48 hours.

I recently spiralled down, way down, this is how it went.

10:02 pm – Arrive at the pharmacy to pick up meds. Realize they closed at 10:00

11:00 pm – Going to sleep without one of my medications. About to spend the whole night twisting and turning.

4:30 am – Wake up soaked in sweat from a nightmare. Has to get up change clothes and bedding. Spends the next hour replaying the dream in my head.

7:15 am – Alarm goes off. I roll over and go back to sleep.

7:45 am – I wake up with a start, noticing I’ve slept in and jump out of bed to get ready for work.

8:06 am – Arrive back at the pharmacy to try and pick up my meds again. Realize they don’t open until 9:00…

8:10 am – Stop at a coffee shop to pick up breakfast. Coffee is burnt and they’re out of bagels.

8:20 am – Arrive at work.

4:30 pm – Arrive home from work. Immediately put on pyjamas and get in bed. Spend the next 5 hours napping on and off.

9:00 pm – Realize I didn’t go back to the pharmacy and now I am out of 2 different medications.

9:15 pm – Going to sleep for another stress filled night.

10:45 am – I wake up and race to meet my family for breakfast.

12:00pm – Arrive home and get back in bed. Spend the next 4 hours napping on and off.

4:30 pm – Arrive at the pharmacy to pick up both medications. Immediately takes one before driving home.

5:00 pm – Sitting in the driveway, feeling so heavy, wondering if I can make it into the house.

5:05 pm – Depression sinks in. Tears start to stream down my cheeks.

5:30 pm – I’m now sobbing and can’t figure out why. All of a sudden my mind is full of negativity.

5:45 pm – My mind starts heading back to it’s old ways, wondering where my old blade is. I start fighting with myself to stop. I start begging my mind to calm down.

6:00 pm – I fill the bathtub with hot water and climb in, hoping the water burning my skin will bring me back to the present.

6:30 pm – Still can’t calm down. As I refill the tub with hotter water my mind is flooded with negativity. I’m sobbing, my chest is heavy, it feels like my lungs are about to cave in.  When I feel like I can’t breathe anymore, I close my eyes, hold my breath and sink into the water. After what feels like an eternity my body’s natural instincts kick in and I sit up.

7:00 pm – Stumbling out of the tub, I gulp in fiery air, my lungs burning.

7:15 pm – I’m sitting in my bed focusing on my breathing, eventually it slows and I begin to write this post. Breaking down the past 48 hours into specific events, and accepting each individual event for what it was allows me to move past it and back into the now.

Cut to the next morning – I feel better. Lighter.

Sometimes it’s when you’ve been feeling the best that you hit the ground the hardest. Sometimes when you forget how horrible it feels, you forget how important your medications are to you.

Sometimes when all the happy has left your body you need to crack, so the light can find it’s way back in.

 

 

 

 

 

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May 12

On April 25th, 2014 I decided to turn my life around. I decided I didn’t want to be sad anymore, and if I was going to live, I was going to live happily. Two weeks later, on May 12th, 2014 I stopped self-harming and started on the road to recovery.

The road to recovery can be very long, it can last anywhere from a week to your whole life. It isn’t a road that is easily travelled; it isn’t paved and it is all up hill. You’ll need to stop and take a rest sometimes and you might even slip backwards, however push forward because the feeling at the end is worth the struggle.

Everyone travelling on the road to recovery has a different path; Mine started with the purchase of a notebook. When I decided I was ready to stop cutting, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, I wanted to stop but I wasn’t exactly ready to let go of my blade. My therapist at the time told me to do something else to release, so I bought a notebook and sliced the pages instead of my skin. Seeing the cuts of paper fall out of the book was surprisingly satisfying. I’m not saying it “cured” me, or magically stopped my cravings, but it definitely helped because since that day I have not self-harmed once.

Along my journey I’ve found other things that have helped in my recovery. Reading, writing, yoga, strength training, and especially meditation. Meditation has been the one thing that I can always go to when I need a mental break, when I need a little push further up Recovery Road, when I needed to be reminded of the beauty in the world.

