Eat Me

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TRIGGER WARNING: This post may contain triggers that some people may want to avoid. These triggers relate to anxiety, panic, health anxiety and potential side effects of anti-depressants. If this is something that may trigger your own anxiety or panic or unwell feelings, you may want to skip this post.

DISCLAIMER:  I am not a medical professional. I am simply documenting my experience with anxiety and panic. The tools and/or medications I have tried/used are not recommended for others nor are they endorsements.  You should speak to your family doctor about your own health and the options that are best for you.

I have gone down another rabbit hole.

I am in the land of prescription drugs; anti-depressants. Zoloft to be precise.

It is not a trip I wanted to take. I tried everything to avoid anti-depressants. Yoga, meditation, breathing, therapy, books and a visit to the hormone doctor.

Some of these things helped a bit. Others, not so much. Nothing helped entirely.

I went to my family doctor on Wednesday (last week) which was a feat in and of itself. Leaving my house has become very stressful (almost impossible) and usually involves Ativan. I think I realized a couple of weeks ago that this was not working. It has been five months and I am really no better off than I was in December. My anxiety is debilitating. My panic is off the charts. My mind races with obsessive thoughts thanks to my health anxiety. Fun times.

I received the prescription for Zoloft (25 mg) on Wednesday but I wouldn’t start it until there was someone here with me. I know that sounds completely ridiculous but the last time I was on anti-depressants in December, they made my heart race (you can read about that here).

If there are any doctors or healthcare professionals reading this, do humanity a favour: Do not plant seeds in people’s brains who are susceptible to psychosomatic thoughts and feelings. I told my doctor not to plant seeds in my head. So you know what she did? She planted a forest! I kid you not.

Are you suicidal? Are you seeing or hearing things that other people are not?

Thankfully, no and no.

You may experience diarrhea, upset stomach, insomnia and some other side effects.

Great, thanks for setting me up for failure.

Are you manic?

I don’t know what that is.

She explained that manic is when you don’t sleep for three days and have a ton of energy and might do something dramatic like hop on a plane at the last minute to go on an adventure.

Um, no. I can’t go to the grocery store down the street so I don’t see how I’m going to decide on a last minute plane trip to Portugal. Now that you have planted that seed, I will be sure to obsess over whether I am manic or not. Thanks doc.

I started taking Zoloft on Friday, in the morning. My parents came to babysit me.

Now that I am on the pills, I am waiting to have suicidal thoughts or to hallucinate. Why are doctors so dumb sometimes? Why plant seeds? Especially when I told her not to plant any seeds?! I am thinking my doctor is book smart but is really lacking common sense.

Apart from waiting for the worst to happen, here is what the experience has been like thus far.

Day One/Friday:  I had an upset stomach all day. I didn’t really have an appetite. I was nauseous. On a scale of 1 to 10, the nausea was probably a 4. Not bad. However, I spent a lot of time in the washroom with soft stools (sorry, TMI!). As expected, I spent the day obsessing about whether I was going to have suicidal thoughts and/or hallucinate unicorns and leprechauns (thanks so much doc!).

Day Two/Saturday: Talk about crazy dreams! Wow! I was woken up around 4am with the craziest dreams. I couldn’t get back to sleep until around 5:30am. When I woke up again around 8am, I was hot and my heart rate was a bit fast (around 106 BPM). I got up and showered and sat on my bed to look at Facebook. I was relaxed. I wasn’t anxious or panicky and I hadn’t even had my second pill yet. I stood up from the bed and I felt my heart rate soar!  I took my heart rate and it was 124 BPM. I started to freak out a bit. I laid down in bed, ate some breakfast and took my second pill. The rest of the day, my heart rate was fine. I had two visits to the washroom with loose stool but my stomach was fine the remainder of the day.  I wasn’t nauseous but my stomach was gurgling really loud all day and night. I ate breakfast and snacked throughout the day. I had a full dinner. I spent a lot of the afternoon waiting to hallucinate or have suicidal thoughts (again, thanks doctor!).

