best not to lift my feet as I went in order to avoid being caught with broken shoes. Eventually I nearly tripped on the flap of wayward rubber and that caught my parents' attention.

My default pattern was to think I was at fault for anything and everything and that included having shoes that fell apart. Sometimes I feel sad for the little girl that I was, the one who didn't feel like she could go to her parents and tell them, through no fault of her own, that she needed new shoes. And I know my parents would feel sad that I had internalized my world that way.

For all the things my parents got wrong, there was one thing they got so right, and I remain grateful to this day for it. They recognized my talent for writing and then encouraged it.

Not that they said a whole lot about it to me. But there was the essay written on two sided foolscap, from when I was in grade 2, that was kept tucked in the little cupboard beside the stove the whole time I was growing up. Folded up like a letter, it was housed alongside pink stomachache medicine, band aids and cod liver oil. I took it with me when I left home and have mourned losing it in a move during my first year of marriage. I've long been intrigued that my writing style was the same as a seven year old as it is now at 56. I not only had something to say, but a way of saying it that has stayed with me all these years.

In preparation for heading off to college my parents bought me an electric typewriter as a graduation present. (An IBM no less!) I loved it. My journalism prof made us type assignments on triplicates. There was something comforting about inserting those sheets and turning the roller until the top of the triplicate peeked above the keys. I lugged that typewriter across the country and back. It indeed traveled by plane, train and automobile before I sold it several years later in order to pay the rent. It felt like a whole lot of hopes and dreams went down the driveway with my typewriter. I could never bring myself to tell my parents that I'd sold it.

I think they were disappointed when I went directly from getting a college diploma to marriage without giving a career much of a thought. They never spoke to me about it, but I sensed they would've liked it if I had gone on to write for a newspaper and honed my skills. I would've most likely lost any job in short order due to my love of booze and a sarcastic mouth back then. I doubt that having a no one is going to tell me what to do attitude would have gone over very well with coworkers let alone a boss

Eventually I did freelance work for a farm paper when I was pregnant with my third baby. Then, with three kids under 4, it's understandable that writing took a backseat to the mounds of cloth diapers that were always waiting to be folded on my couch. It would be over a decade before I thought about writing again.

But my love of it never left me. And so you see me on this blog, type, typing away. It feeds something within me. It's a bonus when it feeds something within you as well.

And slowly, with doing the hard work in therapy, I am learning that who I am is enough. I can look at that picture up there and try to embrace it for myself. For my quirky seven year old self and for flawed 56 year old me and all the beautiful, magical and unique ages in between.

I have a new pair of red shoes in my closet now, too.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Emotional Bandwidth

When I read this quote the other day I thought to myself, this describes my current journey in a nutshell.

That word "curious" keeps showing up in things and catching my attention. I've tended to be curious about all kinds of things in my life. People watching is one of my favourite activities. Dearest One knows I'd like a word by word account of many of his conversations with other people. I'm endlessly curious about relationships and conversations.

I'm learning to be curious about my relationship with myself and the conversations that are going on in my head. Watching them without judgement. Trying to, anyway. When I went to treatment I learned that 95% of  a person's self talk is negative. I learned to shut that shit down. But, like most inner changes, there are layers upon layers of shit to discover and discard.

The amount of self loathing I've experienced while off work has been through the roof. My inner chatter void of anything positive. Pathetic. Hopeless. Lazy. Not trying. Not trying hard enough. Useless. Thankfully Dearest One has been down this path himself and there hasn't been anything I've said out loud about the thoughts swirling in my head that he hasn't been able to relate to. I see how grounded he is most of the time now and it gives me hope for myself.

It's been 11 days since I looked at that first half of a pill in my hand and said to it, "okay little pill, do your magic." Forty years of resistance to taking such a step challenged when I swallowed it.

