Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas 2011

This year is different, or so I thought. This year Kim and I are sick and the kids are dealing with it. So this year we changed our frames of mind. We kept our respective illnesses in the back of our minds and carried on. This morning we woke early; as we always do on Christmas, stirred by the smell of freshly brewed coffee. The kids waited patiently (including Kim, she's a kid today), and we opened gifts. With every one, eyes widened, hearts grew fonder and family grew closer.

Last night Kim pre-prepared breakfast - bacon and sausage. So making breakfast sandwiches was easy. More coffee and a good meal to continue a beautiful morning. With dishes done we are all talking an hour to digest breakfast and gifts. We are also taking time to contemplate why we're doing to do this.

This afternoon we'll go to Mass, as we did last night. We'll hear the word of how one child changed the world. We'll shake hands with our brothers and sisters, as we did last night. We'll know.

We'll know that today isn't about presents or trees or catching snowflakes on your tongue, it's about a child who taught us all to love our fellow man. A child who spent his lifetime changing mankind. Whether you're Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Athiest, or anything else, you know of this child. It doesn't matter how you feel about Him, or even believe in Him, you know that this is HIS birthday and the gifts are for Him, not us. He taught us to give to our fellow man and keep our neighbours in our thoughts, he taught us to love one another, he taught us peace.

Personally I believe. I believe in Christmas miracles because I've lived through them. Christmas has touched me in ways I can't adequately convey. It's inside me and my family. Every day should be like this, but sadly, it isn't. The world is too full of hatred for that. There are too many wars, too much hatred and strife, too much disbelief, too many people forcing their opinions instead of listening to the thoughts of others. It doesn't matter if you believe, but you should at least take a moment to understand that there are many views. Why they lead to war is the problem.

This child taught us that the path to living a life of happiness is to love one another and pray for peace. There couldn't be a more universal hope. The people who aim to destroy that peace are a minority, but sadly they cause more damage than the majority. We should pray for them, because they don't know how much they are only hurting themselves. Peace of mind is something we have to practise and learn. It can be a product of your upbringing, or it can be a mind frame you yourself adapt. But it's the right course.

Muslims follow quotes of the major profits (including Jesus) using the words "Peace be upon Him". Christians have obvious feelings, and many other religions in the world look upon him as one of the world's greatest profits, if not the Son of God. There's a reason that a man born 2,000 years ago has had this impact on us ALL. His message is universal and right. In a nutshell, we're all on this planet to live, why should we not live charitably, peacefully and with hope for the future.

This Christmas keep this message in your hearts. Regardless of how you celebrate, or even if you don't. This Christmas, Pray for Peace.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011


Lately I've been writing a little about being sick. Ok, maybe too much about being sick. This blog has been my vent port for a lot of shit going on in my head, it's been as much for me as anyone else, a way to journal my experiences with the hospital, doctors, therapy sessions, etc...

Frankly I'm getting a little bored of it all. Don't get me wrong, it's all still there, the illness, doctors and soon, even more therapy, but I can't hang on this forever. Sooner or later I have to move on and realize that there's still a life outside worth living. If I've learned anything over the past months it's that people don't want to hear me whine about it. Talk and whine are two different points of view, so take that as you wish. I've also learned that if anyone is going to break this cycle of depression and fear, it's me.

Sounds easy doesn't it? Stop being so hard on yourself, pull your chin up, go back to work, don't let the small stuff get to you, smile more, catch snowflakes on your tongue, try to hear a fly fart, take up a new hobby like spelunking or some other weird shit, play chess, get your mind back to the present.

Reality bites. These things are really difficult to do unless you are focused and filled with rational thought - especially trying to hear a fly fart - you really have to focus there. For the past few months my hobbies have included coffeeology, cruising the internet, gaming, watching stories about how Kim Jong Il destroyed a country, playing the drums and walking. Not too interesting of a list, maybe it's time I fixed that. Maybe it's time I picked myself up and found something rational to concentrate on.

I was diagnosed in May of this year, and my groups have people that have been dealing with this for up to ten years. That statistic scares me. If they are still in therapy after that long, when can I come out of it? The answer is obvious - I probably can't. I will have this hanging over my head for years to come so it's up to me to make the most of it. Maybe I can have some fun along the way. I don't plan on spelunking anytime soon, or holding a fly up to my ear, but there are things I enjoy doing and I have been told I'm good at to pursue. One of which is writing. I started writing a story a couple of years ago when I was really bored, and it's been sitting here all along waiting for me. Maybe it's time to pick it back up. I have a strong love of the military and it's history, another option. I also love my family, who have been through this journey with me supporting me. It's about time they got their dad and husband back.

There's been too many distractions for the things I love to do. Too many reasons not to do them and in reality none of those reasons make any sense. Part of the illness is the ideology my brain tells me - these things take second seat to being sick. It's up to me to break that distracting irrational thought and get back on the band wagon. I have to get back to work, I have to find new purpose in my life, I have to live again.

Look for my book launch early in 2025.


Monday, 19 December 2011


Today is a typical Monday. Except that it's 6 days til Christmas, my pills aren't working, I'm having trouble getting over the passing of my next door neighbour, who we took care of and befriended like a second grandmother to the kids, I still have no car, and I don't know when I'm going back to work. Short of that, it's a fine day.

I see my psychiatrist on Wednesday - the one who dosed me up on all kinds of meds over the summer, and I had to spend time in the hospital to get sorted out. I look forward to that argument, he's gonna say 'I told ya so', and I'm gonna say 'shut the fuck up and fix it'. Then I will give him the back to work form and ask him to sign it, to which he will demand another $30. Yeah, I look forward to it.

I'm getting ready to leave for the hospital again, I'm starting week 3 of the outpatient psychiatric treatment, or brainwashing. I really don't want to go as I can't see any benefit to all this. The teachers talk too fast and I'm having trouble concentrating on the material. But in the end, it should be worth it. One issue I've had to deal with since May is a lack of ability to concentrate and follow multiple stressors. Alot of that is the medication, alot of that is the illness itself. My feeling is that the Occupational Therapists who teach this thing should know that and teach accordingly. At least I'll have the handouts to go over - they kill more trees in this class than anywhere I've ever been.