Through meditation I learned the story of the lotus. I learned that the lotus has to grow through thick mud and water before it is able to open to the sun and bloom. It was this story, as well as two quotes, that inspired me to get my latest tattoo. A lotus on my right leg, the leg I used to self-harm for the quote, “I am blooming from the wound where I once bled” by the poet, Rune Lazuli. The other being the quote featured above. It was Van Gogh who said “Normality is a paved road; It’s comfortable to walk but no flowers grow on it”. Recovery Road is not necessarily a “normal” route to take in life, but it is one that will change you. It will take you off the paved road and let you bloom.

Now I am two years clean of self-harm, with a lotus tattoo to remind me of all the mud that I have travelled through, and to remind me everyday to bloom.

Recovery

Quite often, I find myself wondering, what recovery feels like? How will I know when I start to recover from all the trauma that pins me down.

Mental illnesses are much the same as physical illnesses. If you break your leg, or get an infection, you take medications, rest, take care of your body. It’s the same for depression or anxiety, the medications (if you must), rest and take care of your mind. So it makes sense that recovery from a mental setback, would be the same as a physical setback.

When you’re recovering from the flu, you don’t necessarily notice, until you think about when the last time you coughed was and realize it’s been hours. I think its the same for depression, you don’t realize you’re feeling better until you think about how long it has been since the last time you felt down. Thinking back to when you felt down means a big step in recovery is reflection and knowing how to reflect without letting it affect you.

You must reflect on the negative experiences that made you who you are, to not let them have anything over you anymore. You must reflect on each time you’ve felt down, so you can recognize the space in-between when you felt fine. However, reflecting on the past can be a slippery slope. Its easy to get caught up in the past and let it hold you there, but if you look back with an analytical mindset you try and prevent that.

Having an analytical, or growth mindset when reflecting will allow you to look at your experiences from different views. One view being your heart, which remembers the emotions, and another being your brain, which acts as the outsider, able to understand multiple sides to every story. This turns your reflection into research, which to me, makes so much sense. If ever you didn’t understand something, you would research it. It’s the same for yourself, if at any point in time you don’t understand yourself or how you got to a certain place in your life, look back, research how, research why.

I’ve always been the type of person who only wants to focus on the present, and forget the past. However I’ve come to learn that you can only truly be in the present, the now, if your past isn’t holding you back. The past can be painful, very painful, which is why just trying to forget it doesn’t work, you must face it front on and come to terms with it. This starts with reflection.

Reflection turns into research. Research turns into recovery. Recovery turns into happiness.   

My Poetry Debut.

I’ve been working on loving my self, for some time now, and seeing I’m someone who struggles with depression and negative self-talk, it’s not easy. I guess re-wiring your mind isn’t supposed to be easy, is it.

From what I’ve learned, one of the major steps in learning how to love yourself, is taking care of yourself, physically and emotionally. Physically is the easy part. Exercise, eat well, drink lots of water, take your vitamins, and listen to your doctor. Taking care of your emotional self if the difficult part. You need to be able to recognize your emotions before you can understand them, and you need to understand them before you can heal them.

Years of therapy have helped me recognize my emotions, and now I’m learning on the understanding and healing, which tend to go hand-in-hand. Often times, so I’ve realized, is once you finally understand something you’ve been feeling for such a long time, healing comes naturally. Almost as if what was holding you back from healing was not understanding why you were feeling a certain way.

Most of my healing has come from the help of poetry. Poetry has always been something I’ve loved, but not something I ever truly connected with, until recently. Reading the work of Lovelace, Sin, and Kaur have helped me more than any “self-help” book ever could. For I learned that other people have felt what I’ve felt, due to reasons similar to my own, and have come out on the other side. That just because something happened to you, doesn’t mean it defines you, and doesn’t mean you can’t be you again.

I’ve been inspired by these fantastic writers and have started writing my own poems. Now, by no means am I a poet or an author, but the simple act of writing has always proven to be therapeutic for me, especially poetry. I think this is so, because of the beauty behind poetry. It’s hard to feel sad when you’re writing such beautiful words.

