My son looked at the man sitting across from us in the emergency room. It was hard not to notice him. He was handcuffed,and a large, tired looking police officer was standing next to him, trying his best to not engage with him.

My son and I had been sitting in the waiting room for 3 hours by then. Sent here, fast-tracked, by his therapist that afternoon when he could no longer assure her during their meeting that he would be safe. I had driven us straight here from that appointment.

A phone call made while on the way to ask my older son to make dinner for his other brothers.

No, I wasn’t sure how long I would be.

Yes, it would be hours most likely.

No, I didn’t know what would happen.

I would call him later, I promised.

Thank you, I said while trying to sound as normal as possible.

The handcuffed man in the waiting room yelled profanities at the police officer. At the people in the room, at the walls who he accused of listening to him and recording him. He laughed loudly when he wasn’t screaming. He was shaking and spittle flew from his lips as he jumped in the chair trying to get out. Then he stopped, and he cried. He sobbed and he asked the police officer to shoot him, to kill him, to make the voices stop yelling at him, to make the walls stop staring. The police office stared straight ahead and avoided eye contact with anyone.

I stared at the floor, at my son, at the ceiling. Anywhere but at the man who had now wet himself and was silently sobbing and whispering “stop stop stop” over and over. I prayed that they would take him in soon. Away from this room.

A nurse came over with a wheelchair and spoke with the officer. He nodded and turned to speak to the man.

“It’s time to get fixed up, come on, in the wheelchair.” He tried to help him to stand and the man cried harder. “Stop stop stop” now replaced with “I’m sorry” repeated like one long word that never ended.

They wheeled him away. His sobs turning to screams and profanities, threats of violence and death to the nurse as he disappeared down the hallway and behind a set of doors that need a swipe card to allow access.

I let out the breath I hadn’t know I had been holding. I heard my son sigh loudly and he stood.

“I can’t do this.” He was shaking and his voice cracked, close to tears in a way I hadn’t heard through the weeks of angry rage that was the usual lately.

“I don’t want to be like that.” He sat back down and I saw the tears roll down his face. I had no words. “and I will be.” He leaned forward in the chair, his elbows resting on his thighs.

His hands were clasped, fingers twisting against each other as he shook. His knee bouncing with restless energy and fear.

“I promise I’ll be okay. I won’t hurt myself. I promise. Please just take me home. I’ll go to the therapist everyday. I’ll be okay. I’ll be okay. I’ll be okay.” His voice was edged with anger now and I prayed that a nurse would come for us soon.

I spoke to soothe him. I told him that we would just talk to someone, that he knew that he wasn’t okay and that we had to do something – something more than what we were, because what we were doing wasn’t helping enough.

I told him that he could get better.

That he would get better.

That this was a good step in that direction and I pleaded with him to just stay a little longer here.

To just give it another half hour.

He sighed and slumped back in his chair.

Three more half hours later and a nurse came for us. They took him to a room alone and me to another to talk with a doctor.

Sorry, they said, there was a more urgent case that came in to psychiatric assessment unit and they couldn’t help how long we had had to wait.

It’s fine, I answered.

Sorry, they said, the only doctor who could do an assessment on my son had just left for the day an hour ago. All they could do now was keep him overnight and try to have him assessed the next morning. Sending him home was not an option, they said. His therapist considered him an imminent risk so they were holding him.

Can I stay with him tonight? I asked. No.

Can I say goodbye to him? I asked.

They brought me into the holding area. Locked metal doors that all opened towards a central nursing desk.

The noise of fists and feet banging against one of the doors from the inside was deafening. The nurses moved about, oblivious it seemed.Threats of death to the nurses, screams, sobbing, all reverberated from so many rooms.

The doctor took a key and opened a door. My son sat on a bare mattress on a floor. A single blanket next to him. he was wearing a blue hospital gown.

“Can we go home now? I promise I’ll be okay.” his voice cracked.

We both knew he wanted to be.

We both knew he wouldn’t be if he came home that night.

I stayed with him for as long as they would let me. Then I said goodbye, promising to be back first thing in the morning.

He stood to say goodbye and he hugged me. Tears that his angry 16 year old self would not let fall hovered on his lashes. I turned and left as my own tears fell.

We both knew that tonight, at least, he would be okay. And that night, that was what mattered the most.

 

I say that I’m not creative,

that I don’t have an artistic bone in my body.

I assure you, when you say I must be wrong,

that my hands hold no gifts of artistry.

No paintings or drawings spring forth from my fingertips.

