‘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

‘Putting up with means withdrawing from panic in panic; adding panic to panic, hoping that panic will go away quickly and not come back; it means avoiding people and places that bring on panic so that one’s horizon becomes narrower and narrower unit it is finally bounded by the front gate…It means continued illness.’ Dr. Claire Weekes

I’m feeling frustrated today

I consider myself a pretty smart person

Also someone who is more self aware than the average person

I’m well versed in all things anxiety and panic related

I feel like I graduated with a masters in this shit

I can recite all the therapy talk

More so

I actually believe in what I’m saying

I am perfectly aware that nothing worse than the panic attack itself, will happen to me

And yet

Every morning I wake up, heart pounding, mind racing

In fear of the next panic attack

Those same panic attacks I’ve been having for over two decades

Those same panic attacks in which what I’m most afraid of, does not come true

In fact

It never comes true

So what the fuck is the problem?

I think my own fear is greater than my knowledge

So I give in

Day after day

Even with the meds I obediently take

I watch life pass me by

Feeling less and less like it’s even my life that I’m missing out on

That’s how far out of reach things like dinner out or going to my sisters house seem

I can’t seem to stop from being hard on myself

I feel like yelling at myself:

AFTER ALL OF THIS, WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU STILL NOT GET?!

HOW MUCH MORE TIME WILL YOU WASTE BEFORE YOU FINALLY MOVE ON?!’

I’m sitting here shaking my head

Because, after everything

And I still don’t have the answers to any of that

‘I Have Loved The Stars Too Fondly To Be Fearful Of The Night.’ Sarah Williams

Three weeks ago

I felt scared

I felt panicked

I felt unsure

I felt lost

I felt alone

I felt weak

I felt crazy

Three weeks later

I feel strong

I feel empowered

I feel courageous

I feel a little invincible

I feel like a conquistador

I feel proud

I feel brave

Tonight

I want to bottle this feeling

Memorize this moment

So that I can take it out when I need a reminder

Of who I am

Of what I’ve overcome

Someday

I want to look back on this

Without regret

Without sadness

Without bitterness

And only feel proud

That what I endured

Didn’t break me

It didn’t shatter me into millions of sharp pieces

Instead

A fire within me was ignited

Inflamed by my struggles

Emboldened by my heartache

It burns so bright and so fiercely

That I wonder if the stars above will take notice

Unsure if I’m beckoning them

Or trying to outshine them

We’re the same though

The stars and I

We’re both exploding from our depths

And illuminating what would have been total darkness

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

Radical Self Acceptance

(This was from my MS support group I chaired last week)

Fighting reality only creates suffering. While pain is inevitable in life, suffering is optional. “And suffering is what happens when we refuse to accept the pain in our lives,”

Close your eyes and think about being diagnosed with MS

Think about the difficulties you encountered

Think about the hurt, pain and suffering you’ve experienced because of it

Think about all the medications and treatments you’ve tried

Think about how many times you’ve gotten your hope up for some miracle cure only to be let down

Think about all the time you’ve been angry, depressed or lost because of having MS

Now open your eyes.

Look around

You still have MS

So does everyone else in this room

Nothing has changed

simply because you deny it exists.

It is still there, waiting for you to deal with it.

“When you open yourself up to accepting the present moment precisely as it is, with no judgments, you are free to look at all of those puzzle pieces of the present moment and start to piece them together. “

What if instead of having all of that, you simply decided to radically accept your reality that is having MS?

Acceptance isn’t giving up

It isn’t resigning yourself to the illness

It is simply accepting that whatever is happening is happening

Acceptance is about letting go of the person you thought you were and the life you thought you had and making the most of the one you actually have

Some helpful strategies to practice radical self acceptance:

Acknowledge and learn how to cope with negative thoughts and feelings

Rewrite your story

Find activities that you enjoy

Spend time with the people you love and that make you happy

Note:

I’m not even close to being there yet…but I want to be