The Simple Woman’s Daybook – August “Office” Edition

simple-woman-daybook-smallFOR TODAY

Outside my window…it is overcast but I can see some blue between the clouds.

I am thinking...about how much I would love to be lowering my stress levels at a dance workshop right now, hip-dropping myself into a sweaty ball, or howling with laughter over a silly joke with a girlfriend. Yesterday, alone in the office, I dialed up a Middle Eastern music station and worked to Amr Diab, Hafiz and Oum Kolthum. I have never done that in the office before. Since I am alone in the office again today, I am thinking that I might just do it again.

I am thankful…that my recovery from menopausal depression is withstanding the stress of these last several days weeks and that I have learned to recognize, acknowledge and ACT on my feelings of tiredness and stress before they overwhelm me…to be able to say “this is about me” and say what I need.

On another note, I am also thankful to feel inspired (and, yes, even impatient!) to rejoin the dance world (are you surprised?)

In the kitchen…since I am writing this on my lunch break where I work at Yukon College, my kitchen of the moment happens to be the top of my desk, which has a half-eaten sandwich hiding somewhere amongst a pile of paperwork on it at the moment.

I am wearing…leggings, sandals and a tunic top. Not the most appropriate office attire, but the campus is quiet so it’s okay.

I am creating…I have just spent the entire morning formatting a draft MOU between our Bachelor of Social Work program and the University of Regina. At home, I’ve started a new project: making a quilt out of hand sewn hexagons. I can’t have only the ONE project on the go after all…two is definitely twice the fun.

I am going…to pick up the truck after work. It is in the shop getting camper bars put on. Yay camping! Then to take Samson for a walk. Then (maybe) to a gals night out going away party. I say “maybe” because I am unbelievably tired emotionally – and it feels like a lot of work to go anywhere but home.

I am wondering…what possessed me to write this during my lunch break. You don’t really get a lunch break when you stay at your desk. I’ve already been interrupted a half-dozen times to do work, lol!

I am reading…Royal Weddings – a Harlequin Romance book of three short stories about girls who meet princes-in-disguise. This is sheer unadulterated, brainless, entertaining summer reading and I am not going to apologize for it!

I am hoping…that the scale doesn’t reflect the crap I’ve eaten this week. Stress eating. Yuck for gut.

I am looking forward to…getting some exercise. I feel antsy and wound up. And getting home to sew.

I am learning…to make neat little hand sewn seams that the Queen herself would be proud of.

Around the house…since I am at the office, I’ll say “around the office”. We are in the middle of moving, so everything is in boxes and discombobulated (don’t you love that word?)

I am pondering…ugh. Do I have to?

A favorite quote for today…“don’t ask me, I just work here”

One of my favorite things…well okay…I will admit it…I love shopping. I do. God help me and my bank account.

A few plans for the rest of the week…no plans. I’m just gliding along day by day, enjoying the summer.



Dottering Middle Age

I wore my purple dress, purple shoes and crochet shrug to work this morning. Half-way through the morning I noticed that I was no longer wearing the shrug. Feeling a wee bit chilly, I felt around behind me on the back of my chair, looking with my hands to slip the sweater back on. No shrug. Huh? I got up and looked around my desk. No shrug. Not on the floor. Not in the drawer (why would it be in there anyway?). Not anywhere in the office! How strange! I walked down the hall to the file cabinet. No shrug. I walked to the ladies room and looked in my usual stall. No shrug. No shrug on the hook behind the door (who knows…). No shrug beside the sinks. I did wear it this morning, didn’t I? I am sure I was wearing it…

Then I remembered walking to the student residence building earlier in the morning, and so I retraced my steps. Out of my office and out of the side doors I  go,  across the parking lot, and there! in the middle of the parking lot! in a pathetic little heap of abandoned linen crochet, is my shrug!

Now tell me please, how does one’s sweater just happen to fall off of one’s body without one noticing?

Maybe I need to visit the doctor for a mental acuity test.

On another note, does anyone remember which episode this picture belongs to?

I don’t either.


The Biggest Thing

Today  I’m linking up with Heather at The Extraordinary Ordinary. She hosts Just Write, the goal being to write about what is happening around you, freely and without editing or censure, what you see, hear, feel, think. I’m nervous because I’m not a writer, and yet I’m linking to a writing blog. Go figure. And also, I didn’t exactly follow the rules – I didn’t write about things going on around me. I wrote about things going on inside of me. I guess these words just needed to come out.