5 More days. Then I'm done, and I don't know what comes next. I'll be going to my own therapist once that is over, I actually look forward to that - it's one on one, and once per week. I'm hoping that January brings new promise for me and this mess I'm in, being always confused and scared sucks. Always being on the edge of a breakdown sucks. I know that in the end only I can fix that - no amount of classes or drugs can reverse this course, but I still don't know how to steer the ship.

On a good note, Kim Jung Il died. One less lunatic fucktard in the world is a good start.

Have a nice day.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

I took the road most travelled

I found myself a few months ago walking down a path in the woods. A path travelled by many people, some like myself out to see what was there, others, on the path heading for a particular destination. I had no destination. The path meandered through the trees and across small streams, where wildlife of all kinds flourished. I felt watched. As I walked I thought about how my life was going and where it was leading me. I thought about my family, my friends, my career, myself. I took in the peace of it all to reflect on middle age. I walked for miles.

I came across a crossroads on the trail, one more trodden than the other. As I stood there for a while trying to decide which to take, others walked on past, some took the trodden trail, others, without hesitation, took the overgrown and underused trail. I saw them in the distance ducking branches and jumping streams until they were out of my sight. I stood there again for a while, considering my family, friends and career, and I opted for the heavy trodden trail.

I began walking again, and again, watched my surroundings. I listened to the wildlife, but it became less prevalent. I watched for trees and streams, but they were fewer. I even watched for other hikers, but they seemed to walk on past me without a word. The trail became a highway. It opened up into two lanes where now bicycles began to pass me. Then, scooters, finally cars. The trail had become what I didn't want - a rat race. The trail had become my fears. The road now, as it was, led to places I was afraid of and had no desire to be. It led to stress, anxiety, and a sense of foreboding the likes I had never experienced. It led to all the places in my mind that were wrong. As cars whizzed past me I was afraid of where I was going, I suddenly wanted to go back. But I didn't know how. I couldn't turn around, the traffic was coming right at me. I couldn't keep up with it, I was still walking. I sat down and fell into panic and fear.

I sat there for a long time wondering what to do. All the time the sights and sounds of the rat race flew by me in both directions. I couldn't see my family, friends or career. I couldn't even see myself anymore. I had become anonymous to all but the fear. I sat there, watching the rat race fly by me, destroying what I knew. It destroyed my inner self, it clouded the sky, and even ran over the wildlife. All around me were things I didn't want to see. I needed to get out of this place. I needed to get back to the trail.

I looked around me and saw across the road a small opening in the fence with a clearing behind it. I had to run for it. I bolted across the oncoming rat race and jumped the fence, and fell. It seemed like I fell a hundred feet, but it was only a fraction of that. I fell into the brush, listening to the rat race whiz by me overhead. I was off the road, but now in my own fog. Now I was in the trees with no path. Again, the panic gripped me, the fear grew inside me, and I couldn't see my family or friends. I had to keep moving - I had to find the small path, the one I should have taken the first time. But I had no idea where to look for it. As I moved farther from the rat race the sky began to clear and through the trees I picked out familiar shapes in the sky - trees and wildlife that I had seen before. I heard a stream, peaceful and tranquil. I headed for it.

I had to pick my was through the forest, making my own trail. I climbed over rocks and over swampy areas still saturated with rain. Ever closer I moved toward the sound of the stream but it seemed like it was so far off - it seemed like the closer I got to it the farther away it moved. I began to hear my family calling. I began to hear my friends calling. But I still couldn't see them. I walked for what seemed like months, through the trees and over bogs that held me back. Swampy land that made me find another path. Several times I fell down and cried because I couldn't shake the fear and anxiety. Several times I collapsed. But each time I knew I had to get up and keep moving. The stream was still there, in my head. It was in front of me, but I couldn't see it. I kept going.

Finally I came to the small trail, the one I had lost. Finally I had made it there. The trees were as picturesque as I had remembered them and the wildlife was all around me, and they all seemed like they were egging me in a certain direction. The direction that would lead me to my lost family and friends. I could hear them, but I could still not see them. Again, I panicked and and the anxiety caught hold of me. I sat down against a tree and stared up. I thought long and hard if this was the right path. Were there three? After all this progress, after all this falling down and getting back up again, was I still on the wrong path? How could that be when I could still hear the familiar stream, which was still so far distant. I knew they were there, I knew I had to find them.

I must keep going.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Sanity School

This morning I start a three week program at the hospital for outpatient mental health issues. Basically it's intensive psychotherapy. I have a therapist that I am due to go back to at some point, but with one hour appointments once per week, it won't add up to this.

I'm a little nervous, sitting in a room with a bunch of other people telling all about my issues, but if I think about it, that's not too far removed from what I've been doing on this blog, facebook and with my friends and family. I've not hidden this. The difference here is that I'm face to face with strangers. Once I'm finished with this, I can finally go back to work, but that's a whole other issue.

I was going to write a part three of my experience in the psych ward, but I didn't get there. Sorry, I will anyway soon, so stay tuned. For all of you who read the previous posts and sent me some wonderfully supportive comments, I thank you. Some of you even forwarded these to other friends. One person whom I do not know asked if she could use the blog in her outpatient sessions for mental health somewhere (I can't remember where). To which I eagerly said yes.

Everyone should know that these issues are way too common. It's not me I'm writing about, it's the illness itself. As I've said before, there are people in this world physically ill with diseases so complex and horrifying that they wrench our hearts. I know some of these people. I don't want to put my issues above their issues. I don't want to take away the awareness, but although mental illness is not physical, but there is no cure. By writing about it, I am better, but not cured, I never will be. I will just learn to cope and live.

Today is a new day.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The Psych Ward - Part Two

Day two of the looney bin started off stranger than day one ended. I woke up at 7:30 to a nurse and a lab tech wanting my blood—again, followed by a full physical exam by the ward medical doctor. I was hoping for breakfast in bed.

I also realized I forgot my toothbrush. I asked my nurse if I could get one from somewhere; she came through not only with the toothbrush, but deodorant, soap, shampoo and hand cream. Apparently I didn't need to pack anything for this vacation. I borrowed my razor (I had to sign it out), and took my newfound supplies and headed for a shower. The showers in this place are far and few between. There are three on the floor, one was out of order. That of course, was the one across the hall from my room. After waiting in line for a while, I was not impressed. The water was luke warm at best, I also realized this in my bathroom, they keep the temp fairly moderate so nobody gets any ideas about scalding themselves to death. After my trickle of warm water I got dressed and headed for breakfast.