I’ve always said that I would never share my poetry, because 1) it’s a little dark, and 2) I don’t think I’m very good. That might sound a little superficial, but I’m a bit of a perfectionist sometimes, which makes it hard to try new things, and writing poetry is definitely something new to me. However everyone starts somewhere, and if you don’t share your work, no one can learn from it.

They say you’re supposed to do one thing each day that scares you, so this is my big scary debut into the world of poetry.

May 13th

I say i stopped cutting on May 13th, but i didn't 
that was the day i passed the knife to you.
Each kiss, touch, and look was a lie
the knife dancing across my skin.
Every time you whispered 'i love you'
you dug the knife a little deeper.
I say i stopped cutting on May 13th, but i didn't
I stopped the day i left you. 

Sometimes a dark poems leave you feeling light. That is what this poem does for me. When I wrote it I didn’t plan to say what I said, the words just flowed. This was one of my first poems, and is about something that has very much changed my perspective on life. I’ve talked about self harm before, and it has been something I’ve wanted to forget for such a long time, however not anymore. I understand those emotions better now, and now they are what keep me grounded in times of unease.

My tally marks are a reminder of what what I’m capable of surviving, and my poetry is a reminder of how I’m going to overcome anything that tries to hold me back from living.

Elevators

Living with depression is a lot like being trapped in an elevator;

You step into an elevator, needing to get to the top floor of a building, however the person who just got off was originally going to the basement. So now even though you want to go to the penthouse, you see the ‘B’ illuminated, and you can feel that you’re going down. It doesn’t matter how many times you press up wanting to go to a higher floor, the elevator is going to the basement and you can’t stop it. You know the elevator will eventually reach it’s destination, and you’ll be on your way back up, making it to the top floor, but for now you’re stuck going down.

Depression is much the same. You can feel your mood slipping, and your energy levels are plummeting, you know you’re on your way down. You do everything you can think of to try and stop it, to try and turn it around and “lighten up”, but you’re stuck on that elevator going to the bottom floor. Sometimes you just need to feel down, so you can better appreciate the good days. You don’t realize how sweet a simple breath of air is until you’ve almost drowned.

Although I know that I have to feel down something, and that it’s completely normal. I don’t like feeling depressed. I don’t want to be depressed. What I do like is being able to validate my emotions and accept where I am in each moment in time.

I’ve spent way too long wishing I was different, waiting to  feel different, wishing that I could always be happy and never feel depressed. Wishing and waiting, wishing and waiting. I’d accept the now, and be okay with feeling down or not so great, but then get frustrated waiting for my mood to improve. I would wish to expedite the waiting, wanting to jump right from the bottom floor to the top floor. Thats unrealistic. Now, I’m starting to understand theres a process, and I’m working on accepting it. Maybe soon I’ll even like it, but right now acceptance is the goal. Today I’m feeling good. Not exactly great, but I am feeling better than last week and even better than yesterday. Each day doesn’t need to be extraordinary, it just needs to be good enough to be a smidgen better than yesterday.

I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re not going to get off the elevator and get some exercise on the stairs, at least enjoy the ride and sign along to the music.

 

2017

It’s January 1st, today is the day people everywhere reflect on the previous 365 days and make plans for the next. The past few years I’ve always started the new year by making a pros and cons list of the prior year. Reflecting on the previous year is a great way to be thankful for your positive experiences and to learn from the negative ones. This year
I’m not doing that. I’m not wasting the happiness I have today by trying to decode 2016’s cons and learn something from them. I will however focus on making 2017 better than 2016, one day at a time, starting with today.

I talk a lot about living in the present and not dwelling on the past, however that isn’t something I’ve done a very good job of lately. The past couple months have been very difficult for me. My past kept forcing itself to the forefront of my mind and even the reminders I have tattooed on my body couldn’t bring me back to the present. My mood seemed to be stuck at a dangerously low level, my thoughts turned dark and I started to experience intrusive thoughts of suicide. These  dark thoughts and shadows aren’t anything new to me, however it’s been a long time since I haven’t been able to do something to help myself out of the darkness. It scared me. I made some very poor decisions in my vulnerable state, grasping at the smallest pieces of temporary happiness to try and brighten my mood. Of course this only resulted in pulling me further down, and scaring me more.

