We Have Moved

Thanks to my amazing big brother Christopher Muggridge of Lumin8 I now have my own website

Spirited Blessings

Please head on over and enjoy the new and old content (I am slowly working to import all of my old writings and to tag them so they can be found easier).

01Plus our new photos taken by Stephanie of Stesha Bella Photography can be found on the new site.

 

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Mental Health Awareness Part 2

So I left off with Adam and I becoming a couple.  He came into my life at just the right time. I had a new found love and respect for myself and I believe that is what drew him to me (plus my flirting wearing a low cut sweater might have helped a little). We were engaged after four months of being together though we didn’t actually get married until two years later in 1995. Shortly after we got married we started to try for a family. I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) so becoming pregnant is not easy. We eventually got in to a fertility specialist and even had an emergency round of InVitro fertilization (IVF) before we decided that we had enough of the poking and prodding. I was devastated and became very depressed. I would spend hours just playing a mindless video game to try to keep my mind off the fact that I might never be a mother. Thankfully the IVF clinic in London offered counselling. I took them up on it and travelled four hours round trip to be able to sit down with someone that saw infertile couples all day every day. It helped and I felt the depression lifting.

We then focused on adoption and for the next few years I was good. A little bit of ups and downs but nothing major. We adopted our oldest and things were immediately difficult. After about a year of struggling with his behavior I had a discussion with the head of the early intervention team in Windsor (who also happened to be my boss, awkward . . .) who was very wise and told me “not everything can be fixed” when I said we just needed the right help to be able to fix the things our son was struggling with. She gently suggested to me that while I waited for appropriate services I might want to look into some private counselling for myself. At first I resented the implication. It was my son, not me, that needed the help.

Then one day I showed up at the office on my team meeting day and there were no parking spots even though I had enough seniority to have one. I went inside and demanded the list of license plates. I then went out and determined there were several people without the seniority in the spots. I seriously lost my damn mind and left nasty messages for each of those people. After I had time to calm down and reflect I realized my response to the event was way out of proportion with what actually occurred. I took this as a sign that I was too stressed and I asked my boss for that list of names of counsellors.

Off and on I would do therapy over the next several years with the same therapist. Though I tended to bail once my benefits ran out which would coincide with my getting down to some serious issues. Avoiding the intense work, my stress and depression continued to mount until one day in 2012 I left therapy and just fell apart. I thought seriously of using the pills I carried around with me (a mixture of pills I had kept over the years) and jumping into the river. Out of desperation I called my husband and when all was said and done I ended up in the hospital for several weeks.

I stayed in therapy and started doing some deep work which led to another hospitalization in 2013. I was just in a deep dark place and I even tried to strangle myself one night which led to a longer hospitalization and a new diagnosis that I don’t agree with. Leaving the hospital they had me on about 7 different medications and they set me up with Dialectical Behaviour therapy (DBT). I was excited to go because I was looking for anything that would help keep me out of the hospital. I was sorely disappointed in the group. The leader, a Psychology resident, simply read monotone from a manual and 1 or 2 people would dominate the little conversation that there was. These people had majorly dramatic and tragic lifestyles. I could not relate to anyone. I went 3 or 4 times and then just stopped going. I’m glad I actually made a choice for myself instead of just going along with it because a doctor said so.  I stayed in my private therapy and dug even deeper.

In 2014 I managed to stay out of the hospital and began to flourish. I went back to my old job in early intervention and was enjoying the work (and paycheck).  At the end of 2014 I decided that I was doing well and did not need my medication. By the New Year I had taken myself off of all my psychiatric drugs. In January 2015, I confessed what I had done to my psychiatrist. He was not happy but agreed to just close monitoring. When I went to my regular appointment in April 2015 I had spiralled so far out of control he hospitalized me. I promptly attempted to strangle myself so I was “formed” – which is where physicians practising in Ontario have the right to sign an Application for Psychiatric Assessment (Form 1), “which authorizes the apprehension, detention and assessment of a person” who meets certain criteria under the Mental Health Act. They then have 72 hours to do an assessment to determine if a person MUST be admitted (involuntary) or that a person SHOULD be admitted (voluntary) or just be released from the hospital.  I don’t really remember when the doctor formed me but according to Adam I was not happy. To be formed means losing the basic right to freedom, if only temporarily. I’m glad that I was so out of it that I didn’t realize at the time I was formed. That would have set off my anxiety to a level I have never quite experienced.