2012 was a horrendous year for me. I broke down. Like an old car, or an old horse that has walked beyond its last step and can now only stand with head hanging low over the fence rail. Unable to move forward or back. I found myself hitched to a wagon, some rusty old thing with sticky brakes and loaded up with chunks of old concrete and rebar. That’s what it felt like. Depression. My body forgot how to dance.  My body and my brain forgot what it was to experience joy. I  remember watching the partly frozen river flowing by and wondering what it would be like to go under the ice. Cold at first. But then warm again.

That was exactly one year ago.

I couldn’t work and was granted a 6-week leave of absence. I saw a doctor. I saw a therapist. I got a diagnosis. I started taking citalopram. I started sharing my story on my blog. I asked my friends for help. I started to get better.

One year later, today, I consider myself recovered. Healed, but with scars that still ache once in a while. Like old bones that have been fractured but still occasionally twinge and complain even after they have closed. I am careful with myself. I am frightened of returning to that state. I am chary of becoming overwhelmed, and have been ginger about putting things on my plate. I’ve taken it slow. I started off by committing to sewing one quilt block a month on an on-line quilting bee. Then last term I enrolled in a course simply because I was interested in the subject, but I worried about my ability to juggle it all. A full-time job, a college course and a quilting commitment? Was I well enough? Would I break down again?  I was. And I didn’t! I successfully did it all – and enjoyed myself, too!  and so this term I have enrolled in another interesting course and have taken on a 2nd quilting commitment (two on-line quilting bees). Though I am nervous, I know it will be okay.

Recently, my body has remembered how to dance.

I haven’t done any formal practice, but not because I can’t…because I don’t feel like it. (Oh how I love being able to say that! I don’t do something “because I don’t feel like it”. How freeing! How empowering!)  Instead, I wiggle around the kitchen to whatever strikes me to move at the moment. I realize that I am still a dancer. Yes I am. Just because I’m not practicing at the moment doesn’t make me any less of a dancer. Any less a dance artist. And miracle of miracles…I am starting to miss teaching dance, too. Just because I’m not teaching at the moment doesn’t make me any less of a dance teacher!

Do I have a goal for next year? Are you kidding? The biggest thing I learned during my year of illness and recuperation is that my worth isn’t measured by how much I produce or how much I accomplish. I have intrinsic value. I matter.

What began as a curse has turned into a blessing.


A Broken Day and a Pretty Dress

I haven’t written anything about my experience with menopausal depression for awhile. I don’t want to be one of those people who complain endlessly about their health, so I try not to talk about it too much. But since I started with that first post, (if you want to follow along, look under “depression” in the drop-down categories) I guess I will continue. Please stop reading now if it’s going to drive you bananas!

This is my third week back on the job. The first week, I only came in for two days. The second week I came in for 3 days. This week, I’m back to full time.

Wearing the everything-is -okay mask again has been tiring, and I’m exhausted at the end of the day. I’ve had a couple of small anxiety attacks at unusual times, too. For example, at the end of the day when I’m lying in bed I’ll suddenly start to panic. Kelly holds onto me and tells me I’m safe and that it will pass. God bless my husband.

I had two broken days in a row last weekend (Friday & Saturday). I held it all together through the work week, and then fell to pieces as soon as the pressure was off. I guess that makes sense. Today is another broken day as well, and I guess that makes sense, too.

What’s next? Well, part of my wellness plan is to attend a special course that was designed to teach lifestyle & self-management tools to people with depression and other related disorders. It takes place one morning per week for seven weeks. Sometimes I look forward to it, and sometimes I dread it. When I dread it, it’s because I’m scared and proud. I’m scared because what if being so immersed in the subject will make things worse?  And my pride doesn’t want me to be labeled and judged before I even walk in the door as “depressedNita”. I don’t want to be depressedNita! I want to be joyfulNita!

On the other hand, I look forward to being in the class because I really do want to be 100% well again.  I’m willing to  do whatever it takes to get the joyful ME back, and I’m hoping that taking this course will give me some great tools for my kit.

So the course information session was today. I went into the meeting feeling pretty good, but walked out feeling extremely shaky. At the end of the meeting, we were asked to fill out our answers to a dozen or so questions on a written form. I tried to answer as honestly as I could, but as I went from question to question, I began to realize that I’m really not as fine as I thought I was. It shook me up.