Breakfast is normally served at 7:40am. But because of my inspection and needlework, I didn't get there until around 8:30. The room was almost empty - just a few stragglers. This made it easy to find my tray containing cold oatmeal, a muffin and finally, coffee. Yuck. I spent about a minute and a half choking that down. There was a menu on my tray, this was a good sign. I checked off the options for lunch and dinner - you get no breakfast or weekend choices, and went on my merry way. I was hoping to catch some news in the lounge, but alas, music videos.

The doctor had informed me earlier that my blood showed a high cholesterol count, so my meals would be adjusted accordingly. It's kind of ironic that after spending the first 42 years of my life underweight—just a shade over 140 pounds—that now I had a fat-free diet. I also had lost 15 pounds prior to going in. I was so depressed that I had just stopped eating. I now weighed in at a normal looking 185.

The woman in the next room should be here. She had been screaming all morning. None of the rooms have call buttons, so instead of walking up to the desk to get assistance, she screamed. A lot. By the time the nurse came down, she had almost completely ripped a hallway railing off it's mounts. She worked it so much that the heavy duty wall anchors let go leaving the railing dangling. She of course decided it was in her best interest to add the smashing sound to her own chorus of screaming. All she wanted was a drink. The nurse was very professional and very stern, giving the women a ribbing any high school nun would be proud of. Tough love? This behaviour kept up most of the time I was in there. Later that day a maintenance man came up with a security escort, shook his head a few times, asking to whoever would listen "How the hell did she do this"? He finished ripping off the railing and patched up the wall. It stayed that was until I left.

At one point they moved her to another room closer to the nurses station to keep an eye on her, but after about five days I heard the alarms go off and security teams come running. She had belted a nurse. This woman was small by comparison, but that didn't matter, she had the ability to do some real damage. At one point in my life, before I had a life, I was a hospital security guard. All we did was take money at the parking lots and tow illegally parked cars. These guys, given whatever jokes you wish to make about cop wannabees, are good. The ones on the psych duty are huge—one towered around 6'6". It wouldn't surprise me if he was just waiting for his admission to the police college. Four came running when the alarm went off. Each staff member on the floor carries a personal alarm with them, when they hit that, sirens sound, guards come running, and even lights flash indicating the direction of the problem. Essentially, lock down. They dragged this woman to the PICU (Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit). This is the place where people sleep on a mattress on the floor, have all their personal belongings taken away, and are under 24 hour surveillance. I didn't see her again before I left.

The rest of the afternoon was spent pondering that incident. Lunch came and went, the TV finally got changed, I read a book, and met some fellow patients. Luckily I did know one person in there, and she helped me out with some issues the book doesn't tell you. For example, on the menus, mark X2 on which items you want more of. I marked X2 on every spot marked coffee.

Kim came up to see me that night. It was a beautiful two hours. She brought timbits, coffee, Reeces Peanut Butter Cups, a homemade pastry from a friend of ours and a smile. It made my day. At 8pm they kicked out the visitors, and I was again alone with my thoughts. But at least I had munchies!

At 9 we all lined up for meds. This is where people's illnesses come shining through. There are six nurses on in the evenings, and one dispensing machine. This machine is biometrically operated - it takes a thumbprint to fill a prescription. Once the order is taken, the meds are fired up from the pharmacy in another part of the building and into the machine. I envision one of those old systems of clear plastic tubes one used to see in offices for firing memos around. Given all that, it takes a while to get all 25 or so patients (I never really counted them) their meds. Not one has any patience. The yelling begins. The entire process of medicating this many patients takes about an hour, but the patients want it to take three minutes. My first thought was hey, got somewhere pressing to be? My second thought was what a bunch of selfish egotists. The nurses had the patience of saints. They dealt with the barrage, like they do every day, three times a day. Once in a while, they'd yell back, but only when it got out of hand.

These people really are sick. These people really do need help. Not that there was any doubt, but seeing the mad race for pills and a complete lack of order, not to mention the self-serving attitudes brought it all home for me. I stood back, watching the show, shaking my head. There are people here who would never again survive outside these walls. There are people here who would attack any authority figure given the correct circumstances. There are people here who need more than just being warehoused in a psych ward.

Then there was me. I realized this night that with all the problems I've had over the past years, with all the headaches I've caused, and with all the confusion going on within my own mind, I'm relatively normal. I just needed to get evened out. I was only in here to get my medication straight. I don't see things that aren't there, I've never tried to overdose, I don't want to hurt anyone, I realized that I can again become a decent contributor to society. It opened my eyes. There were others like me in there, all for different reasons, but of the population of that unit, I estimate that over half will be institutionalized for the rest of their lives. That is a scary statistic and one that should be pondered. What scares me most is that these sick people are being warehoused - locked up and put away because they can't rejoin society in the way that you or I can. (I want myself included in that because I have the motivation to do just that - become normal again).

I'm home now, in the house alone, drinking coffee and considering my future. I am making jokes again, doing chores, pondering ideas, being creative and having fun. I feel like I'm normal, but inside I know I'm not. I have a mental illness that will be with me the rest of my life. During the summer, when I made jokes about things people wondered if I was off my rocker again. Believe me, I'm not. I can differentiate between right and wrong, and even with the judgement problems I've encountered, I could still understand that concept. Now, when I make a joke about something, it's a little easier for someone to say "That's OK, he's been to the nuthouse, we expect these sort of things from him". It makes me laugh too. The other day my daughter slept in and needed a note for school. I wrote her teacher telling him that she was late because when we woke up there was a Jabberwokky playing XBox in the living room and we couldn't get rid of him, so I needed her cast to bonk him on the head until he left. Or, we slept in. You decide. I signed it "Father of the Year.

Some of those people in the unit would actually believe that. That's the fine line between mental illness and mental illness. I have it, and as long as I keep myself on the right track, I'll never again be in that psych ward.


Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Things to strike off my bucket list - The Psych Ward

Almost everyone knows by know that last May I was diagnosed Bipolar. Just to recap, this is a mental condition in which the brain cannot regulate itself properly, resulting in highs and lows in moods. Where a normal person gets into a mood to clean things out and plan dinner 6 months in advance one day, and the next day is very tired because of it, a person in a Bipolar, or 'Manic Depressive' state endures that everyday. It's difficult to manage and can be very irritating for the people around him or her. Not only because of the ups and downs but because of the degrees in which that person fluctuates.

For example, I could never control my anger, at one point this summer I was intent on selling the house and moving to Scotland, I went for short walks that last most of the day, instead of writing notes to someone I would write long lambasting insulting messages, etc. After each of these incidents, I would crash for a period of time, the depression kicking the shit out of me. Being near me was not fun. Being me was not fun. Add to that the fact that I had absolutely no filter - what seemed like a good idea to me was just plain stupid. For example, I thought it was a good idea to bring a bottle of scotch to a cadet weekend camp. I'm not even going to try to justify that one. There were many more dumb decisions, but you get the idea.

I spent the summer off work visiting a psychiatrist once in a while to get new drugs, and with each prescription came new side effects, some even had the effect of increasing the problems instead of fixing them. Even though I had a 6 month summer vacation, it was the worst period of my life. Something needed to be done in order to keep my family and friends. Something drastic.

On November 5th, while cooking dinner for the kids I collapsed in a manic attack. I have no recollection of the event. Because I was hyperventilating so much I blacked out. I was later told that as well as paramedics in my kitchen, someone also decided to invite the police. I still don't remember cops in the house, but apparently they are dispatched to all mental health ambulatory calls. I came too in the ambulance en route to the hospital. Kim sat patiently with me for hours in ER waiting for 'service'. As I slowly came to, she filled me in, and my first reaction was one of embarrassment. Not only because I really didn't feel I needed to be there but I hadn't done the dishes and the kitchen was a mess The previous week I begged my psychiatrist to admit me to get the drug issue straightened out. When the attending Psych finally saw me and looked over my meds, he expressed a rather colourful displeasure with my pile of daily drugs. He immediately admitted me to the hospital.

Only a handful of people know why and where I was admitted - Hotel Dieu Psychiatric Ward. There, it's out for the world to see. I was officially a looney. or so I thought.

As there were no beds readily available, I was allowed to go home, pack and spend a night with my family to discuss how the next little while would play out. None of us knew how long this would last (like most visits to the the hospital). So we planned for a week or so. My palms began to get sweaty, my heart raced, I felt afraid of what I had just gotten myself into, essentially, I crashed - again.

The next day at noon, my sister and Kim drove me and my kit bag to the hospital for my 'stay'. Kim didn't want to come up, she was already not dealing well with the concept, even though we both knew it needed to be done. On the floor there's a phone to call the desk, the doors are always locked. I introduced myself and waited for a nurse; once inside the doors they closed with a loud crash that sounded more like a prison gate that a hospital door. I just stood there looking back, scared.

They ripped open my bag, confiscated my electric razor (just in case I felt the need to shave myself to death) and my shaving cream, because it had alcohol in it. Have you ever tasted shaving cream? I felt this was overkill. They brought me to a small interview room and began the intake paperwork. It felt like a college level exam in it's scope and complexity. Questions I had never thought I would ever be asked, such as 'have you ever had electro-shock therapy', to which I replied "They still do that?"

After about an hour of this, I was taken to my room. The rooms in this ward are doubles, with standard hospital beds, a chair, one of those funky elevating tables, an upright locker and a small bathroom. No shower though, they're in the hallway, one per wing. I took a few minutes to examine my surroundings and a few things caught my eye. First, I had a nice view of the downtown skyline, not so bad, some rooms looked out over the mechanical systems for the entire hospital. What really got me was that there were no locks. On anything. Not even the showers. There was a hook on the inside of the bathroom door that collapsed if you hang something too heavy on it - to prevent someone hanging themselves. And to think they also took away my electric razor.

I was allowed to keep my own clothing, because I hadn't been brought in by the police. Voluntary admissions only have that privilege - other than that, you're treated like everyone else. There are varying degrees of admission. It took me a few days to see this system of 'forms'. Police can incarcerate you from 72 hours for observation to a month of treatment. During this time you wear what the hospital gives you and all your personal items are confiscated. If you're good, they give you some shoes. If you're really good, after a while they start allowing you to keep some of your own stuff. Luckily, I bypassed that little rule.

I sat on my bed for a while wondering what the hell I just got myself into when a nurse came in, shoved a needle in my arm for blood, and took my BP. They left just as quickly. It must be said that the one thing that always through me into a panic attack is a needle. This did not go well. Another hour later my new roommate showed up, practically unconscious and tossed onto his bed. He was talking to the nurses a little, but almost illegibly. I left the room to give them some privacy and went exploring. Two TV lounges, a long hallway, and a dining room. That was home. Already people were doing the daily 'psycho shuffle', nothing better to do than wander from one side of the unit to the other. Those that didn't watched TV. Being an introvert I wasn't too quick to introduce myself, I just sat down and watched what was on - music videos for top 40 crap. Nice start. After a while I went back to my room where I found my new roommate unconscious on his bed, legs and arms draped over the sides. He woke up several hours later complaining that he couldn't see. That was a side effect of taking over 120 pills at home after he left a note. Welcome to day one.

There was a handbook for the unit, but someone really should look at revising it. Just as in a jail (from what I've heard, really), you learn about this place by the other patients and watching what they do. Dinner was interesting. We had to all eat in the dining room with every nurse on duty supervising - mainly because dinner usually was accompanied by knives. A large truck of food trays is rolled in and someone just starts handing trays off to people in the room who then randomly place them on tables. Each tray has a patient's name, at that point we play hide and seek. Wandering around to find your own tray, in the process invariably pissing off someone because you're looking over their shoulder. Once I found mine and sat down, I had my first introductions to my new colleagues.

Did I mention this was a psych ward? I was told to fuck off within minutes of starting to eat. This was even before I opened my tray and muttered the same thing to the kitchen staff. Halfway through the first meal I experienced the swapping ritual. Because everyone in there has a specific diet, people begin yelling out what they really want. "Anyone got any milk?" "Who's got butter?" and so on. I had Shepherd's Pie, Tomato Soup, a piece of bread and butter, tea, an orange juice and sliced peaches. It wasn't too bad, but it certainly wasn't home cooking.