A crudely scribbled stick person is the extent of my skill,

and even those, I don’t do very well at all to be honest.

 

But oh my, you should see the webs that I weave.

The beautiful mirages that I craft,

the masks that I sculpt – and wear with such conviction.

Wonders of illusion, they are creations to behold, I tell you.

So perfectly honed and presented

that there are times that even I am fooled

by what I see in the mirror, reflected back at me.

Sweaty and spent.

Two of my favourite things to be.

I am on the floor, not caring one bit that my sweat is probably making the carpet damp.

Earbuds are in and on high volume.

The music is anything but slow and calm for my stretch time.

I like it loud and fast and driven while I come down from my run.

The music pounds in my head louder than I could ever get away with playing it out loud in my apartment.

I go limp from my final long stretch. My arms reach out above me and my legs wiggle a bit.

The music fills my head with it rhythm.

I close and my eyes and a smile creeps across my lips.

The invitation is there and the answer starts in my hips and shoulders.

They pulse with the thumping beat of the drums.

Slowly, the rest of my body follows suit as the music builds.

I groove, sway, funk a bit even.

A little reclined solo bump and grind set to music that only

I can hear.

I trip the light fantastic.

Floor dancing.

A friend commented that I’ve been sharing more suicide and mental health related posts on social media this past while. It’s true, and there are a couple of reasons why that is.

Firstly, it’s an issue that is close to home for me on a very personal note. Not just because I’ve lost someone I love to suicide but also because mental health is something that I live and battle with myself.

Secondly, because even with all of the media attention and education that our society now has exposure to surrounding suicide, we still hold strong to some misconceptions that are dangerously inaccurate.

There are a couple that bother me the most though. The first is that a person who talks about being suicidal or having thoughts of wanting to harm or kill themselves won’t actually do it. That it’s the ones who don’t talk about it that you have to worry about. You know what? Some people talk about it and some don’t. Just because someone is open and shares what is going on inside of them doesn’t make them less at risk. Even if they joke about it and make it sound like it’s not serious, you just can’t be sure.

The other one is that a person who is at imminent risk of killing themselves looks or acts a certain way. There is no one way that someone looks when they are at the point of taking their own life. In fact, I’ve been told by a mental health professional that many people who have been suicidal and come to the decision to complete are actually more upbeat and happy in the hours or day immediately preceding an attempt; not the opposite which we tend to think we should see – the quiet, withdrawn and sad looking person who has “given up”. Often times, people with chronic depression or other mental health issues have grown so adept at masking how they feel that they don’t even know how to let themselves be seen as anything other than “fine” and functional. There are numerous videos and pictures circulating lately showing this.

Here’s mine to add:

IMG_5016

This is a picture taken of me on the labour day weekend in 2012; I was with a small group of friends who had gathered to spend the long weekend together at one person’s waterfront house. It was sunny and warm, a lazy, easy going weekend of relaxation was well under way when this picture was snapped. This was taken a few hours before I was supposed to go back into town to run a few errands and then head back to the friends house; continuing the weekend of sunbathing , bbq meals and late nights of laughing and fun.

I had no intention of returning though and had everything in place that I would be found a couple of days later.  I had spent the days prior to this picture finalizing suicide plans and details to end my life. Do I look suicidal and sad and despondent? Not at all…I look exactly how I wanted to be seen as: happy and relaxed and all good. Inside I was as far from that as a person could get.

Don’t let these misconceptions fool you and contribute to more loss. Those of us who struggle to live with mental health issues DO talk openly about it – and we also DON’T. We do sometimes look like we’re falling apart and you can see how deeply it hurts – and oftentimes, we look amazingly together and happy, confident, strong and unshakeable.

There is no universal or standard way to gauge how a person is really feeling.

So….

Ask.

Listen.

Talk.

Care.

“I think I’m coming down with something.”

A phrase that we hear, and might say ourselves, from time to time. You know the feeling; tired, run down, maybe some sneezes and sniffles or a scratchy throat that are the unmistakable hints that you’ve caught something and you’re getting sick.

So what do you do?

If you’re like me, you start loading up on vitamin c and drinking more water. Add in a wonderful brew of garlic, ginger, lemon and honey to help battle the germs. Make sure to rest more and try to take it easy so that my body can fight off the bug that is running rampant inside my normally healthy body. I’m lucky enough to have access to a sauna and that’s always part of my arsenal of wiping out the illness. Take some time off work and get better.  In short, I turn my attention to doing whatever I can to help make myself get better as quickly as I can. It’s what we have been told we should do, need to do, for ourselves and for the most part we do. Even I do, and I’m not great at taking care of myself.

