‘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

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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

The Only Way Out Is Through

It’s been something like two and a half weeks since I lost my mind
Countless days and nights that I haven’t felt like myself
That my skin hasn’t felt like my own
Two and a half weeks since I went to two different emergency rooms
Two and a half weeks since I spent the night at a crisis centre
Two and a half weeks since I first lost my appetite
Two and a half weeks since I first started having irrational and obsessive thoughts on top of multiple panic attacks per day
Two and a half weeks since I became scared to be alone
Scared in my own home
Scared of my own mind
It’s been a week and a day since I came to stay with my parents
It’s been a week and a day and I’ve only been comfortable being left alone once for a short period
It’s been a week and a half since I told my neuro psychiatrist what I was experiencing
It’s been a week and a half since I went back to my old full dose of Paxil
It’s been a week and a half of 3-4 Ativan per day
It’s been a week and a half of nausea, grogginess, headaches, crying fits and having my appetite return
It’s been a week and a day since I haven’t went to bed in my own home
Where I haven’t seen Joey either right before bed or as soon as I wake in the morning
A week and a day since I last napped with my dogs
4 days until I call my neuro psychiatrist to let him know how I’m doing
5 days until I start paying for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Unknown days until I return home
Unknown days until I don’t wake up afraid of a day filled with panic attacks
Unknown days until I don’t fall asleep fearing another day of panic attacks
Zero days that I haven’t wished for a different life
Zero days that I felt like I had the strength, courage and determination to get through this
Today though…is a special day
It’s the day where I wrote
Today is the day that I got my voice back


‘At Times, Our Own Light Goes Out And Is Rekindled By A Spark From Another Person.’ Albert Schweitzer

Dear David (from Gerstein Crisis Centre)

It’s taken me four days to finally be able to compose this letter.

Not because I didn’t care to but because I became too emotional whenever I thought about your kindness towards me during my short stay at Gerstein.

You were the first person during my ordeal who did not see someone who was ‘weak’ and ‘needy’ but instead you saw someone who was tired of fighting so hard.

Someone who just needed a safe place to land.

You gave me that.

From the very minute I stood in front of the office doors as a crying hot mess, until we had talked long enough for me to enter a sleep-like.

state.

You threw me a lifeline.

You listened.

You talked.

You joked.

You laughed.

You related.

You made me feel heard and understood, and there are not simply enough words in the English language to convey my complete gratitude towards you for that.

So from one panic attack sufferer to another…

In words I know you’ll understand best.

I’ll just say:

I’d lay down in the snow with you, until your panic attack passes. 😊

Forever grateful,

Angela

PS if anyone knows him or how to get in touch with him let me know

‘There Are Moments That Mark Your Life. Moments When You Realize Nothing Will Ever Be The Same. And Time Is Divided Into Two Parts – Before This and After This.’ Nicholas Kazan (Fallen)

I had an a-ha moment today in my support group. We were on the first step which is:
1. We admitted to ourselves that we are powerless over our disease. That our lives had become unmanageable.
I got to go last…which meant I got to listen to 3 MS veterans. All having been diagnosed more than 15 years ago.
One spoke of feeling comfortable in being alone on Xmas day.
Someone else spoke of being okay with their sometimes self-imposed isolation. Another spoke of being aware of their limitations, without being self-deprecating.
I sat back and listened.
One in a wheelchair.
One in a scooter.
One with cognitive symptoms.
And I felt envious.
Of them.
Me,with my mostly mobile body.
Me, with my mostly cognitive functioning brain.
I felt jealous of each of them.
I felt jealous of the comfort and grace each of them had come to possess upon accepting their illness.
I sat there and reflected over the last 6 years since diagnosis.
The ups and so so many downs.
The relapses.
The symptoms.
The steroids.
Treatments.
Injections.
Sleepless nights.
Crying fits.
Raging fits.
Anxiety.
So much fucking anxiety.
All of it, having led me to this moment.
Waiting for my turn to talk in a 12 step support group.
Their eyes looked to me.
My turn.
I looked around the table.
Less than a year ago, they were nothing more than three strangers. People I would have passed on the street, without a second glance.
Now we share this inexplicable bond.
This illness we all have.
Referred to often as the ‘snowflake’ disease, since symptoms vary so much from person to person.
These three people who now know more about my feelings and thoughts than most of the people in my more immediate circle. These strangers not so different from this lifelong outsider, after all.
I told them I thought that I had accepted having MS.
6 years ago. I heard the words coming out of my Doctor’s mouth and thought to myself ‘okay….so now I have MS.’
I thought that was enough.
I thought that meant I had accepted it.
But it wasn’t until that very minute that I realized, I would never be able to accept MS, until I had also accepted the negative impact its had on my life.
That meant accepting the change in my job status.
The permanent damage to my eyes.
The toll all of it has taken on my already fragile mental state.
Taking all of that in…and still being able to say that while I won’t succumb to it, I have come to terms with having MS in my life. That I’m OKAY with it.
I’m not there…
Not even close.
But I found hope in looking around me.
Which for someone as chronically hopeless as myself, is a fucking lifeline.