After dinner I took my tea to my room to have some privacy and take in the day.

Privacy. Did I mention there's a closed circuit camera in my room?

My roommate was finally awake. He introduced himself, and I in return. We didn't talk too much about why we were there, but he did say this was his second trip in - the first being a month. He had been let out a week before and promptly tried to kill himself. As it turns out he was a really nice down to earth guy (I won't give his name here). We both had families, both Bipolar, both messed up, and both of us already hated this place. After a while I ventured out to see if I could watch the news, but to no avail, still watching bad music videos. I went back to my room and pulled out a book. My friend Dan loaned me his Kindle, which quickly became my best friend. Over 15 days in there I read five and a half books on that thing.

At 9pm I was told to come to the counter for my meds, weigh-in and more blood pressure. At this point I realized how sick I was - In mid October I weighed 200 pounds. On day one in this place I was down to 185. I had just stopped eating.

I crashed around 10, wondering what was next.

For the first time in my life I felt like I was in a cage. Doors slam shut behind you, cameras on you at all times, people you can't trust everywhere, security guards (big ones) making hourly rounds, and staff everywhere barking orders. It truly was culture shock. Most days were like this, but in my next post I will tell some more stories of the people in there, and some things I saw that opened my eyes to mental health forever.

So now you know. Feel free to pass this along, and if you've been there, please don't be afraid to keep your stories quiet. The underlying goal of this ward is to help people, and in my time there I met some success stories and wonderful dedicated staff. I also met a whole pile of lunatics.

It's good to be home.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

My Brain Hurts

Still sick. Still sitting here wondering how to fix my brain. Still wondering why I broke down last night even though Kim was doing everything in her arsenal to bring me out of a funk.

Biopolar sucks.

It doesn't suck as bad as cancer, or Crones, or a large screwdriver through the eye, but it sucks. I kinda figured that the past 5 months I'd get a grip on this and go back to work whistling happy little tunes - in two weeks I go back, but without the whistling shit. I still have a long way to go before my brain is considered fixed. Next week I start Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, otherwise known as brainwashing. I should have started that a few months ago, but I got complacent with the way things were going, and didn't make the call. I thought that I was doing fine, the drugs were working, meditation was working, a new outlook on life was working, etc. etc. etc. Hey, I was a little bit wrong.

In the past couple of weeks I've felt more like a weepy kid than anything else. I get down about the smallest things. God forbid I run over a caterpillar. Last night I found out a good friend was back in the hospital. It's serious, but he'll get through it. This of course was not the news my broken brain needed. That, combined with the fact that I spent the better part of my afternoon at the ministry office replacing my plate tags, made it a particularly bad brain day. Hence, Kim doing everything in her power to fix me.

In the past couple of weeks I've not smiled much, broken brain says not to. I've fallen apart several times, and one day - I don't remember this beauty: I had a panic attack while sleeping. Yup, I was out like a light and don't remember anything except Kim standing over me when she shook me awake, looking like she was going to call an ambulance. I was glassy-eyed and breathing heavy, but other than that, I didn't have any recollection of it. Anxiety attacks are common, the brain says to be worried about something, so I do. Sometimes it last a couple of hours, sometimes a few minutes. Sometimes just smashing the drums is enough to get over it, I'm at the mercy of my brain and the drugs inhabiting it.

Drugs suck.

How do people get hooked on this shit? How do people function with their bodies full of man-made cocktails of chemicals designed for the sole purpose of changing the way your brain functions? Why would people do this to themselves intentionally?
I've never been on drugs, I quit smoking about seven months ago, but I don't know if that really counts, weed, acid, hash, meth, coke, nope. Never. I'm proud of that. I can see how it really fucks people up, and I thought I was a mess from smoking!

The shrink has me on a mixture of controlled meds right now. I won't tell you what because hey - they're controlled. That means NARCOTICS. Lovely. They very time in my life that I'm trying to improve my physical status, they doctor fills me with crap that is supposed to fix my brain. Unfortunately, the side effects stopped being fun on day one. Here's a few at random:

Short term memory loss
Drowsiness (otherwise know as random nap time)
Nausea and in rare cases, vomiting
Skin rashes
Drop in platelet count (I have to have monthly blood tests for this one)
Weight gain (combined with quitting smoking I'm now up 60 pounds)
Blurred vision
Sensitive skin
And a whole lot more!

I really hate these meds. Worse yet, I don't believe they're working. So next week I'm calling the shrink and asking him to change the drugs for the fifth time since my brain broke back in April. I'm currently on four different meds, at six pills a day. I suffer from most of the side effects listed (I haven't puked yet), so maybe less pills = less side effects? Maybe? I don't know, I'm just the patient.

I'm due to go back to work in ten days. In Kingsville. That's a one hour commute, then a full work day, then a one hour commute. Please refer to side effect number two - random nap time. Talking to my boss last week he did ask if there were any work related issues he must know about, that one came up pretty quick. I'd rather not be dead in a ditch on day two thanks. He's offered to move me to the Tecumseh office until this gets sorted out. Nice guy. I just think he'd rather not do the paperwork from the ditch incident.

So my brain is still broken, and full of drugs. I don't even take aspirin for headaches. Nevermind all this crap. I have to get back to therapy, I have to get back to work, I have to get back to normal (what is normal anyway?)

Even now as I type this at 7:45 am, I feel weird. I feel the anxiety creeping up, I have to push it back down. I described it to my shrink as that feeling when you're at the top of a tall coaster looking down but not moving yet. That feeling when you're stomach is suddenly where your lungs should be and your lungs are around your back, not working very well. That's the constant anxiety that I have to fight. That's part of the Bipolar syndrome. In the grand scheme of things, big deal. It's a feeling, not like fighting MS, or Parkinson's, or cancer, or any other physical disease. This one is mental, or physical if you consider that my brain isn't firing on all cylinders, hence, my brain broke.

I can get over this, it's certainly not life threatening, and won't do anything to shorten my life, if anything, the past six months have given me cause to live longer. It's just annoying. Less drugs, more therapy, more family and friends, less stress, etc.

