Well, I don’t have much to report on the quilting front. I made a couple of more stars for Nora’s quilt, and then I laid them all out and chose the 12 I like best.
I’ve actually made 24 blocks between experimenting with this and that. Enough already! I have enough star blocks for 2 very different quilts now. Anyway…I still can’t decide how to put them together…with sashing or not, and if with sashing, I can’t decide between white or blue. And then I thought maybe I’d add little pinwheels on the sashing strips at the corners between each block… Sigh…
Actually, there’s a lot going on between me and that quilt, and I may decide to set it aside and make something else for Nora while I sort it out. It is starting to represent my frustration and unhappiness with being unwell, and those aren’t the kind of feelings I want to wrap her up in.
So…what other work in progress? How about me?I’m definitely a work in progress here, although lately its starting to feel like progress in the wrong direction as I’m finding it harder and harder to maintain my equilibrium, especially at work.
This morning I attended the second of those courses I talked about a couple of weeks ago (a broken day and a pretty dress). I don’t know…they call it a course, but it’s starting to feel an awful lot like group therapy to me. And I DIDN’T sign up for group therapy. I feel like a fish out of water. I feel irritable and impatient and I don’t like feeling that way. When I am sitting in that classroom, I don’t know who I am. And I REALLY don’t like THAT! Anyway, I am going, and I am trying to do the exercises because I am one stubborn lady who is determined to try everything she can to get better and be well again.
I don’t know what being well is going to look like. I don’t want to be an overachiever like I was before. That wasn’t healthy and look where it got me. But I do want my sense of joy back. I don’t like being a prickly pear. Somewhere inside is that joyful woman you see on the banner of this website. I want her back.
After class I went to the office. My balance beam was pretty narrow, but I was doing okay. I was smiling. I worked on an important project that took all afternoon to complete, and I was feeling good about myself – competent and capable. and kind of the way I used to feel in my job a couple of years ago.
…and then everything went to hell, and anxiety & depression are having a party in my body, making my head hurt and my stomach roll.
So I am going to go to my regularly scheduled Pilates class and see if I can work some of my stress out of me and into the mat where it belongs. And if that doesn’t work, maybe I’ll take the dog out for a walk.
Here is your photo for the day: me in my former life, dancing in front of The Big Band. Wow, that seems like a long time ago, but was actually only last year.
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.
An amazing thing happened while walking Sammy this morning. I set out to walk our usual 5km route, which takes about an hour when you factor in the P-mail and canine message board checking along the way. It was a beautiful morning, not a cloud in the sky, not a breath of wind, and a deliciously crunchy minus 6 degrees. But I was feeling the slight edges of “broken-ness” creeping into my day. I don’t know why. I could just feel it encroaching – my balance beam was narrow this morning. Recognizing the signs and determined to turn it around, I grabbed the leash, put on my gear and out we went. I tried to puzzle out the why & how as we walked along, but the feeling only got worse. Finally I gave up and mentally called on my balance checklist for help. “What have I done on my checklist today”, I asked myself? Well, I haven’t done anything for the house. I haven’t taken my supplements. I haven’t taken a bath. I haven’t told my husband how I am feeling…wait, wait! Stop!
Let me try that again (standing in the middle of Falcon Street.)
“What have I done on my checklist today?” I asked myself. “I did something creative (I spent about an hour working out a new square for Nora’s quilt), I had a piece of fruit (a healthy food choice) for breakfast, I communicated with someone (made an inquiry about a depression skills workshop that was recommended for me called Changeways). I am getting some exercise. I recognized my beam was narrow and took action by going out for a walk in the fresh air and sunshine. I reframed negative thoughts.
Much better! Okay, now I will continue my story!
An amazing thing happened while walking Sammy this morning. Instead of walking our usual route, we turned left part way along and explored some new streets. There is only one reason that this is amazing. And that reason is…time. Usually when I go for a walk, it is for a pre-determined amount of time or distance. I will walk 5K, for example, or for 30 minutes.
Why? Because, like most people, I always have something else to do, and going for a walk has to fit around everything else. For example, I can only walk the dog for 20 minutes and then I have to make dinner because we have band practice right after that. Or, I can only walk the dog for 30 minutes in the morning, and then I must be home to get ready to go to work. Or, I cannot walk the dog at all because I just got home from work and I am hungry, and after dinner I cannot walk the dog because I have to leave to teach a class. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons that determine how long I can walk for. It is true that I have to be home in time to make dinner because one or both of us have band practice/dance class/ground school/pool league as soon as dinner is over. Because of that, I have created an artificial need to put boundaries around the amount of time I can give/spare for taking a walk, even if (as happened today) there is no reason.
“I can only walk the dog for an hour and then I must go home and… and… finish the quilt square?” (Really? Is that the best you can come up with, Nita?)
The amazing thing is that for the first time, I realized that I did not have to be home at any time in particular, for any reason in particular. I could just walk. And so I did. We turned left and explored a whole new neighbourhood. As we walked along, my mind wandered and wandered. How luxurious!