Day Three/Sunday (Today):  Thankfully, I didn’t have any crazy dreams but I did wake up at 4am again. Sigh. That sucks, but I guess it could be worse. I fell back to sleep around 5:30am again and slept until 8. I got a total of 8 1/2 hours sleep which is great. When I woke up at 8am, I was really hot and my heart rate was slightly elevated (in the high 90’s). I tried to ignore it. I got up and showered and took my third pill.  It is 11am now here and I am hopeful the rest of the day will be good. I am super scared for tomorrow because I will be home alone. Kids will be at school and my husband will be at work. The perfect storm for high anxiety. I am scared I will spend the day in my bed obsessing over the potential side effects.

As an aside, my eyes have been burning but that could be sinus problems (the weather in Ontario, Canada has been up and down and has caused me to have sinus headaches).

Also, I have a really bad taste in my mouth. I am thinking that is the pill but it isn’t a big deal at all.

As for my anxiety and panic, I have not had a panic attack since starting the pill but I am only on day three. Placebo effect? Maybe. I will take it, thanks very much! I definitely feel more relaxed, my heart rate overall has decreased slightly. I didn’t leave the house this weekend and have no interest in doing so just yet. Hopefully that will come.

So there you have it.

If I could just get a handle on my obsessive thinking, I would say that so far, this drug doesn’t have bad side effects at all (for me and my body).  A little upset stomach is nothing to complain about if it will take away my anxiety and panic. I’m a bit tired but I don’t know if that is the medicine or the anxiety or the stress of starting the new pill. I’m not lethargic so that’s good.

I will continue to update as the week progresses.  If you have a positive Zoloft story, I would love to hear it.  Please do not post any negative comments or experiences about Zoloft as I am too open to suggestion and need only positive support right now.

© The Flip of the Switch, April 2016.

 

 

1980

Mystic Keyhole

1980.  That was the year of change. That is when you left.  Too self absorbed to fathom the chaotic impact you had on me.  Too taken aback by lust to understand that you had stolen my heart and damaged it beyond repair.  At the time, I was blind to the repercussions your actions would have on my life.  I was naive to think that you would ever be able to put me first, love me as a father should.  As a little girl, control was not something I possessed and my childish thoughts and dreams were in fact, unattainable fantasies.  As I recall my early childhood, I am reminded of what once was.  But I know now, it was all an illusion.  A child learns to repress the negative at an early age, to foster resiliency; emotional survival.  But alas, my attempts at regression have failed. My reality has caught up with me, my childhood illusions have become unravelled.  As I look through the keyhole to my soul, I know that you changed me, your actions caused irreparable damage to my heart and to my mind. Damage that has poisoned my adult life.  Here I sit, reminiscent of all the decisions you made; all of your poor choices.  The ripple effect is unparalleled, you hurt so many people, impacted the destiny of so many lives.  All consciously. You had choices to make and you consistently chose wrong.  You looked into my eyes and lied; filled me with hope and dreams and quashed them like no other. How do I come to peace with that?  As a grown woman, I am angry and furiously disappointed. I must however, realize those were not my choices and I had no control over you.  I must let go of my resentment so that I can thrive and live a happier life.  I am taking control now and I refuse to be dictated by my childhood fears and disenchanted dreams. For while you were once everything, now you are nothing.

© The Flip of the Switch, February 2016.

 

To the Victor Go the Spoils

Satran

Today I broke free from your clutches; from your relentless desire to consume my sanity.

I have been a prisoner in my home and in my mind for far too long.

Today I walked out the door,
and I did not look back.
I drove my car.
Fast.
Dangerously fast.
It was exhilarating.

The windows were down and the bass of the music was soothing to my soul.

I have taken back control.

Oh, you tried to trick me a few times, but I persevered.
There was nothing you could do to stop me today.

It is a sign that your strength is weakening.  Your grip is faltering, your power wavering. You won’t have a hold much longer.  I can feel the victory rushing through my veins.  A taste of the other side.  A taste of what is to come.