So let’s flip this from physical to mental health.

“I am burned out and done. Just done.”

A phrase – or some variation of that gets said fairly often too. Words that convey the simple fact that things are just too much right now, or that our ability to meet the mental or emotional demands on us are just not up to it. Whether it’s work stress or personal issues, whether it’s the tap out from depression, anxiety, grief, exhaustion or any myriad of mental health issues – chronic or not, it doesn’t matter. What matters is what we do once we have hit that point.

So what do we do? In a perfect world, you would look at what it is that’s the main issue and address it. What do you need, right that moment, to make things better? Then do that. What do you need, long term, to help yourself? Then do that. You would find support or take yourself away from what is causing you stress. You would get help in the form of counselling or medication or therapies that work for you. You would take a day off, maybe a few if you can and take time to get better.

What actually happens though?

We cough and sneeze and call in or email and say we’re sick and stay home. Everyone tells us how much they hope we get better soon and that we should rest and not push ourselves – just take it easy and get better.

 

or….

 

We don’t think we can get out of bed because of the heavy and dark depression or the anxiety that is crippling today or *insert your own version here* but we do it anyways; we get dressed in between panic attacks and sobs that ruin the makeup we’ve already had to re-do twice and we put on clothes that we feel like we can hide inside of. We pull ourselves together and we became masters at faking being “okay” or “fine, just tired” so that we don’t have to try to explain.

Or we don’t get out of bed. We call in or email and say we have a migraine or stomach flu – anything that can be gone in 24 hours so that there won’t be too many questions tomorrow when we do manage to pull ourselves together and make it to the outside world again. We become masters at lying and hiding what is really wrong.

Why? Because making a call and saying “I’m not okay today. I’m not well and it’s not my body that’s the problem.” is not something that we know how to do. It’s also not something that we know how to hear and respond to either. That’s okay though because the only way things will change is if we start changing them after we admit that there is something that needs changing.

So today I did something I never do. Today I called in “sick” and didn’t lie about why. I said I was taking a mental health day and that I was just simply burned out and needed a day to rest and recharge and get my head screwed on straight. You know what? The reply was “good for you, do what you need to.”. Yes, I was nervous about being that honest but I also know that I need to start walking the talk about getting rid of stigma if I really mean it – and I do. Yes, I do realize that I am incredibly lucky that I can do that and that not all of us can. Not everyone has time off available and not everyone works in an environment that you could say those words and not worry about how it will affect your job security. But if you do, and can, please do it when you need to. It’s the only way that taking care of our mental health will start being seen as just as normal and necessary as taking care of our physical health.

What do you value? What goals do you have that you want to achieve and how do they relate to the values that you hold true for yourself and how you want to live your life.

 

A couple of questions among a few today in a course that I’m taking. Questions that opened the door into a journaling task. A task that was to be done quickly, in class, not taking more than a few minutes. Designed to let us jot down our instinctive responses without over-thinking and without trying to analyze. Simply to write down our most basic “what do you want”. An exercise that was to tie into last week’s look at why we fail or succeed in making changes in areas of our lives that we say we want to change. Simple.

 

But first, before what I want, a little background.

I’ve been living with a depression for the last few (okay, many) months and fighting even acknowledging it to myself, never mind to anyone else. I’ve just barely started being open about how deep the shadows are to my partner and letting glimpses of how I’m doing be seen by a couple of others. most definitely not ok is indicative of just how bad it is right now. It’s that depression that fogs over everything right now for me. It’s dark and heavy and exhausting, and I’m so tired of it.

 

Sitting in class today, looking at my paper and holding my pen in hand, trying to even feel what I want so that I can write it down. Tears coming to my eyes again – like they had been off and on for most of the class – as I am overwhelmed by the sadness that I felt. Sadness that the one word that was front and centre felt so far from me. The one word that slowly came into my mind to explain what I want more than anything else just made me want to give up with how unattainable it felt to me.

 

Light.

 

I want to be light again. I am so exhausted from the heaviness of depression and grief that I sometimes forget what it feels like to not be crushed by it. I know that I have times that it’s merely a shadow and that I do peek out from under it but on days like today, those times are hard to remember – even harder to recall how it feels to have that lightness of being.