Today, I’m grateful that it’s the beginning of a new week, and a new year.

Today, I got out of bed feeling rested, meditated for 6 minutes, got dressed, left the house, sang along to music while driving, and was finally able to organize my thoughts enough to write.

Today, I feel less scared.

As I previously said, I’m not going to waste today’s happiness on yesterday, but I’m going to focus this positive energy into making today great and tomorrow even better.

Daily Challenges:

Meditate ; Write ; Eat a minimum of 2 meals ; Drink a minimum of 2 litres

Weekly Challenges:

1 Blogpost ; Exercise 4 times a week

Monthly Challenges:

Read 2 books ; Put 15% of each paycheque into savings

Yearly Challenges:

Travel to 3 countries ; Cross 5 things off my bucket list

I have more challenges and goals already set for myself and I’m sure the list will continue to grow, but these are the ones I’m choosing to share because these are all second-chance-goals. I’ve set these as goals before and have not completed them, that is why this year they’re challenges instead.

So thats thats. I’ve set my challenges and goals for 2017 without dwelling on the past year, I’m finishing one chapter and turning the page to the next. It might seem strange, but this year I’m embracing my inner Bob Ross..

“You need the dark in order to show the light”

“Look around. Look at what we have. Beauty is everywhere, you only have to look to see it.”

and of course,

“There are no mistakes, just happy little accidents”

Pencils vs. Crayons

I’ve always thought that true happiness was a mindset. That you couldn’t find happiness, or buy it, but if you truly believed you could be happy, then you would be. It wasn’t until I was in a business meeting last week that I realized I was wrong. Happiness isn’t a mindset, it’s the result of a mindset.

There are two different types of mindsets: Fixed and Growth. A fixed mindset is the belief that people have set skills, talents, and intelligence. I see this as the black-and-white mindset, you’re either good at something or you’re not. Then theres a growth mindset, which is the belief in ones ability to develop or change. I see this as the more colourful mindset, like a 64 pack of crayons, you aren’t limited, you can choose to be whatever colour you want.

In the meeting I was attending, we were talking about how each mindset can have a different impact at work. If you are stuck in a fixed mindset, you, or your associates, will feel just that, stuck. You’ll catch yourself saying things like, “We never hit our goals before, so we never will”, or “I’m just bad at that, I always will be”. You may be really good at something and very successful in your current role, but a fixed mindset creates a glass ceiling on your achievements. Focusing only on the end result, will discourage you from trying new things from the fear of failure. However if you have a growth mindset, you break that glass ceiling and you have room to thrive. You embrace the power of the words “yet” and “will”, and celebrate effort rather than achievement. Having this mindset encourages your associates to develop themselves and try new things.

Being the Mental Health advocate I am, I couldn’t help but think of how the two mindsets also affect your wellbeing. If you are someone who struggles with depression or anxiety, like me, you may find yourself in a fixed mindset from time to time. Dealing with these obstacles make it really easy to say things like “I won’t ever be happy”, or “I just can’t cheer up, I never will” and when you’re repeatedly saying these things, you start to believe them. I know for a fact, how difficult breaking out of the habit of negative self-talk can be, and it can definitely prove to be a very long task. Personally, I managed to chip away at the habit by meditating, however I think that if I had known about fixed vs. growth mindsets then, it would have been much easier. Knowing the signs of a fixed mindset would have helped me realize that the things I was thinking, or saying to myself, were do to my mindset, not the chemical imbalance in my brain.

I’m not saying you can’t be happy if you have a fixed mindset, but I strongly believe that the “glass ceiling” effect I spoke to earlier, also applies to your happiness. If you have a fixed mindset, you put a limit on your happiness. You may be really happy in one moment in time, but it may only be temporary. If you have a growth mindset, your happiness is never-ending.

I can now confidently say that I have a growth mindset, maybe I always have and I just got sidetracked along the way. I think that might be the case for everyone. That everyone has the ability to have a growth mindset, they just need to want it.

I still believe that you need to believe you can be happy before you can be, but now I realize believing in yourself is actually having a growth mindset, and happiness is the outcome.