For I reign over my mind and body.  Not you, Anxiety.  You are not welcome to do as you wish, you are not welcome to force yourself upon me.  Your intimidation will not prevail. I refuse to give in to your mind games; to your feeble attempts to manipulate me.

Today, I overcame your power.

To the victor go the spoils.

 

© The Flip of the Switch, February 2016.

 

Wishes & Dreams

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Daily gratitude can alter your thought patterns and your outlook on life. With that in mind, I have been trying to acknowledge all of the blessings in my life on a daily basis.  Two of my greatest blessings are my children. Thinking of my children, the lives they will lead, the adventures they will experience and all they will become, makes me smile.  I am truly blessed.

For my children.

I wish you a long life full of love, happiness and crimson sunsets.

I wish you a life of compassion;  showing deep love and grace to others, just as I hope you are treated with compassion and kindness.

I wish you peace, serenity and a calm mind;  a mind that is still and does not rush to panic. Tranquility is necessary for your spirit to soar.

I wish you good health;  take care of your mind, body and your spirit.  Listen to the messages your body sends you.

I wish you true friendship. Real, loving, fulfilling friendship.  It doesn’t come along very often so when it does, hang on to it and cherish it.  Those friends, your dearest friends, will be by your side through all the curves in the road;  the good;  the not so good. Celebrate with them;  cry with them. Make sure they know you love them and appreciate them.

I wish you adventure.  Go backpacking.  Ride roller coasters. Climb a mountain. Our beautiful world is waiting for you to explore it.

I wish you time. Time with your family; time with your own children;  time to stop and smell the roses;  time to read a good book;  time to reflect on and appreciate the blessings in your life.

I wish you hope.  I wish you hope in your yourself;  hope in others; hope in our world. Never surrender your hope.  It is something we all need to survive and thrive.  It is something that can never be taken from you.

I wish you character.  Be strong;  be noble;  be a role model.  Be respectful, be kind, be loving.  Be who you are meant to be.

I wish you strength, determination, perseverance and patience; especially with yourself. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

I wish you love.  Deep, fulfilling love.  The kind of love that takes your breath away; makes your heart skip a beat;  sweeps you off your feet; makes your soul sing.  Hang onto it. Cherish it.  If you lose it, it wasn’t meant to be.  Remember it for how it made you feel but do not grieve for its loss. You will love again and be loved by many, for you are spectacular.

I wish you quiet moments to watch the trees blow in the wind, to watch the clouds sail by, to watch the flowers bloom.  It is these quiet moments that you will hear yourself; when life will make sense;  where stillness will lead to answers.

Trust yourself.

Believe in yourself, just as I believe in you.

I believe you can do anything;  be anything.

Reach for the stars, follow your dreams and be proud of who you are and what you become.  I am already so proud of you.  I am proud to be your mom.

I love you with all of my heart and soul.  You are the reason I was born.  You are the first thing I think of when I wake up and the last thing I think of before I fall asleep.

You.

My children.

My wishes and dreams.

 

© The Flip of the Switch, January 2016.

 

Just Five Seconds

Old chronometer in man hand, vintage  style

I watched two episodes of Lost last night; the first two episodes. Jack said something that was truly thought provoking.

When Jack was a medical resident, his first solo surgery was a spinal surgery. Just as he was closing, he cut a section of nerves in the lower spine of his patient; a sixteen year old girl. He froze. Panic and fear set in. It was at that moment he had a choice to make. He could freeze and risk this young girl’s life or he could find the strength to carry on.

He chose to allow himself to panic for five seconds.

Just five seconds.

He counted to five in his head and then pushed the fear out of the way and completed the surgery.  Everything went fine and the young girl was perfectly healthy (everything always ends so well in Hollywood!).

This idea of only allowing yourself to feel fear for five seconds resonated so deeply with me;  it was eye opening; a revelation.

Is it possible that I may be able to adopt this strategy when my heart races; when I have anxious thoughts; when I panic?

Could this be a tool for my toolbox that is unlike any of the others?  One that puts the other tools to shame?