The drawback to being hospitalized at Windsor Regional, Ouellette campus in Windsor, Ontario aside from the loss of freedom is that there is essentially no programming or therapy while you are there. Occupational Therapy is offered but it consists of choosing a puzzle, a colouring page or video games. Sometimes they play Bingo. That’s it. The rest of the time you sit around, drugged out of your mind, trying to put two words together when visitors come. Eventually I was transferred to the Toldo Building at Hotel Dieu hospital. Things were completely different there. The nurses seemed happy and eager to help, the rooms were private, you could shave without having a nurse watch you (yes this was the case at Ouellette) and there were so many programs offered you could stay busy all day if you wanted to. Meditation, Yoga, Workout room, Horticulture, Cooking and on and on. While I was there the fog started to lift and I began to dig my way out of the hole of depression.

The fallout from severe clinical depression is sweeping. It affected my memory, my emotions, my concentration, my energy level.  People around me noted that I seemed to have a flat affect, and I did. It was the medications that were necessary to function outside the hospital but they were making it harder to function in my everyday life especially at work. I had to come home on my lunch hour and take a nap just to make it through the day. The Lithium gave me a tremor, which at its worst, made writing extremely difficult. Over time these side effects have decreased or I have gotten better at managing them.  My concentration just came back last month – almost two years after my hospitalization.  I used to love to read, in the past 2 years I have probably read one book.

So what does all this mean? Did the hospitalization help? Hinder? Perhaps a bit of both. But it was necessary at the time. Depression is still an active illness for me, but I have learned better coping mechanisms since then. I have opened up about my struggles to those around me. I used to try to be a martyr and do everything at work and home alone. Now I lean on my co-workers and my family.

Depression is a beast. But I’m a warrior.

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Mental Health Awareness 2017

Mental Health awareness week is almost over . . . I have struggled all week with what to say. Here is part of my story:

I have struggled with depression and anxiety most of my life. As a young child I felt anxious doing ordinary everyday activities like going to school or even playing with my friends. When I was 5, I was in Girl Guides and would get a migraine every time I went. I spent half the time lying on a gym bench waiting for my parents to come pick me up.  When I was 6 I struggled to print properly – it was the first time at school that I struggled with something. I had no idea how to deal with what I saw as rejection and failure every time my teacher would send me back to my desk to redo my work. I attempted to cope by being extra helpful and my anxiety would bubble up and I would talk nonstop to my classmates. This led to my teacher putting a box on my desk to segregate me from the other kids and keep me on task. I was humiliated. The migraines and stomach aches at school started. My parents took me to various doctors and the final result was “it’s all in her head”. One night my mother sat me down and asked me what was wrong. I didn’t know what to say so I told her that I was afraid I was going to fail. I cried and I remember my mother rocking me and reassuring me that I was doing fine. I felt comforted but it didn’t stop the aches and pains and I felt guilty for worrying my parents for no reason. So I just stopped telling people about them.

When I was 7 things started to get harder at school. I had entered Kindergarten able to read and spell so I found the first few years relatively easy. I vividly remember the first day I didn’t understand a direction. Our class was in the hallway and there were long rolls of paper spread out down the hall. The teacher was talking and I don’t know if I stopped listening for a minute or if what she said just didn’t make sense to me. I felt my face get red and tears well up in my eyes. It got very hard to breathe and I felt like I wasn’t in my body. I didn’t even ask, I just stood up and ran to the bathroom. When the teacher found me I was retching so she assumed I was sick and I was sent home. I never did find out what we were supposed to do with the paper. I also would go through times where I felt so unbelievably sad for no reason and then after several days or even weeks there would be a day – often a sunny day where I would be walking home from school and I would suddenly feel the sadness lift and I would feel unbelievably happy.

The next few years’ things were a bit better. I had supportive and understanding teachers and I didn’t struggle academically. I had friends and kept busy. When I was in grade 4 we moved to a completely new town. We moved from the city where I was only one of a few white kids to a predominantly rural white community. The first day at my new school I got in a fight with some girls that were being mean to one of the other girls. I was on their shit list and the bullying happened off and on for the next few years. I coped by going home at the end of the day and eating everything in sight. I went from rail thin to the fat kid in class. I also went through puberty early. I felt anxious each and every day. I cried myself to sleep almost every night.