I can do this. I have to. I have to fix my brain.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011


Firstly I want to thank everyone for the positive comments on the last post. It was reassuring to know that this is well accepted and I have nothing to worry about. Not that I didn't feel that way to begin with, but re-enforcement helps!

When I took time off work I began to walk. A lot.

I began to walk with the intention of ending up somewhere I'd never been before. I managed to accomplish that several times which was a challenge when I grew up in this city. I used to think I knew every nook and cranny of this place (what the hell is a cranny anyway? Just sayin'). As it turns out nobody really does. We all focus on our little part of the world, our little piece of heaven as it were. We have blinders on in most cases, we move from point A to point B, and if we're driving we normally see nothing but the tail lights of the car in front of us and street signs.

I found with my walks that there's more to any city than meets the eye. Walking each day, or as often as circumstances permit, averages about two hours. In that time I don't ever intend to follow that same course more than I have to. I intend to see things, to slow down and become more observational. A sort of urban explorer if you wish.

One day I started out as normal, and headed towards the Detroit River - about a half hour from home. I wanted to see how they were getting along with the massive water retention basin project that have essentially turned 5 kms of riverfront parkland into a construction zone. I made it to the river along Devonshire Road near Hiram Walker's Distillery, and turned toward downtown. I made it about three blocks before the rain started threatening. Along the river at that point, there is no shelter. Unless I parked my ass on someone's front porch and waited it out, I was going to get soaked. The black clouds rolling in seemed a little ominous. I turned towards Wyandotte Street. By this point I was near the old Danny's Tavern - a male strip joint that closed about five years ago. Behind Danny's I found the alley that ran up behind my old house I grew up on. I played in that alley as a kid and I hadn't walked it since. A flood of memories welled up. I saw graffiti on people's garages that has been there for thirty years. I remember that! For a moment I felt like a kid again, kicking stones down the old alley, I even thought about climbing some of the old trees again. Then I saw my old house and how much it had changed. I realized at that moment how time had passed. I walked on, threatened by the storm once again. By now, it was raining lightly.

Down on Wyandotte I looked for somewhere to ride it out. There isn't much. Within minutes the rain became heavy and I became wet. I was not dressed for this. By Parent Avenue I had had enough, I ducked into a bar that has been there for years and does not enjoy a positive reputation in town. I knew this going in, but screw it - the intention was to go somewhere new, and this qualified even though it was a little seedy. I ordered a beer from the woman behind the bar - a middle aged black woman with a personality that indicated that she reserves judgement on anyone. She looked me over quickly and went back to the regulars. Except for that woman sitting by herself at a table looking a little worn down and scruffy, the clientele here was perfectly normal, just guys having a mid-afternoon sabbatical at the local bar. No big deal. After my beer I checked outside, the rain stopped, so I moved on.

Walking down Wyandotte wasn't what I had in mind, I completely missed the construction zone. When I got downtown I headed down Ouellette to Dieppe Park. I wiped off a park bench and sat down, taking the time to watch. Boats on the river, freighters, fishing boats, cruisers, all the time wishing I was on the water too. I walked on down the park and again stopped to watch. I listened to a tourist couple within earshot pointing at things in Detroit. Their accent gave them away as American. I thought it strange that they were here in Canada, looking across at their homeland with a strange interest. Shouldn't they be looking around in Canada? I moved on.

Further down the river there are two railway cuts, both long since closed to trains. At one time tracks came right to the riverfront, where barges would take the trains across. Now they use the tunnel. One of the cuts has been turned into a park by local residents. The owners of the cutting don't provide anything for it, either does the city; everything there was done by residents. There has been news lately about it going downhill because nobody can afford to keep it up anymore. This became my second objective of the day. I heading into the cut, but within ten minutes I realized I went into the wrong one. This was no park.

The trail running down the centre was obviously well used. Trees covered the embankments up either side so that you cannot see any signs of urban growth. Even the taller buildings are obscured. A complete urban forest. Garbage began to appear - tires, shopping carts, and more crap. As I walked it got worse. I began to realize my mistake, but hey, it was all about exploring right? So I kept going. A man was coming down the path towards me, he wasn't exactly dressed for the opera, I was a little nervous until he gave a friendly hello and walked on.

Underneath Wyandotte Street rail tracks appeared. Further down you could make out the huge CP rail yard. I was a the tail end of it. Underneath Wyandotte I stopped - amazed by what I saw. People live down there.

There were giant fire pits still smouldering, there were signs of people eating, sleeping, living, all around me. Up on the concrete supports holding up the road was graffiti like I had never seen before - and it covered every inch of everything. It was all oddly beautiful art in a can. The colours and patterns, not to mention portraits. Some of this stuff would be in a gallery if the medium was different. For a few minutes I forgot where I was. I had to leave, the tracks in front of me meant climbing out of the ravine, but I could find no path. I climbed up making my own. I came out in an empty lot near Crawford and Wyandotte. I began walking back towards downtown. After about a half hour I was a McDonalds, so I had some lunch, then turned toward home. That was enough for the day. The walk home took another 45 minutes, again, meandering down streets looking for the route less taken.

By the time I got home my feet hurt (I was wearing sandals), I was wet with sweat and rain, and dirty from climbing around in a ravine. I changed and showered, grabbed a bottle of water and sat on the porch. I relaxed there for a while contemplating my day. Just over four hours. I looked around at my neighbours homes, and my own, I greeted a few that were outside and in that time I developed a deep appreciated of what I have in this life.

I realized just how lucky I am, disorder or not.


Friday, 8 July 2011

The most difficult post I've ever written, and most important

I've already started writing this three times. It's very difficult for me to find the words for this post, as I'm still a little reluctant to admit these issues. In a nutshell, I've been diagnosed Bipolar.

Really, what's the big deal right? I'm taking medication now to control it, and seeing a psychiatrist and psychologist, as well as a wealth of support from my family, especially my wife, Kimberly.

But all that aside, there's a huge stigma to this disorder. I was afraid to admit it because of that. I will be the first to admit that I've made snide remarks to someone in the past who had this condition, whether deserved or not, it was wrong. Now more than ever, I know that. I've also met several people lately who are also suffering from this, one of which is my neighbour's son. I've had the opportunity to talk extensively to this person about it, and that conversation gave me hope that this will affect me in a positive way, not negative.