This sounds so logical to me.  I will feel the fear for five seconds.

Just five seconds.

I am grounded in logic and rational thought.  My life is dictated by right and wrong; black and white.  There is no gray.  Could something so simple, so logical, have a lasting impact on how I perceive and act on fearful thinking and physical sensations in my body?

It may not.  But it is worth a try.  A new tool for my toolbox, courtesy of Jack Shephard.

Five

Four

Three

Two

One

Just five seconds.

 

© The Flip of the Switch, January 2016.

 

 

The Disillusion of Compassion

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How is it that we think we know someone, really know someone, but they turn out to be nothing you thought they were.

It is interesting that when one is going through a rough patch; a rocky road; a tumultuous time, that the people we think will support us, be there for us and comfort us are in fact, some of the biggest contributors to our stress.  They further perpetuate the feeling of instability and vulnerability.

I have someone in my life that fits this bill.

It makes me sad.  I am overwhelmed with grief.  It makes me feel physically ill.  I am disappointed.

This person increases my stress level, increases my anxiety, increases my panic and they make me angry.

Angry they just couldn’t be the person I thought they would be.  Disappointed they do not possess the character I thought they did.  Irate that they continue to put their head in the sand and pretend like nothing is wrong;  they are oblivious to my reality;  to their reality.

I am angry at myself for thinking they held such regal character;  for thinking they were compassionate, loving, caring, considerate and supportive.  How did I miss this?  Was it an illusion?  Did this person ever truly possess the character traits that I hold dearest to me?  That we value as a society?

I am truly fortunate to have a vast network of support.  My family and friends are everything to me.  They are always there; willing to help any way they can.  I am blessed.

But you.  You.  I am disappointed in you.  I expected you to be my pillar of strength.  My knight in shining armour.  My safety net.  My best friend.  You have let me down.  You are either a supporter or a stressor;  you cannot be both. And you.  You.  You are a stressor.  You have made your choice.

No matter what you do, whatever choices you make, I cannot control you.

Indeed, you are not the person I thought you were.  Thought you could be. Thought you would be. But there is nothing I can do about that.  I cannot change you.  I cannot mould you into something you are not.  You won’t change.  Even when I beg and cry for support.  Call out to you in an effort to lean on you; you are not there.

You are everywhere, yet nowhere.

The disillusion of compassion.

Compassion for oneself, compassion for others.

You do not possess compassion and I don’t know who I feel more sorry for;  me or you.

You.  I feel sorry for you.  For I am strong and I will fight my way through this.  I am important and I have goals to reach and dreams to catch.  But you.  What do you have?

Your relationships are in shambles.  Almost all of them.  You have family ties that are complicated, poisonous, bitter and full of heartache.  You care for no one, yet argue that you care for everyone.  You have tried to convince yourself for so long that you possess this illustrious character.  That you are a role model for others to emulate.

You are wrong.

Disillusion of self.

Disillusion of reality.

Yes, it is you I feel sorry for.

In the end, I will get through this.  I will prevail.

I live life with compassion, love, kindness and consideration.  I help others, try to ease any burden they are shouldering.  I care deeply about people’s happiness and well being, including my own.

I don’t need you.

I just need me.

 

© The Flip of the Switch, January 2016.

 

 

In Pursuit of a Hobby

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In an effort to continue down the path of exploring meaning and gratitude, here is another thought provoking question, courtesy of my illustrious therapist.

List five hobbies you have or you think you might like to have.  After each hobby, list the most positive aspects (meanings) the hobby holds for you.

Photography & Scrapbooking

Hands down, my favourite pastime.  My husband tells me I take too many photos and not only that, but I take too many of the same photo (which I do because I know that someone is going to blink or cause a blur!).

It can be something as natural and serene as a ladybug sitting upon a delicate leaf, to my children making funny faces!  A moment frozen in time. That single moment;  that single expression, will never happen again.  But, I can preserve it in a photo.  Sear it into my memory with a photo.  Cherish it forever in a photo.