Afterwards, I sat in my car for a long time before I could drive away. I felt nauseous and lightheaded, and my chest and throat hurt. I might have thought I was having a heart attack, but I know from experience what anxiety and panic feels like, and that was the worst panic attack I’ve had in a long, long time.

I needed to be calm before going back to work, so I parked the car on Main Street and walked up and down a bit, just allowing myself to be amongst people, breathing and trying to feel settled again. I went into a store to browse, and ended up buying two dresses. Two dresses that made me feel confident and pretty the instant I put them on. Two dresses that made me smile and see myself on the outside the way I want to feel on the inside.

I like that image of myself: there goes Nita, moving towards wellness in a pretty dress.

A Darned Good Best

I went out to a pub on St. Patrick’s Day. A friend was providing the live entertainment for the evening with his guitar and a fun selection of Irish songs. I went with three friends and met up with other friends once we got there. The place was packed. I was really enjoying myself. It was nice to get out of the house, socialize, have a glass (or two) of wine, listen to good music. You know, all that normal stuff people do when they get together. I felt happy and relaxed. Then I noticed that there were an awful lot of people there from my workplace, sprinkled throughout the crowd. My supervisor was there. An HR person was there. I started to feel uncomfortable, and I wondered if they were thinking, “Hey, she’s on sick leave but she sure doesn’t look sick.” It started to bother me. Were they judging me? Did they think I was lying? Should I not be laughing? Should I not be drinking wine and having fun? Should I not be there at all? I had been so pleased to be invited, but maybe I should not have come.

But then I recognized these thoughts for what they were: negative, broken thoughts. And I know what to do about those. Reframe, reframe, reframe. Turn that frown upside down.

First of all, the people from my workplace were also there to listen to the music, socialize and have fun. They weren’t thinking about me at all, and if they were, they shouldn’t have been. And, if they did wonder about me being there while on sick leave, what did they actually see? They saw a person on the road to good health, actively working on recovery. Hopefully they would have been pleased to see me out and about as opposed to sitting at home, alone.

That’s the trouble with your brain being sick as opposed to your visible body – or any illness that doesn’t show. People do judge. Of course they do, it’s human nature. So in addition to dealing with your invisible illness (whatever it may be), you also have to deal with the crazy-making comments and judgemental looks that come your way from people who don’t know what’s going on. And of course you have to deal with your own perceptions, assumptions and self-judgement, too. You have to develop a surety of self at a time when you are least able to do so. That’s part of what makes you stronger. You heal stronger because you are forced to develop (or re-learn) a healthy sense of self-awareness and self-confidence as part of the healing process. You learn to re-frame the negative.

I saw a quote on Facebook today, taken from “The Four Agreements” by M. Dasek-Larcher: Always do you best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse, and regret.

Its important to remember that phrase: “your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.”

On broken days, I have my balance checklist to keep me on track. On broken days, I am doing my best by following that simple plan and checking a few things off of the list. Even if it is one thing, it is doing my best, and I cannot judge myself poorly for that. As I recover and regain my health, energy and vitality, doing my best may be going out to the pub with my friends. Or having a busy day like I did on Sunday, baking a batch of muffins, helping my kids unpack their new house and then taking them out for dinner.

Under any circumstance, simply do your best and give yourself credit for it. Isn’t that what balance is all about?

Menopausal Depression part 2

Please read my blog of February 8th for part one of the story. Thank you to those who have given me their love and support, your words mean a great deal to me. I am neither strong nor brave…in fact, I am writing the next part in the 2nd person because it is still very difficult to talk about and somehow saying “you” instead of “I” makes it more bearable to share to the world as I am doing, however silly that may be. I still feel the stigma and the guilt and shame. But because I truely believe that talking about it is the only way we can remove that stigma and help each other, here is part two of my story. Part three will come another day.

Imagine yourself wandering blissfully through a field. Grasses are waving, the air is warm and scented, and butterflies flit around. You know where you are going; you’re open to challenges and capable of meeting them. You love your life. You love your job and your home and your family. There are a myriad of little things that you do every day that you don’t even think about. You get out of bed in the morning. You brush your teeth. You take your vitamins. You look forward to the day. You sing and you dance. You describe yourself as a happy person, a content person.