 

The sadness I feel in writing that hurts because within that is a deeper, more urgent want that wiggles in my mind as I work towards that lightness again. A sadness for what this darkness has made so hard lately. Connections, re-connections of relationships lost and let go of in my depression and grief, reassurance to those who are close to me still (even with all my efforts to push away hard).

 

I so desperately want the people who are in my life to know that it’s not all dark and heavy – and that I DO know that. I am blessed and I have so much in my life that does bring me happiness and laughter and light…and I am trying so hard to be aware of those times just as , if not even more than, the times when the heaviness weighs in.

 

I want and need for the people in my life to see when I’m having a light and easy day and there are smiles and joy to not worry if a cloud rolls in for a few minutes, maybe some tears or sadness will come. But it’ll pass. A single cloud doesn’t ruin a beautiful day. I promise.

 

I want and need for the people in my life to know that when the clouds pile up and darken and stick around, they’ll pass too. It might take longer than a moment, but they will. They always do, some days I have a harder time remembering that but I promise that they will pass too.

 

I want and need for the people in my life to know that it IS getting better and I need for you to remind me of that when I fall apart and share that I don’t know if it is – or ever will be better.

I want you to know how much it means to me that you are there to tell me that when I can’t see it.

 

I want you to know that I hide behind “I’m ok, just tired” or “I’m fine” like you do too…and I see you and it’s ok to hide behind that if you need to; I know sometimes I need to not share how I really am too. It’s ok when it’s too much.

 

I want you to know that sometimes I can be what we all are in some way or other:

Perfectly okay and doing great.

A mess.

Loved and loving.

Falling apart.

Grateful for all the amazing and wonderful things and people in my life.

Overwhelmed and lost in depression

Joyful and light.

Hurt.

Laughing, smiling, sincerely happy and content.

Scared that it won’t ever be different.

Excited for tomorrow..

Wanting to give up.

 

I want to say thank you for being in my life. Whether you are someone who I share a few minutes with once or twice a year…a casual friend… a chosen family or close friend…or my partner, my love… I want you to know that I can be, like we all are, both a work in progress and a masterpiece, all at the same time.

 

A year of saying yes starts today.

It was 25 years ago today that my life changed forever (happy birthday today to my oldest!) and it’s as good a day as any for me to start another step on my path. Seems kind of fitting somehow actually.

A concept that was introduced to me by my partner and something that has taken hold in my musings.

To say yes instead of no or maybe. Not something as sweeping as saying yes to everything that comes my way; I’m wanting a shake up in how I live but I’m not completely off my rocker, thank you very much.

Essentially how I see it is simple. To make a conscious decision to not stay stuck in patterns of behaviour that have become unhealthy and limiting to myself. The only way to change is to change. It really is that simple.

It’s not saying yes to every option I am presented with or with every opportunity that comes my way. What my year of yes will be is taking the chances that I would normally knee jerk into a “no”. It’s not letting my fears or reservations make my decisions for me like I have been. It’s being conscious of choosing to nudge myself outside of the comfortable areas that I have come to hibernate so well within these past few years. It’s not automatically shutting down an opportunity that excites me because I’m nervous or uncertain. It’s feeling all that and deciding to do it anyways. It’s trying something when I’m not sure if I’ll succeed or not. It’s seeing risks and taking them.

It’s more than saying yes to invitations, it’s also saying yes to what I ask of myself. It’s not limiting myself and my growth anymore due to fears or insecurities. It’s believing in myself again and my potential and letting myself rise to the bar that has no set height except for where I set it…. and I’m tired of keeping it set as low as I have. It’s telling myself to shut up when I say I can’t or shouldn’t. It’s saying yes, you can and you should, and you will.
Is it scary? Yes. Look, I said it… that wasn’t too bad 🙂

words,

they seduce me.

drawing me in and twirling me around them as if they were my lover.

their seduction, burrowing within my mind, is slow and tentative at first.

it comes at times inappropriate and often inconvenient,

but they don’t care.

tendrils of thoughts dangled just out of my reach, daring me,

they tease and taunt my desires, I yearn to grasp them,

haunting and evocative they are to my senses.

words, phrases even at times, that dance across the stage of my mind.

alluring, deceptively innocent looking they appear at first.

some have given up the pretense and offer instead the raw lust of need.

they are embers,

thinly veiled ,hiding the promise of their flames that will consume me.

words that I let roll over my tongue, spoken silently deep inside of me.

