‘Expectation is the root of all heartache.’ Shakespeare

I’m starting a program tomorrow at my local hospital

It’s teaches coping skills for people with anxiety and depression

It is half days on Tuesdays and Fridays for 12 weeks, with a minimum of 5 Thursdays

It is a group format, run by a Social Worker, Registered Nurse and Occupational Therapist and overseen by a Psychiatrist

I’ll have a primary worker and access to the Psychiatrist during the program

At first, I was really intrigued and almost hopeful

Until I went for the info session

It was a few weeks ago

It was run by the OT who was jet lagged and seemed like she hadn’t a clue in the world of what she was talking about

I felt some of my balloon of almost hope deflate

I then went for an assessment last week with the RN, who sat impassively while I cried as she asked questions from her computer

I felt foolish and disappointed when I found out she would become my primary worker

I was accepted into the program and given a start date

Tuesday March 26

Tomorrow

I’ve promised myself that I will give it an honest open-minded try

After all, everyone has bad days and all that

And it would be reckless to throw away an OHIP covered 12 week program off of two measly meetings

Right?

Tomorrow, I’ll be there at 8:45 AM to start my first day

So maybe my balloon of almost hope won’t inflate

But maybe my ballon won’t pop either

And maybe

For right now, that’s good enough

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‘Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.’ Dr. Seuss

It’s hard to actually see your own recovery

Unlike your relapse

Which you can replay without hesitation in your mind

Recovery is different

It’s like one day you’re a total fucking basket case

And then you blink your eyes and you’re you again

Maybe if you’re like me

You started to experience brief moments of you again

So you hoped and wished that it meant you were finally coming back

And then one day

Visiting your own condo

You instinctually know

Something is different

Something has changed

The me that was gone

The me that I was so sure I’d lost

That me came back

Now

Looking at her in the mirror

It’s so hard to imagine how badly things had gotten

How far away she seemed

How trapped in her own mind she’d become

And now

Here she is

Standing before me

Looking back at me

She’s far from perfect

Not even close to almost

And yet I’ve never been happier to see my own reflection staring back at me

‘If I Could Start Again. I Would Keep Myself. I Would Find A Way.’ Trent Reznor aka GOD

I watched Birdbox the other night

With difficulty

Anyway

It’s a post apocalyptic film that is more unsettling than scary

The characters apparently ‘see’ something that is so troubling, distressing or terrifying that it makes them kill themselves instantaneously

The only way to prevent this

Is to be blindfolded effectively eliminating the chance to ‘see’ anything and that in and of itself is probably the scariest aspect of the film

Spoiler alert

The characters flee to a safe place which happens to be a home for the blind

Although in the book

This sanctuary is comprised of people who have voluntarily blinded themselves

Which I must say

Is a far creepier ending than the somewhat optimistic one the movie left us with

Regardless

This movie left me with a lot of thoughts

Two of my fears just happen to be the end of the world and going blind

😬

The former because of a weird experience I had with magic mushrooms when I was something like 16 years old

And the latter

Well that’s pretty self explanatory

What the movie gets so right though

Is capturing the fear of the unknown

Seeing the monsters always takes out some of the scare factor

Leaving them hidden

Allows us, as the watcher to assume the worst

Creating our own separate and distinct versions of the scariest creatures possible

And then this got me thinking about Multiple Sclerosis

Because these days, what doesn’t?

That very reason

The unknown is why people with MS tend to have high rates of anxiety and depression

When we are left to conjure up visions of our futures

We think of worst case scenarios

Each of us coming up with what would be the most horrific outcomes possible

Based on our individualized dreams, aspirations, loves, passions and etc

So how do we move forward?

When there is no way to accurately predict the future

Or even an adequate idea of what you want your future to look like

Even with scientific facts and doctors and MRIs

Several years ago, after a particularly bad period in my life filled with panic attacks

I attended a cognitive behavioural therapy group for panic and anxiety sufferers

One of the techniques they taught us to cope with our panic/anxiety

Was the use of exposures

Another was challenging negative self talk

At the time, I was struggling with my panic attacks occurring when I felt trapped

So I did my exposures in locked closets and on long subway rides through tunnels

I challenged all of the ‘I am going crazy’ and ‘I am a failure’ negative self talk

And replaced it with things like ‘I’m experiencing a panic attack, not going crazy’ and ‘having a panic attack does NOT make me a failure.’