Being Bipolar is not a curse, but a potential cure for a condition that people have long accused me of - that of being an asshole.

For years people have looked upon me as having a sorry attitude and carrying around a little grey cloud. Always negative, always grumpy, and one to steer clear of. Luckily my friends stuck with me through all this, even though they made their own opinions well known. Then, other days the sun shone through. The grey cloud dissipated and all was right with the world. I got my sense of humour back, and was helpful to everyone.

This is the basic definition of Bipolar. One with this disorder can't find a balance between two extremes. One experiences highs and lows on a scale that most don't see. When depression hits, it hits hard; in some cases a person will give up completely. On the other hand, highs were almost as if someone was high on life - ecstatically happy. There are several levels of Bipolar, and luckily I fall into the lower of the categories. My shrink described the highest level this way; one would call the Vatican and demand to know why the Pope missed the dinner invitation at his house last night. This person would have honestly thought in his or her mind that this would happen. The depression resulting from the rejection would be intense.

My diagnosis came about a month after my nervous breakdown on April 23rd. I don't remember about four hours of that afternoon. I don't think I want to either. Shortly after that I admitted to Kimberly that I did indeed need help. I agreed to see a shrink. My family doctor diagnosed me with depression and anxiety disorder, and gave me prescriptions for it. She also gave me a referral to a psychiatrist. My psychologist also insisted on that referral. The shrink changed the diagnosis to Bipolar within an hour of my first session, and changed my meds accordingly. The problem now, is that they aren't working.

The most benefit to any of this has been my therapist. I was very sceptical at first about someone I've never met messing with my head, and my telling him many personal details. I'm a very private person - even this blog only touches the surface of what I want people to know about me. The therapist changed that impression in me. He saw inside me to the person I really am - scared. He began Gestalt treatment on me - and I will not look back. Of all the drug cocktails and all the doctors that I've seen in the past three months, meditation and focus on self has been the best medicine. I'm now a believer in what this can do for a person's inner self and soul. I'm not cured, but now when anxiety and panic attacks hit, I can walk myself through a process that completely calms me, and eventually eases the pain. It's only a step, but a positive one. It has helped me re-focus on life. It has helped me realize what a jerk I was. It has helped me to find myself again, the person I was years ago.

When people didn't call me an asshole.

I have a long way to go yet. I'm off work on medical leave right now, mainly because I can't control the attacks and I work an hour down the highway. I really can't drive right now. I've spent my days seeing doctors, working on my self help 'homework', and getting back in shape. I quit smoking five months ago, and have since devoted considerable time to fixing the body as well as the mind. Out of boredom I began walking. Now these walks average 1.5 to 2 hours per day, depending on if I can mentally do it. One day it was four hours. Just walking. When I head out my intention is to normally go somewhere I've never been, a road, a park, and destination of some sort. However, when you live your entire life in the same city, that's difficult to do. But it keeps me thinking. I've also been reading. A lot.

My other new hobby has been my drums. I bought a used kit at a yard sale, fixed it up, and made some additions with the help of my brother in law, who still has a bunch of his old kit laying around that he doesn't use. Surprisingly enough, I'm not too bad! We've been having weekly jam nights. My son is a pretty talented up and coming guitarist, and my brother also plays guitar, so smacking the skins has been a very effective outlet for aggression and anxiety.

I was reluctant to write this entry. I was afraid to put these issues out there for all to see. I was going to keep my diagnosis a secret to all except my closest friends, but Kim convinced me that I need to write this. I need to tell everyone that there is no stigma attached to the this disorder, and no shame in mental health issues. Yes, I'm sick, but yes, I will get better. I will get back to work, and I will find a medication that controls the highs and lows of Bipolar disorder. I will find myself and even out my behaviour. It will just take time.

I shouldn't have any fear of telling anyone this. Now that I've posted this, I have no choice! It's just one more thing I have to deal with. Maybe now I will have a more positive outlook on life, on my friends and on my family. Maybe this is the mid-life crisis that HAD to happen in order for me to realize what I've been missing.

Maybe now I won't be afraid.


Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Two weeks and one flu bug

Yesterday it was two weeks since we quit smoking. I feel good about it, even though I still doubt my ability to resist the temptation without a patch on. Kim however, hasn't had one on for the past week, she's doing great. Today she was tempted by the evil stick, but she resisted, in the end, the Borg were wrong. I don't have any cravings, but I do have the occasional bout of old habit, especially when someone I was dealing with last week blew smoke in my face. I was on the one hand completely disgusted, thinking that I used to smell like that, and on the other hand reaching for his pack and lighter. Mixed feelings will be around for a while yet I'm afraid.

But I will soldier on.

Not only am I feeling better about myself, I feel better about my financial outlook and the smell of my clothing. Yick. That shit really stinks! Everyone has a 'thing' when they quit. Some chew gum, some eat anything not tied down, some punch people, some chase small animals, I found that every time I had a thought about smoking I simply took a deep breathe. Every time I wanted a cigarette I inhale fresh air and realize that I can. Two weeks ago that hurt. Today it feels like the breathe of life. It's wonderful. Kim said her main motivation for quitting now is that she wants to be an old woman sitting on the porch with me while we watch our grandchildren play on the front lawn. We always promised to grow old together, and in the past few years, stress, middle age and several family losses have made that simple dream more and more distant. Today, the dream got closer for both of us. It feels good, but the very idea of looking forward to old age is just plain weird - I'm nowhere near old!

Yesterday I felt old. Yesterday I had the flu. I spent the past two days out of it on the couch, fleeting moments of consciousness sucking back orange juice and piling on more blankets. I called in sick yesterday, something I hate doing, more or less because I don't trust the others in my office to keep my work up to date while I'm gone. In any case, I went back in today, not feeling 100%, but enough to function. I'm bloody tired now, I still have a ways to go before I'm completely up and around, but hey, that's life. At least I'm up and around, at least I'm not gasping for breathe under the tremendous weight of addiction.

Tomorrow is another day and another deep breathe. The sun will be out and the deep freeze is in it's waining days, soon Spring will be here, long walks in the park, bike rides, playing with the kids outside, backyard parties with the village, and more. All of that while breathing free.

All that brings my one step closer to sitting on the porch with Kim, watching my grandchildren do the same one day.