Once preserved, I move to scrapbooking.  By scrapbooking, I mean both digital and traditional.  I am a hands on, visual person so the old school, paper scrapbooking is my preference.  But, it is time consuming.  Really, really time consuming.  Add my perfectionism to the mix and a one page scrapbook layout can literally take me hours. So, I usually resort to digital scrapbooking.  Nothing too fancy.  I prefer solid black backgrounds with little embellishment (opposite of my taste in paper scrapbooking – not sure why that is).

Photography gives meaning to my life because it preserves my dearest memories.

One day, hopefully a long, long time from now, my mind will fail me.

I won’t remember the details of that vacation to Disneyworld or last year’s Thanksgiving dinner.

I won’t remember what my children looked like with no front teeth or the look on my son’s face when his team won gold at a hockey tournament.

I won’t remember the baby birds in the nest on our eavestrough or the double rainbow after a spring storm swept through our town.

Photography gives meaning to my life because it tells a story.  My story.

Reading

I could open a bookstore.  Truly.  In fact, I just ordered a bunch of new books online this morning. More and more books!  My husband is going to have a complete meltdown.  I pray he is at work when the delivery arrives! Ha!

My husband believes that in this digital age of ours there is no longer a need for paper books.  For anything made of paper.  Ever.  Okay, maybe toilet paper.  But that’s it!

He, of course, is wrong (about the books, not the toilet paper).

To feel a book in your hands and smell its pages is a piece of heaven.  I have an e-reader and it is not the same.  Not even close.

I read everything:  Fiction, youth fiction, non-fiction, self help, cookbooks, magazines and literary classics. You name it, I read it.

Reading takes you to another world.  It is an escape.

Reading means making time for yourself.  To recharge. Set your worries aside. To visit a world outside of this realm and get to know an old friend, a queen or a vampire.

It also provides an opportunity to spend time with your children.  To cuddle up in bed and enter a fantasy world.  Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter, The Wizard of Oz.  All great adventures that are even better when they are shared with those you love.

Physical Health

What does physical health look like?

Ya, I’m not really sure.  I don’t do anything physical. Walking up a flight of stairs is about as physical as I get.  I know.  That’s terrible.  Which is why it is on my list of hobbies “you think you might like”.

I have tried yoga before and loved it.  Really loved it. But it was far.  Door to door, the whole experience would take about three hours a day (and I tried to go three times a week).  That’s a lot of time.  The good news is a yoga studio opened up much closer to home and I am hoping to start going next week!

What does that mean to me?  Well, physical exercise, as we all know, is beneficial to your body.  More specifically, yoga can help many ailments including anxiety. It also means that I am going to take an interest in making choices that are good for my body and thus, good for my mind.

Namaste.

Quilting

I kept a large selection of my children’s baby clothes so that one day, I could make them quilts.  Great idea right?  It is, except for the fact that I can’t sew!

As a first step, I need to find a person who can teach me to sew and then have them teach me to quilt. Well, that doesn’t sound too difficult, right?!

Once I find the talented individual who is going to teach me, I will be off to the races; creating magical quilts full of my love.  Full of memories of when my children were babies.  Telling a story of their infancy and toddlerhood;  of their trip home from the hospital, their first giggles and first steps.  These quilts will be priceless.  I can only hope that my children will wrap themselves in them and know how much I love them. Every stage, every age.  I love them with all of my being.

Traditional Artistic Expression

Lastly, I want to explore traditional artistic expression.  I loved studying art in high school (many moons ago) and I especially loved pencils and oils.  I think a trip to my local art supply store is in order.

The meaning is simple.  Expression of yourself and your surroundings.  Visual expression of your worldview; of your emotions; your thoughts.  When they say get it down on paper, it doesn’t mean you are confined to lined paper and a ballpoint pen. Experiment using canvas and oils or a 6B pencil and archival quality paper.  Markers, chalk, pencil crayons, pastels or good ol’ Crayolas.  Journalling doesn’t just take form in the written word, your story can be told through visual art.

So go ahead, tell your story.

 

© The Flip of the Switch, January 2016.