‘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

‘Weeds Are Flowers Too, Once You Get To Know Them.’ A.A. Milne

There are literally billions of people on this earth

What does it matter if there is one less?

He wondered to himself

As he left the office, late one rainy night

A car raced by him, splashing him

Making him shiver now that he was drenched in muddy rain water

He thought a split second too late

How he could have easily jumped in front of that asshole’s car

Ruining that fucker’s night

And effectively ending his own

Two birds

One stone

In this case,

Two strangers and one pretentious oversized car

He rolled his eyes

Not for the first time that day

What was it with him lately?

He was becoming the grumpiest 28 year old man that ever existed

He remembered what Catherine had said to him before she ended things with him two weeks ago

‘You’re miserable. Miserable with life, with me and with yourself.’

He rolled his eyes again

Shit

He had to stop doing that

It’s become too reflexive

She was right though

He was miserable

He felt so…dissatisfied with everything

His job, his friends and most definitely with her

He just been going through the motions with her

Really, he was surprised she hasn’t broken up with him months before

But he knew why she had stayed

They looked good together

On paper and on the outside looking in

They looked like the it couple

She with her long red hair and perfectly fake smile

And him with his dark good looks and shadowed eyes

She had loved how her girlfriends envied their relationship

She got off on the times they had told her how jealous they were that she had found ‘someone like him’

As if he was a real catch

This time he stopped himself from rolling his eyes

At first he didn’t mind the way she would play up their relationship in front of others

Hell, it was easy to just smile and keep his hand on her waist

But eventually

Even standing beside her

Grew exhausting

And he couldn’t wait until he dropped her off at home

Making excuses why he couldn’t stay the night

She’d started dropping hints that she was unhappy

Complaining that he never took her anywhere

Or that he acted too indifferent around her friends

Through it all

He couldn’t bring himself to bother to care even the slightest

So when she’d told him she was through with him being miserable

He cut the call, tossed his cell and slept like a baby that night

He wasn’t miserable per say

And yet here he was

Thinking of jumping in front of some asshole’s car

Out of equal parts spite and desperation

He went home that night and drank too much whiskey and passed out in front of the television

He woke up with a brutal hangover that would surely stick with him all day

After showering and forcing down a few Tylenol

He dressed and headed to the subway

Hoping it would be a quiet morning and that when he made it to work

He could just hide out in his office

The subway platform was packed and he felt that same old irritability starting to infiltrate every part of his whiskey soaked brain

The alcohol from last night hadn’t done much to put a damper on his chronically bad mood

He rolled his eyes

Fuck

That hurt

The subway sped into the station

Everyone surged forward

Social etiquette failed to exist in these self serving moments

He hung back

Not caring if he made it onto this train

Maybe he could wait for the next train

Maybe he’d jump in front of it

But there was room

So he moved forward and walked and without paying much attention

He sat in the first available seat and let his head fall back

A few stops later

He felt someone’s eyes on him

He could tell without even opening his own

He took a deep breath, opened his eyes and looked up

And locked eyes with a woman standing directly front of him

He felt a jolt through his entire body

Effectively waking him up

How had he missed her?

While she stared at him

He looked her over

Seeing her black clothing in stark contrast to her pale skin

Her ripped up jeans that led to old school sneakers that looked like they were well worn

He made his way back up and this time the shock of her electric blue hair caught his attention

It was so bright and stood out in the sea of conformity around them

He looked back at her face

And saw that she was looking at him with a strange expression on her face

He should have looked away

It was the polite thing to do

But then a whisper of a tattoo design peaked out on her outstretched arm that held the pole in front of her

Her jacket having ridden up her arm

He couldn’t tell what it was from the little he saw

But could tell it wrapped around her wrist and extended up into her jacket sleeve

He looked back at her

Her face filled with concern

He looked away from her and down at his phone in his hands

What was that look for?

Trying to focus on the note he was trying to type out on his phone

Struggling to find words that would explain everything without blaming anyone

He wouldn’t look up

He must have misread the expression on her face

He would not look up

Most people looked at him with intrigue

He looked up

And she was looking down at him

She still had that concerned look on her face

As if she knew something

Her bright eyes looked directly into his eyes

Searching for something

She shifted her eyes but looked back quickly

Imploringly

She opened her mouth to speak

And in a voice as captivating as her blue blue hair

She said

‘It’s gonna get better you know. One day, it won’t feel like this.’

What the fuck?

He struggled to find something to say

‘You’re gonna be okay’

She whispered

What was she talking about?

As they entered a tunnel, the lights cut out

It was pitch black

He started breathing shallowly

He felt pressure on his hand

Then a graze of his cheek

It felt cool like a salve on his overheated skin

He knew it was her

He could feel the intensity of her words touching him

Seeping inside his skin

Past the bone and muscle

And into his heart

Which started beating rapidly

It was like it was being kick started after a long period of inactivity

The lights came on suddenly

The subway ground to a halt

The doors opened

Beeping loudly

And she was gone

He stared down at his phone

The note application still open

All the words he’d written

Gone

All the apologies

Erased

All the explanations

Deleted

All that was left were 6 little words

That he hadn’t typed

I made it. So will you.