The 14 week program was probably the biggest reason why my anxiety for the next several years was manageable

Until Multiple Sclerosis came along with its lesions and inflamed optic nerves and steroids

And literally upended my entire world

But what if I could use similar techniques to cope with MS?

Like my anxiety, it’s not going away and is a part of who I am

What if I imagined the worst case scenarios of MS? Like really felt and experienced what it would be like

And survived?

What if I challenged all of the painful thoughts that float in my head so many more times a day than I care to count?

Would it make this more bearable?

What if I accepted the unknown future and made a promise to myself that I could still bitch and hate and moan about it but ultimately roll with it and move on?

What if I accepted that I can’t finish my Bachelor of Social Work?

What if I accepted that I probably won’t be able to work full time?

What if I accepted that I will likely continue to struggle with my vision and the pain it brings?

What if I accepted that I will never have the life that I thought I would? That I hoped I would?

Would I then be able to finally end the chapter on all of that?

That chapter which has been left on a permanent ‘to be continued’

Which feels more like a permanent hostage situation

So what if I could erase that last line

And start a new fucking book

With all of my ‘defects’

With all of my broken pieces

With all of my changed dreams

Could I burn that old book filled with my past and all of my hopes for a future that isn’t really mine anymore?

Could I do it and just start over?

Not knowing what the ending will look like

Not knowing what will fill the table of contents

Knowing that a piece of me will burn with it

I have a tattoo I got years ago which reads ‘Tabula Rasa’ which translates into ‘Blank Slate’

I got that because I liked the idea of being able to start over

At any given time in our lives

To stop the story

And start something new

I think it’s been somewhat of a motto for me

When I didn’t like school or work

I called it

And started anew

So maybe that’s where I’ll start this new year with

My tabula rasa

My slightly broken

Slightly defected

Slightly damaged

Perfectly

Blank slate

‘There Is More Evil In The Least Sin Than In The Greatest Affliction.’ T. Brooks

Some days my damaged eyes feel as weary as my burdened soul

Some days it feels like I carry the world on shoulders that are tensed with anxious thinking

Some days the world feels as chaotic and unpredictable as the disease discarding lesions on my brain

Some days I feel so jittery that my nerves feel like they’re fraying and uncovering more than just damaged myelin

Some nights I lay awake not able to sleep even though my days are consumed by an overwhelming fatigue

Some nights it feels like electricity is coursing through my limbs and extremities

Some nights I feel like not waking up in the morning still wouldn’t be enough to get rid of all that’s wrong

Sometimes there are moments when I think that even a lifetime isn’t enough time

Time to shed all the broken and irreparable pieces of me

Time to start over

Time to begin again

Or maybe a lifetime is all it takes

To be gifted a new body and mind

And leave all that affliction behind

In the past

Where it belongs

Buried and covered

In someone else’s grave

‘What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through The Fire.’ Charles Bukowski

Sometimes life just seems so hard

I know

That seems so angst-y

It just that it seems filled with pain and sadness and so much heartache

That sometimes life just doesn’t seem worth it

After all what’s the big reward?

It’s supposed to be in life itself

Isn’t it?

But what if, it’s not?

What if you don’t reap the rewards?

Sometimes life with MS and anxiety and depression feels like this

It feels like all effort

And no great pay off

Maybe it’s just me

I don’t know

Maybe I can’t find happiness in the little things

Or maybe the happiness just isn’t enough

It doesn’t matter

What does matter?

‘What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.’