I taste them, I savour their substance and their texture in my mouth and my soul.

words that envelope my being as I surrender to their embrace of my dreams.

they give life to my darkness,

they allow my light to break free of the shadows,

even if only inside my own mind,

in my own voice.

words that speak in whispers or in screams of rage.

words murmured in passion and desire as the trysts of my fantasies are given shape.

they create wells of sadness impossibly deep to ever claw out of.

they are the words that encapsulate joys beyond what a heart can even imagine.

words that are so heavy you can feel their weight,

crushing and demanding.

words that lift me up and let me fly and see me gently tumble and turn as I fall,

laughing with the insanity of it all.

words that are so visceral and disgusting.

and so unfathomably beautiful that they don’t exist to our ears,

only in our minds do we find them.

I hold tightly to them once found,

treasure and cherished.

they seduce me.

words.

Thinking over connecting a lot lately. With grieving and depression the last few years it’s something that has been lost, to some degree, in my life. It’s something that, when I reflect on the last year or so, it has started to creep back in, almost unnoticed to me.

We all impact each others lives, mostly in non-physical ways. We use expressions like “that touches my heart” or “I see you” when what is happening has nothing at all to do with physical connection but rather, it is different. Everyone can see me or hear me or touch me with the senses that we associate with those words. So very few persons though actually see me or hear me or touch me though in the ways that I have walled off and closed off these past few years. Connecting. Whether it has been for a few moments or seconds or for longer, I have started to connect again. A little reach out or a tentative reach back to a hand or a shoulder offered. A dance of me wanting to connect but wanting to push away and run at the same time.

There have been little connections here and there though, and I’ve started to see that lately. So small that to the other persons involved, they may be inconsequential and not even remembered. Yet they are, to me. Part of me seeing and celebrating the simple fact that I can still connect – and I am – is recognizing it. This musing is my way of honouring that I need to bring awareness to the little things that are actually massive things when living with grief and trying to slog out depression (which I am still trying to deny is even a fact for me 😉 ).

I meet someone and spend time with them and have a great evening talking and laughing and I walk away feeling lighter and with a smile on my face. I tell them I had a great evening. What I don’t say is how much that means to me.

My partner and I spend a few days in a strange city and we are welcomed and made
to feel like family almost by a couple of people that I barely know but who are
friends of hers already. We leave, hugging and telling them how appreciative we
are and I tell them how happy I am to have met them. I cry later thinking how
long it’s been since I’ve felt so open and comfortable with people. But I never
tell them that.

That is repeated in another city a couple of days later. Time spent in the private
spaces or persons lives and spaces. A card game leaving us crying with laughter. Easy and fun and simple…and good. More left unsaid but definitely felt.

We go out to a friend’s home for dinner with them and their children. We are invited in
and welcomed and fed and brought into the folds of their lives for a couple of
hours. It is open and genuine and beautiful and … good. We leave and hug and I
feel like there aren’t words to say how good it feels.

A crazy and amazing few days in the desert and little connections abound.

A shared moment laughing over an identical dress with someone who shares my introverted
stress and need to hide.

A quiet few minutes with a person I’ve seen around for years but barely know as she draws a design for me in a hotel room.

Sitting under a tree in the heat and just enjoying company with a friend.

Ridiculous sexy parodies of burlesque in a room that feels like a sauna shared with a friend.

Summer hours in sunshine and dust around campfires and lakes. Sharing camp stove lighters and laughing over outdoor cooking foibles.

Tears or giggles or both. Shared and felt.

Seeing and feeling friendships glimmer into being as walls start to be lowered. Sharing space and energies, however brief. They all have an impact and leaves ripples in their wake.

Experiences that show me that even the small steps are still progress.

Being able to give words to this awareness and to reach out and say thank you to the people in my life who are part of my life… this is the best small step so far.

They rest inside me, deeply, persistent in their demands for release.

Monsters of thoughts and emotions that are dark with the density they possess.

The weight of them suffocating me lately.

The days fly by in a flurry of avoidance and boundaries of sanity.

The evening hours tick grossly by – second by second with the heaviness of it all.

The monsters – the thoughts – the emotions – form into words, and then sentences in my mind.

Filling volumes of expression that careen around inside of me.

They exhaust me so deeply there that I have nothing left with which to give them voice.

So they continue their dance inside of me.

Ever faster and more frantic they dance to their drums.

Boundaried only by the confines of my weariness.

By my inability to let them find footing and leap outward in the words that they demand be written.

They draw in all the energy I have, consuming it entirely.

All the energy that it would take for me to set them free.

So they stay where they are.

Thunderous in the silence they create.