Sunday, 6 February 2011

Day 6

This was the worst day yet. If someone had of handed me a cigarette yesterday I would have eaten it, not smoked it. I was irritable, short tempered, and just plain assholish. I didn't help that it snowed again yesterday, all I want is a warm spring day and a cigarette, and I can't have either.

So it's Sunday morning, I sitting in a quiet house drinking my coffee listening to Fleetwood Mac's The Chain - one of my favourite songs, telling the world about my issues with tobacco. Yesterday proved to me that this is by far the hardest thing I've ever had to do. How people do this cold turkey is beyond me, I just don't get it. I had the weekend child over yesterday too, and Kim was at work. So, here I am with 3 kids, no partner, no smokes, tons of snow, and no sleep. Did I mention that one of the side effects of the patch is insomnia? Don't know if I've covered that yet, but I've seen 4am each of the last six days. So add fatigue to the rest of the issues.

The snow didn't stop until 7 last night, and by the time it was done we had another 4 inches on top of the 10 already on the ground. I hate winter. Yup, I'm sounding negative, that's not gonna change until I quit! The pic was taken out the back window, notice the crane sculpture in the distance. That thing actually has long legs. Somewhere out there is my patio, just waiting for the fond attention of a family BBQ. But alas, not today.

Today is a new dawn, a new day of challenges, today is what I make of it. It's day 7 without my old nemesis. I have laundry to do, some dishes, some errands, then the day is mine to do what I wish, I hope it's better, I know by this point I don't like myself nevermind what my family and friends think of me. My sister told me yesterday of her husband's worst day, in which he spent all day pacing, but thereafter, it got easier. Here's hoping yesterday was mine.


Thursday, 3 February 2011

Day 4

Today is day 4. For most of the day I've had no issues with smoking, I had my coffee this morning, cruised the web a bit, caught up on news and played a game, all without thinking about it. I went out and shovelled snow, dug my car out, talked to a couple of neighbours, all without problems. This afternoon I took Kim to an optometrist appointment, and even though that took an hour and a half, I had no cravings. I even took the time to snicker at two ladies standing outside having a smoke break. A friend called while I was waiting for Kim, she quit 6 weeks ago, and is still on the patch. We traded stories for a while - all very therapeutic. All this reinforced my desire NOT to smoke.

Kim and I have been trying to have a lunch date since Christmas and today we finally went, off to Kelsey's, Kim had a pulled pork sandwich with Guinness BBQ sauce, I had a peppercorn sirloin burger. As Kim fixed the waitress's Blackberry, I had my first craving in a couple of days. After a good lunch, I always had a smoke, it was all habit. We drove home with full stomachs and tobacco-free.

After a couple more errands we made it home, and enjoyed family time with the kids, now home from school. Now, I'm sitting here typing this, and I'm struggling. For the first time today, I'm really having a hard time with the smokelessness. I know it's entirely psychological, but that doesn't make it easier. Kim's patch fell off a couple hours ago, and it doesn't seem to be bothering her at all! (there is a lot of talk from the next room about donuts and me going to Timmy's, but I'm not biting). I'm inching closer to the end of the day and a new one tomorrow, a day closer to being a non-smoker. Hopefully, I can make it through without any cravings. Realistically that's a long way off, but every day is closer to that goal.


Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Day 3

Damn, this patch itches. It fell off last night because I kept trying to relieve the itch and it finally gave out, so I sat there for a couple hours without the patch on. I really had no desire to smoke at that point, but eventually the urge came back. I've crashed a couple of time over the past couple of days, but most of the time my issue is purely habitual, not physical. The patch is ensuring I have a constant uninterrupted supply of crap I don't need and am trying to stop.

Kim started her treatment yesterday, one day behind me. She says she's doing well, again, the problem is habitual more than physical. I haven't seen her since Monday, tonight we'll compare notes and admit to each other that we've either caved in or come very close. We'll see, but so far this has actually been easier than I thought. However, it does require assistance. Will power is not my forte.

Last night we were hit with the "storm of the century", as the Windsor Star called it. We made all kinds of preparations, as three of us in the press department live at least a half hour down any highway from here. We got the boss to sponge for a hotel room close to the office. If we were to get wailed, the presses would still run. Two of us went there last night, got some pizza, munchies and some drinks, and watched the hockey game. Then shot the shit til 2am. I'm not exactly on top of my game today, this morning began hung over with no coffee and no smokes. Yuk. I quickly fixed the coffee situation, but I'm finding myself now struggling to resist the smokes. I still haven't had one, but it's tough.

The storm wasn't half as bad as predicted, even so the winds and freezing rain alone made staying in town worth it, no to mention the camaraderie of the evening. Today is crawling, and it seems like I've been here for two days - frankly, I have. I'm taking tomorrow off, and spending it with Kim. Hopefully, we can make it without the cravings.


Monday, 31 January 2011

Patching things up

This morning I put on the patch. I intend to quit smoking.

So far so good, I really don't have any cravings, except of course the habitual ones, it's such a habit to run out for a smoke if you're waiting for the computer to chew on something, or if you're bored. I'm finding that right now is a hard thing to overcome. The ride down to Kingsville this morning wasn't bad, I had no desire to smoke, as a matter of fact I had the window cracked open (even though it's -11 here), and took in the cold crisp February air. I'd like to say there was something different about how it tasted, but It had only been 2 hours since my last smoke at that point, kind of silly to expect results that quickly.

When the pang hit me to have a smoke though, I find taking a deep long breath can push that aside quite quickly. The sore cracking lungs quickly make their prominence, and suddenly the craving is gone. That's why I'm doing this, I can feel it in my chest, I can feel myself running out of breath. I feel like I'm 70. I'm 42.

When I've gone without before I feel the weight lifting off my chest. I feel the rush of air in my lungs, I feel better. Smoking is taking that away, and I miss it. Spring is coming, my favourite season, and I want to enjoy every minute of the warm spring air with all it's wondrous scents a and feelings, I don't want my lungs to fight back.

So day one is well under way. It's 11:30 and I don't want a cigarette. I'm really hopeful and optimistic about this lifestyle change. It's step one to fixing myself and reversing the trend towards feeling my age.

Step two begins in...... days? weeks?