My brain is so much quieter. My feelings of being overwhelmed have shrunk considerably. My sleep - oh Lordy - I need my sleep. I've had five nights of solid sleep. What a difference that makes.

Here's to expanding bandwidth. To being wrong and having enough support to make a different decision. A life changing one.

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Guts of Our Lives

One of the gifts of going to a family event  yesterday was visiting with a family member who is a kindred spirit. Our daily lives, political and religious views are miles apart. None of that matters. 

We hadn't seen each other in such a long time. We went from how are you? to the guts of our lives in the space it took to ask the question. She was really the only one I had hoped for a good visit with and even though we only had 15 minutes together, it was food for my soul.

We laughed, we cried, we hugged. It was good.

Those people you can let down your guard with are such a gift. The ones who really not only want to know how you are but can absorb it without the need to fix or advise or do anything other than listen with their heart and respond from their soul. I am fortunate to have people like that in my life. I hope you do in yours, too.


Friday I had an appointment with my physiotherapist. She has a unique way of doing what she does and her intuition has helped heal not only physical pain but has facilitated emotional release for me as well.

Once, when I told her I felt like I was walking around with a flinch just under the surface, she scanned my body with her eyes and pinpointed where she thought the flinch was stuck in my body . As she pressed there I burst into tears and the flinch disappeared. I'd file that under airy fairy shit except it's happened many times over.

Last week I missed a step while going down our entryway stairs and managed to whack my head right in the corner of the wall. First one side of my head hit and then the other. I landed with quite a thud. It was harder for Dearest One to see me fall than for me to experience it. I got up and carried on with my day. Except for a bit of a headache and some sore muscles I felt fine.

It's unusual that I didn't hurt myself worse. I am grateful for a body that is getting better at healing. Or perhaps not holding onto to injury so much.

When I relayed my falling experience to my physiotherapist she did her magic and fixed my neck. When we talked about how weird, but good, it was that I didn't injure myself much she looked at me and with a smile said, "You're not fragile." She repeated it for emphasis, "You're not fragile."

Friday, February 15, 2019

A Path

  • This has been a full week. 
  • Much time spent out of the house getting paperwork sorted for financial aid. Feeling grateful for kind and helpful people in the mix. 
  • Sleep disruptions. Can a person be tired of being tired due to sleep disruptions? 
  • Working more things through in therapy ending with taking a photo of the poster paper with all our scribbles on it for later reference. 
  • Spending time with a friend whose health is deteriorating fast. So scarily fast that we looked at each other and dropped f bombs when she told me a doctor broached the topic of end of life care. 

I just remembered that I have a family commitment this weekend. Hours of small talk with people I know but don't socialize with more than a few times a year. In a setting of 300+ people. My idea of torture. No one I would share what's really going on in my life with. That part is okay. I can do the surface socializing but find it exhausting.

It's been hard work for me to learn how to socialize with any skill. I much prefer one on one conversations. I know I tend to talk and talk and have had to train myself to listen, listen. Remembering appropriate social skills feels like being somewhat deaf and straining to hear a conversation. I much prefer being like the guy in the graphic on a solo path letting all those thoughts out.

I told my therapist yesterday that I've spent the past 40 years never letting the phrase I am depressed cross my lips. Befriending the thought and letting it be what it is has helped something shift. Given me hope. How ironic is that? Hey, I'm depressed and suddenly I feel hopeful about life. I told her if that stronghold of thought could be broken what else is waiting for me? I'm placing my bet on good things to come.

But not until after the weekend.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019


This description of how to sit with discomfort resonates with me so much that I made it the screensaver on my phone. My default setting is to take the numbing detour you see described by the white line. In many ways this diagram of how to sit with discomfort reminds of the the welcoming prayer.

When I saw my therapist this past Friday we had a conversation about the appointment I'd had with my doctor earlier in the week. In particular about my doctor asking me to take a look at what was behind my mental block to taking medication for depression.