It matters if you can find the strength to persevere in spite of it all

It matters if you can find the courage to keep going when it feels like there so many more bad days than good

You matter even when you feel like you don’t

And that’s probably the hardest thing to remember

Especially when you keep trying to douse the flames from burning up around you

Instead of walking through them

(A picture of happier days 😏)

“What if all that keeps you trapped in that invisible boxing ring is the belief that you have to keep fighting in order to win?… What will happen to your opponent if he suddenly has nobody who will fight him?” Courtney Perry

Once upon a time

I started having panic attacks

I hated them so vehemently

That I swore to fight them at all costs

I swore to do whatever I had to to to win this battle

So I trained

And so I won many battles

But eventually I grew tired

I grew tired of always fighting

Being on guard 24/7 was crippling

And life was becoming one giant battlefield

One day

The panic attacks came back

They had grown stronger than before

I shrank my world to fit in my condo

Hoping if I stayed off the battlefield

The panic attacks would see I was no longer in the fight

They’d turn around and walk away

And leave me alone

Instead, they found me there

In my safe place

Banging on my doors and windows

Rattling me to my very core

I was so afraid

I hid in the darkness and shrank into the corner

Days passed this way

I could hear them getting louder and louder

And just when my door sounded like it was going to break apart

And my mind was going to snap into a million pieces

I sprang to my feet

I frantically threw open the front door

And yelled for them to fucking do their worst

I screamed that I wasn’t afraid of them

I didn’t like them

They knew that

I never would

But I had grown so tired of living in a constant state of fear

That I realized I’d rather come face to face with them

And if they destroyed me

Well

Then at least it would be over

The funny thing was

That when I opened the door

No one was there

The hall was eerily silent

I was stunned

I looked around

Sure that they were just hiding

To catch me at my most vulnerable

I looked in corners and under crawl spaces

Still I was alone

I was bewildered and shaken

I sank to my knees in the quiet hallway

And I started to cry

Big fat tears rolled down my face

I wasn’t crying because I was afraid

Not this time

This time was different

I was crying because all of this time

All of these years

I had expended so much energy and strength

I had used up so much of myself

When all I had ever needed to do

Was to open that fucking door

—–

Life-changing article: Read this!

This Isn’t An Ode To Panic Disorder…

I’ve hated you since I started experiencing panic attacks

No

Even before that

I hated you when I saw what you did to my father

How merciless you were

I hated how vulnerable you made him

I hated how scared you made me feel

When I started having my own panic attacks

I wasn’t unsure or surprised by your arrival

I was just upset

I was angry that I couldn’t fend you off

Especially after having seen first hand the damage you caused

I was frustrated

And you grew stronger

I had my very first panic attack waiting to board a plane

That sense of helplessness and feeling of being trapped

Allowed you to flourish

And you grew stronger

I got more frustrated

I became depressed

At what I perceived as my failure

Failure of what?

Outrun you of course

Break the pattern

And you grew stronger

Throughout the years and the numerous times you showed up

You stole bits and pieces from me

From my identity

From the experiences I stopped myself from having

I can’t count how many things I’ve missed out on because I was just too damn scared of you

And you grew stronger

I didn’t know that it was me who fed you

I didn’t know it was me that built you up

I vacillated between fighting you and being so terrified of you that I hid behind medications and isolation

I’m bone tired of fighting

I’m drained of the energy it takes to be afraid

I’ve been living with you my entire life in one form of another

You haven’t killed me

Yet

I was hurt because of you

The people around me were hurt because of you

But it was I, who allowed that to happen

Not you

You were never strong

It was always me that was strong

Always fighting against you

And

Hiding when self preservation took over

I used so much energy trying to not let you win

That I didn’t realize

I could end this epic battle

By waving a white flag

I spent so much time hating you

When I should have been understanding you

Because you were struggling like me

You were the outcome of the bad day, bad week, bad month that I’d had

You were what my body needed to expel to move on

I was too consumed by the symptoms you gave me

The shortness of breath, the stomach cramps, the heart palpitations, the depersonalization

To see that those symptoms came up because I dreaded your arrival

I’m sorry that I didn’t see you for what you really are

You’re me

And we’re in this together

So

If my body and mind feel like they need to have a panic attack…

Well I guess it’s ok

We will get through this

It’ll be uncomfortable

But it will pass

Just like it always has

And I promise to try not to be so hard on you

If you promise to do the same

Who knows?

Maybe one day

I’ll even write a poem about how grateful I am for your existence

I’d tell you not to hold your breath

But we both know I’d be lying

So I’ll just say this

I get it, Panic Disorder

I really do

I’m only sorry that it’s taken me so long