By grade 9 I thought very little of myself and struggled socially. I had a group of friends but I felt like I was always on the outer circle. Just floating nearby them. There was typical high school drama but I didn’t know it was typical. It felt very overwhelming and emotionally draining. I worked hard to maintain my friendships but by the time I was 16 I was seriously depressed and spent most of my time hiding in my room, sleeping and cutting.  A few friends (Laura & Lisa) would not take no for an answer and I will be forever thankful that they were unrelenting about me coming out with them (even if it was because I had the car, lol). On my 17th birthday I attempted suicide for the first time. For the next year and a half I was hospitalized 11 times and at one point a doctor wrote on my medical chart that “Considering extreme need and dependency in the relationship and her poor response, for Tina the prognosis does not seem to be very favourable”. I was 17 years old.

Thankfully intensive one to one therapy as well as a few groups to address some specific areas helped get me to a very healthy point so that when I went off to University at 18 I was able to handle the depression and anxiety when they reared their heads. I met a man and fell in love and we started our lives together.

To be continued . . .

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Graduation

Gradannouncement

The back of one of my son’s graduation announcements.

Jeremy is disappointed as I always said I would write a “Suck It” announcement. He thought I meant that I would literally write those words. He makes me laugh.

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Into the Woods

2007-09-16-123816I stood there and watched him run into the woods. I didn’t follow as I knew I would never be able to catch him. I was beyond exhausted. Behind me I heard walkie talkies going off as three staff bolted out of two buildings and ran into the woods after him. I found myself fighting back tears.

The staff beside me put her hand on my shoulder and gently said “Don’t worry, we’ll get him” and I began to sob.

“It’s not that” I said “it’s that I don’t have backup staff at home. I don’t even have one staff. How are we going to manage when he comes home?”

I was standing outside one of the units for inpatient psychiatric care at an agency 200 kilometers from our home. My son had been spiraling out of control for several months. He heard things, envisioned things that weren’t there. He was forever doing unsafe things and then begging for our help to make him stop. We had locked away all the knives and sharp objects. We stopped taking him out in the community, his behavior so erratic there was no way to know what he would do. He stopped attending school as there were only so many lockdowns they could do in short amount of time. He was unsafe out in the world and barely safe at home.

The last straw was when he brought me his housecoat belt over his outstretched hands and he begged me to help him end his life. He was 11 years old.

* **

It’s 1990 – my 17th birthday and none of my friends are to be found. To be honest I have been giving them the cold shoulder for several months so it isn’t that much of a surprise that they aren’t here wishing me a happy birthday.  I sit by my locker, writing in my journal – the same thoughts over and over.

I’m nobody and the world would be better without me. If I could I would just merely cease to be.

I get up off the ground, taking my Prozac out of my pocket as I approach the water fountain. This new drug is being heralded as a new and promising drug to combat depression. What they don’t know yet is that it could lead to increased suicidal ideation in children and teens. I open the bottle intending to take one. Instead I dump the twenty nine pills into my hand and swallow them in one swift motion.

I am amazed at how easily they went down. It takes me several seconds to register what I have just done. My blood pumps so strongly that I can hear my pulse. My hands begin to sweat. I lower myself to the floor outside my locker and pick up pen and a paper. With a shaking hand I write my suicide note. I tell the world how worthless I am. How I can’t take the darkness any more. I ask for forgiveness.

Please forgive me.

* *

They come back on the path – a staff each holding an arm and another in the rear. He is struggling and crying. Something about chasing a deer and that he is a hunter. He begs them to let him go so he can catch his prize. He writhes and as they get closer I can see that his pupils are large saucers, his face mottled. He continues to struggle and doesn’t acknowledge me as he goes by, his thoughts are only on the imagined doe.

Once inside he continues to scream and yell and try to break free. They take him to the lower level where the time out room is. It is a completely empty cell like room. They know I do not want him locked away in rooms such as this. They assure me it is only temporary and no one will close the door.  I stay upstairs – partially to avoid making him more distraught and partially because I cannot bare to see him like this.

The staff continue to talk briefly and quietly to him. Giving him time to calm. Medication arrives to help calm him even further. Within a few minutes I can tell everything is working. I cautiously go down the stairs and peek into the room. He’s squished tight into a corner, his face streaked with his tears, his breathing shallow.

He sees me and lunges at me. “Mom I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Do you forgive me?”