What ensued was a most uncomfortable conversation. I did and didn't want to go there. We went there. At one point I covered my eyes with my hands and dropped a staccato string of f-bombs.

I trust my therapist. I trusted where she was taking me even in the midst of great resistance on my part. It opened the door for me to give voice to long ago happenings and how they have shaped my view of taking medication. I will not be in control. She assured me I was always in control of my decisions including the decision about medication. I will be a failure  I whispered. I will be abandoned if I admit I am feeling depressed.

Thank goodness there is a safe place for me to give voice to these deeply felt beliefs. And a safe person to help unpack them.

I knew I could call my doctor's office after my appointment and ask for a prescription to be sent to my pharmacy. He'd made that clear in every appointment. I'd felt like he was frustrated with me at my last appointment and I internalized that as I'm not trying hard enough to get better.  My therapist wanted me to talk to the doctor in person about my perceptions surrounding those feelings before asking for the prescription (if that's what I decided to do.) That made me uncomfortable as fuck but I made the call and miraculously got an appointment for yesterday.

Over the weekend I remembered there was a quote that had resonated with me from a YouTube video I'd watched a few months ago. I went looking and found it:

"Sometimes we are an unreliable witness to our own experiences. If we are convinced we are always right, how then do we bring inquiry to things that feel factual."

I've been invested in being right about so much in my life. A white knuckled grip on being right.

It felt factual that I would be a failure if I took medication for depression. It felt factual that I wouldn't be in control and that I would be abandoned, too.

I took all those thoughts to my doctor's appointment yesterday. I am grateful for a doctor who I can have hard and vulnerable conversations with. This is the second time I've had to go back and clarify perceptions with him and he always thanks me for doing so as he says it makes him a better doctor.

It's making me a better, more authentic person, too.

Friday, February 08, 2019


The word curiousity keeps popping up in my life. When I read the quote over there I find I am much better at judgement than curiousity. Especially towards myself.

A hard doctor's appointment this week left me feeling quite judgmental about myself. Then I kicked into my default  I'll show you mentality. That only lasted long enough for me to remember that operating out of that paradigm wasn't sustainable or healthy.

In talking about this today in therapy it felt like a lifetime of beliefs came crashing down. I spent the rest of the day bawling my head off any time I talked to Dearest One about my appointment. I couldn't even tell him how grateful I am for my therapist without being a weeping mess.

Maybe a better term than crashing down is opening up. Something shifted. Defense mechanisms relented. Perspective was gained.

It's fucking hard work.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Hard Things

This quote was on my FB feed last night and reading it made tears spring up instantly.

This morning I saw my doctor, who will not consider my going back to work right now or in the near future. He told me what my day to day life would have to look like before I would be ready for that. Okay, then.

We came up with a plan to see if I can get some funds from other programs in place while I appeal the decision made by my disability carrier.

I spent this afternoon with a friend who has been undergoing chemo since late last year. I meet her at the cancer centre for each appointment and we sit and visit while she has treatment. Her cancer is inoperable and she is doing everything she can to live as long as possible. She has an acceptance about her plus hope that treatment will do its magic. We laugh a lot when we are together. We have open and hard conversations, too. It is good to spend time with her.

Friday, February 01, 2019


The no judgement part today is hard. My claim for long term disability was denied this morning. I think I need a few more months before I'm able to go back to work. My doctor and therapist agree.

There are layers to thoughts going through my mind. Old stories. I'm trying to remind myself that this decision isn't a judgement of me.

Over 40 years ago my mom spent a summer taking me to doctors for worrying health symptoms I had. One morning, after many doctors and no answers, she came into my bedroom and accused me of faking. She told me I could go to one more doctor and if they couldn't figure it out then that was it. No more doctors. That doctor told me I was depressed. When I got home and told my mom that, she said, "What would you have to be depressed about?" We never spoke of those health issues again the whole time I was home.

Deep breaths, Hope. Deep breaths.