That’s your life before depression. When depression hits, you don’t notice at first. You go along, but you just aren’t your “old self”. People might notice that you are less patient than you used to be. Maybe you start to make errors at work, drop balls you used to juggle effortlessly. You probably don’t notice this is happening, though others will. What you do notice is that it is harder to concentrate, harder to juggle more than one thing at a time. Things you used to love doing have become chores. Things that used to be hard become impossible. You know you’re going through menopause, so you attribute your mental state to that. After a while, the green grass in your meadow starts to dry out and get prickly. The nice smell goes away and the pretty butterflies turn into annoying gnats. Instead of dancing along cheerfully, you begin trudging up a hill and the sun gradually goes behind some pretty nasty-looking black clouds.

You used to get out of bed and spend time with your home yoga practice or walk on the treadmill every morning. Maybe you always complained about getting up early (who doesn’t?), but you did it, and once you were out of bed, you enjoyed it. Now, you only get up when you absolutely have to. Now you get up at the last minute and rush through getting ready. You don’t even think about yoga or exercise. It’s all you can do just to get out the door. You used to bounce your shoulders and nod you head to the music on the radio as you drove to work. Now, you start crying before you’re half-way there. The world is flat and uninteresting. You feel hollow. You start to eat comfort food to fill the empty space, but of course what you gain is weight, not happiness.

You know something is seriously wrong, but you don’t know what and you are unable to do anything about it. And then you tell yourself that maybe it isn’t so bad, really – you’re still doing your job, you’re still teaching your classes, you’re still cooking dinner at night. So what if the joy is gone, that’s just life. You tell yourself you’re just tired. You’ll get over it. And you know that’s crazy. You start listening to the dark voices in your head. You are exhausted at the end of the day because you’ve been wearing a mask to fool everyone around you into thinking you are fine, and that mask takes every ounce to maintain. And you think you’ve done a pretty good job of it, too, because nobody says anything to you or appears to notice anything amiss. Which means you must be fine and these feelings (or lack of them) are normal.

You start to wish things weren’t always so hard. Wouldn’t it be nice to get into a nice little car crash – just bad enough to put you in the hospital for a few weeks? People would take care of you, make you tea, bring you books and presents, show they cared. You wouldn’t have to do anything but sleep. Then you cry because you know that is a seriously bad thing to think about. How selfish you are, wanting to be taken care of! People like that are weak. You are weak. You are useless. This is it. This is your life.

One day you are walking along the river with your husband and your dog. The ice is in. You don’t remember the last time you laughed. You don’t remember it being this hard to walk. You feel like you weigh 500 pounds, just lifting your feet and putting them down one after the other. You watch the ice in the river and wonder what it would be like to go under it. You think about it all week. You don’t want to do it, not really – but you wonder what it would be like. One night it is -40 and your husband is out of town. You wonder what it would be like to go outside in your nightgown and just go to sleep. You don’t have any intention of really doing it, but never-the-less, just having these thoughts invade your mind scares you. Scares you into action.

You’ve been seeing the “Depression Hurts” ads on TV. You begin paying attention to them.  When your husband gets home you tell him that you think you might have depression and then, with his encouragement, you make an appointment with your doctor.

You are so ashamed to even say the word “depression” about yourself. You research it on the web. You print off a depression checklist and take the test. You don’t like the result, so you take it again, moving your answers all one place to the left on the checklist. You still don’t like the result. You do it again. Eventually you’ve moved all your answers to a place that don’t reflect how you really feel anymore. You throw them away and take the original checked off list to the doctor. He spends a good amount of time talking with you and asking questions. He reads your check list. Then he says you have severe menopausal depression and tells you about how brain chemicals and hormones work. He tells you that some women need a little help getting through menopause, and he writes you a prescription.

You are not happy with the diagnosis. No way are you going to admit to anybody that you have a mental illness. No way are you going to take an antidepressant, for god’s sake! So you make an appointment with a therapist. You want a second opinion. The therapist spends an hour with you. She reads your checklist. She talks and asks questions. Then she says you have acute depression.

So okay. The doctor was a good doctor. He looked at you when he talked to you. The therapist was a good therapist. She listened and confirmed the doctor’s diagnosis. So you go to the pharmacy and you get the prescription filled.  You can’t look the pharmasist in the eye. You feel as fragile as glass. You really hate taking medication, but you know you need help. And to prove you aren’t weak and because you are a stubborn person,  you’re going to take that help in the form of a little white pill every day for probably 6 months.

You are relieved. Something really was wrong with you, and you can do something about it.

If you think you or a loved one is ill with depression, menopausal or otherwise, please see your doctor. There is help. The grass does turn green again.