I realized how tightly I hold control over time, how everything has always been so scheduled in my life in order to fit it all in. For all of these 5 weeks that I have been away from work, I have walked the dog almost every single day. For only 30 minutes. For only 60 minutes. For only 5K. Only because of that artificially self-imposed sense of urgency around not having enough time. How glad I am that after (only!) 5 weeks it has finally clicked into place for me! And oh, how I enjoyed that walk! In fact, as we were walking down one particularly lovely street, we passed a house that had the most beautiful quilt airing over the railing. I stopped and admired it for the longest time. It was a hearts & checkerboard pattern in red prints on a white background. I had the biggest smile on my face and felt utterly delighted at discovering this treasure. It seemed to be waiting just for me to walk past. It was A Sign of Good Things to Come.
Walking for pure pleasure is definitely going to the top of my priority list (as soon as I find time to make one – just kidding!)
Anyway, I feel like things finally have the potential to start coming together for me. Like I am standing right on the edge of something truly awesome and immense and GOOD. Today, walking along, I had the sense that I will be whole again, that I am well on the road to getting there. Like bones slowly knitting together, it all takes time and I don’t really have any control over that, it just is what it is and that’s okay.
I feel sorry that I am returning to work next Monday, because the luxury of having the time to embark on this (very slow) journey of discovery and healing will be over. I’m a bit worried about that.
Here is an example of only one small thing that I am afraid will happen: I will find myself saying, “I can only walk for 30 minutes and then I have to make a quilt square.” When that happens, both the joy of the walk and the joy of sewing both become chores.
Forewarned is forearmed, so let me see if I can reframe that into a positive:
“With all of my evening obligations currently off of my plate, I will have the evening after work (and after supper) to take a walk or do something creative such as writing a new blog post or sewing.”
I would like my next task to be getting rid of that mindless urgency and guilt around time and never having enough of it. I can give myself permission to do only one thing each evening and let the rest go where it will.
On February 16th my doctor wrote me a note for 2 weeks off work. The first time I asked, earlier in the month, he said no. He said taking time away from work and away from one’s regular routine was not the proper treatment for depression. So I continued to go to work every day, even though going to work was part of the problem. It was really hard. Every day I would come home exhausted from the depression. Exhausted from wearing the mask, from second-guessing myself, from worrying about what balls I might have dropped on the job that day. I knew I was making mistakes at work because my supervisor had been pointing them out to me for months. I felt I couldn’t do anything right. I began to worry about my job security and even asked my boss if I was in danger of losing my job. I was assured that I was absolutely not, but that didn’t make me feel any better. I know very well that this is one of the symptoms of depression, and that I was doing this to myself: I felt that I was being judged and coming up short. It wasn’t that the work was stressful; it was the being at work that was stressful. Being watched so closely, dealing with other people and using all of the interpersonal skills that I usually excel at but suddenly found so difficult. Holding anxiety at bay. Wearing the mask, pretending all the time. One day I had a panic attack so bad that I had to pack up and leave in the middle of the morning. Two weeks after that first doctor appointment, I asked again. The doctor was still very reluctant but said I could take one week off. I said that wasn’t enough. I asked for two. What I really needed was two months.
I was able to ask the doctor for the time off because the medication was working. I know that sounds strange! If the medication was working, why did I need time off? Because I was finally able to think clearly enough, to have enough self-awareness to see what was happening, to articulate the desire to be well, to formulate a plan, to advocate for myself. What I needed – what I NEED is time to recover. I believe that a person has to heal first and then tackle getting back on the bandwagon.
The words I have in my mind are Recuperation and Convalescence (to recover health and strength after illness or exhaustion); Followed by Recovery (restoration or return to health).
How can one recover without a period of recuperation? But this is apparently what I must do.
My plan for my two weeks off was simple. Touch base with the therapist to go over my wellness plan; Take my supplements daily; get a bit of exercise daily (treadmill, walk dog, yoga, etc.); make healthy meal choices; journal or blog about my experience with depression; get enough sleep; clean or tidy one thing in the house daily (because my home is an extension of me – I need to like what I see, and if my house is a mess, so am I); do one thing creative daily (read, play scrabble, knit or quilt, browse craft & cook books, etc.); connect with a friend/spend time around people; compliment myself on one thing daily; remember that I am not perfect – I am human, not superhuman; catch the negative thoughts and re-frame them. Take the time to sit down when I need to and think. Just think. Rest. Recuperate. Take some steps towards recovery.
I contacted Mental Health Services twice about getting into a program/course called Change Ways, which is a course to teach you how to deal with depression. I had hoped that if a course was starting soon, my doctor might agree to extending my sick leave so that I could attend. But Mental Health Services has not gotten back to me, so I guess that is not an option. I don’t think I could ask for sick leave again, and also the busy season is starting up at work soon.
I’ve had several very good days in a row. Days where I’ve felt more like myself. Days where I’ve laughed and seen the beauty around me. I know I’m getting better. I know I am rebuilding my emotional, cognitive and spiritual strength. I know that when I experience that panicky feeling it means I need to pay attention and practice self-awareness. I’m proud of myself for that.
However, after the last 4 or 5 really good days, this morning is again broken as I realize that my two weeks are over. Here is the sun shining in the window and I want to put my head down and cry. I don’t want to go back to work on Monday and face all the “welcome back” and “are you feeling better” comments. I’m not ready to put the mask back on. I don’t want to put the healing on the back burner. So today feels a little hopeless…like a person with a broken leg being told the cast is coming off and they have to run a marathon on it right now…before the leg is healed. “And when will the leg heal”, they might ask, “if I have to walk on it?”
If I jump back into the rat race while I am still broken, will I heal crooked?