*.    *.  *

It is the year 2015 and the bright lights are blinding me as I lie on the small emergency room bed. The nurses and doctors brush past the curtains that are only partially closed. When I first arrived, I had been in a private room. When my husband left to make some calls I ripped a bedsheet and made a noose. My husband found me before I could tie it. My nurse scolded me like a child
“If I can’t trust you then you can’t be in here. I thought I could trust you and you went and did this”
I want to tell her I am ill. Just as ill as people with cancer and diabetes. I want to tell her that I am not here as a joke, that I have real problems that have brought me here. I want to ask her if she has ever suffered from depression and gone to that deep dark place where nothing makes sense except for dying.
I do not. Instead, I lie down and cover myself up. The on call psychiatrist stops by and quickly signs the form making my stay mandatory for up to 72 hours. I am distressed at being placed “on a hold” and do not take the news very well. I cry and beg my husband to do something to help me.
I deserve to be here. I stopped taking my medications thinking that I was well enough to make do without them. Obviously I am not. The voice in my head swirls around and around speaking nonsense combined with self-deprecating thoughts. Either they have given me strong medications or my psyche is so stressed that I am in and out of consciousness. Time passes. My husband will tell me later that this went on for three days waiting for a bed.
I lie on the bed and I cannot sleep anymore. Overtaken suddenly by emotions that I can no longer avoid. I sob into my pillow as my husband looks over me. I reach my hand out to him, lucid for a moment.
“I’m sorry” I say “please forgive me”
***
Together we walk along the river, stopping at times for him to climb the rocks and jump down. He claims to be doing Parkour and I claim to know nothing about what he is saying. He laughs at my lack of knowledge and takes a risky jump from one rock to another, landing gracefully. He joins me back on the trail and we resume our walk.
I cannot help but think back to those years where he and I were both so ill. I marvel that with medication and treatment we have both been stable for a few years. The gut wrenching days of his early adolescence and my deep dark depression have lifted. Now we have typical mother son disagreements but mostly we have peace. Peace. Something I was not sure our family would ever experience.
We no longer need forgiveness.

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A Contest!!

I was just doing some cleaning and realized I have 2 copies (one dog eared, one in pristine condition) of What Matters by Janice Fialka.

WhatMatters

It is an amazing book about raising her family and her son making his way in the world, fully included at every step of the way. Janice has been an inspiration to me since before we even adopted Corbin, and became even more important to me after.

To win a copy of this book do one or all of the following (each one will get you a ballot in the draw):

  1.  Leave a comment here
  2.  share my facebook post
  3. Like my FB post

Make sure you leave a message in the comments if you share on FB. I will keep the contest open until Thursday April 13th, 2017 at midnight.

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Update

SoCounting My Blessings Day 1 - Coffee, Chocolate and Boxes things have been quiet around here lately but it’s not what you probably think. I have been doing great – I am feeling much better. I think being on insulin has helped immensely. I am not feeling so tired and foggy all the time. I am actually getting some housework done and making meals at night doesn’t feel like I am barely able to make my way around the kitchen. I’m still working on eating better and getting more exercise.

I went and got my hair done and I love the style. I bought contacts and new makeup. Today I got my eyebrows waxed for the first time since my wedding 22 years ago. lol. In a few weeks we are getting family photos done at an awesome location, the Old Mill.   I honestly feel like I have just woken from a dark dream.

Work is very busy but going well. Last night I got to snuggle the sweetest little baby. If you have to work at night snuggling a baby is the way to go. The boys are doing well at school. Corbin still seems on the path to getting his Ontario High School Diploma in June. Jeremy has stepped it up a notch when it comes to doing his schoolwork and his grades are reflecting that commitment. Adam’s work is the same. He’s counting down to retirement.

Writing hasn’t been coming to me quite as easily the past few weeks. I think it’s because I haven’t spent much time quietly reflecting, instead choosing action after a LONG period of inaction.

Speaking of action, there is an upcoming March at Queens Park for Supports for Adults with Developmental Disabilities on May 10, 2017. Corbin and I are going to take a bus from Windsor and join others in the march. They have asked if Corbin would like to speak – he’s thinking about it. Of course I want him to – he has so much to share with others about disability and living a regular life with proper supports.

I’m also working on a project that my brother has been helping me with. I will be unveiling it in about a month. Stay tuned.

 

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