Tuesday, May 1, 2018

On Waking Up

I have tried a lot of different things to try and reduce anxiety upon waking every morning. Nothing works. Usually I wake up and experience about 5 - 10 seconds of relaxation and coziness and then my mind quickly turns to anxious thoughts. A moderate level of anxiety stays with me all day.

It's been 2-3 years since I stopped taking medication for anxiety. I started taking it because I was waking up at 4am and not able to go back to sleep. As we know, if we don't get enough sleep everything looks worse, especially at 4am. While using the medication I was able to sleep a bit later in the morning. Since I no longer have to go to work Monday to Friday I decided that it didn't matter if I woke up at 4am so I went off the meds. I continued to wake up very early for at least a year until gradually I was able to sleep til 5am, then 6am and now 7am. So that's a major improvement.
Perhaps, over time, my morning anxiety will decrease. I look forward to waking up, if not happy, at least not anxious. It's not like my morning is filled with things that make me anxious! I make coffee, feed the cats and then sit down with the morning newspaper. I make a very healthy breakfast, work on my blogs and do a few chores around the house. I do 50 minutes of yoga and meditation. I read, work on my budget, shower and so on. My afternoons (now that volleyball is over and spring has arrived) I spend riding my bicycle and walking through the woods recording the spring wildflowers and birds that I see/hear. The closest I get to "happiness" is when I'm cycling or walking through the woods.

I am going to make a concerted effort to think about biking and walking in the woods when I wake up and see if I can change my thought patterns. It's worth a shot.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Exercise Helps

Exercise and "forest bathing" are two activities that have been proven to help with depression and anxiety. I can confirm this from my own practises. We are finally having some good weather so I carried my bike up the basement stairs, added air to the tires and headed out.

That's not me but it expresses how cycling makes me feel :) Anything I can do to get outside of my head is a blessing. This is one of those things...you have to be "present" when riding a bike - it could get a little dangerous otherwise! Instead of feeling down and dwelling on things I'm planning my route and assessing my physical condition ie. "can I make it a few more blocks or should I start heading towards home"....do I have enough water left to stay hydrated...and so on.

I want to increase the amount of exercise I get...cycling to the forest where I do my own "forest bathing" is a good way to increase daily activity. Planning is always easier that actually DOING the activity however, so I add "cycling" to my daily "to do list" in order to remember. Putting exercise clothes on the floor beside my bed also works a charm as does setting the alarm on my phone. I can make a zillion excuses for sitting on my butt but cycling brings a joyful feeling into my day that I can't get otherwise so that in itself is motivating.

My first ride of the season was a wee bit challenge as the bike path was still under water here and there.

Swimming would have been involved with reaching the bench but the view is quite nice! 

I'm told this is a sun dog! 

There...I've talked myself into getting into my exercise clothing :)

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Ice Storm Blues

I'm not sure why (as reading was my main hobby as a child) I feel guilty now when I want to read. Even though I'm retired! I feel guilty as if reading is a less important hobby and I should be busy doing other, more important things. Like what I wonder? Vacuuming? Cleaning?

So I was pleased and relieved that the area in which I live had a major ice storm over the weekend and I nestled under a blanket on the couch glad for an excuse to indulge in a major read-athon!

My favourite genre is "murder mysteries" and I have been reading as many Elizabeth George books as I can manage to download onto my iPad from the online library system I belong to. You do have to commit a good chunk of time to her books as they are long which is fine by me. There are "trashy" mystery writers and very intelligent and articulate mystery writers and you can just guess which type Elizabeth George writes! Her books truly are extremely well written.

Some of her books have been serialized on Masterpiece Mystery on PBS with the main character being Inspector Lynley.

But before I can allow myself to read, being as the storm is over, I must complete a few things - yes, like vacuuming, cutting my hair, doing an errand or two, yoga, meditation etc so I'd better get busy. It's 10:25am and so far all I've been able to accomplish is writing on my other blog, cutting the nails of my two cats, eating breakfast, drinking coffee and reading the newspaper.

So...off I go...to ACCOMPLISH things...(at least, that's the intent!)...

Monday, April 9, 2018

Humboldt, Saskatchewan Junior Hockey Team - the Broncos

I am not from Humboldt, Saskatchewan. I have never seen the Junior Hockey team, named the Broncos, play hockey. I don't know anyone on the team or in Humboldt.

Nevertheless, I have shed many tears and mourn the lost lives of the young men and their coaches whose lives were forever shattered by the freak meeting of a team bus and a transport truck. Out of 29 people on the bus 15 were killed and 14 injured.

I acknowledge their grieving families and friends. My heart goes out to those left behind who will forever ask themselves "why not me?" Survivor guilt will last a long time, perhaps forever.

I acknowledge the world-wide support provided in so many ways: over 60,000 people from more than 60 countries, who have donated to the largest GoFundMe page ever in Canada; the NHL hockey teams who wore the team name,  Broncos, on their jerseys instead of their own names.

I acknowledge the first responders and the people who rushed from their homes nearby to offer help and blankets and who stayed near the survivors to provide comfort.

The outpouring of support and love from around the world gives me hope. Most people truly are kind, helpful, generous and loving and wish they could do more to show their solidarity and love.

**I have a tiny story that reflects the "salt of the earth" kind of people who live in the province of Saskatchewan. Driving home from Edmonton years ago, alone with my 10 year old daughter, we drove through the province of Alberta to Saskatchewan where we were going to spend the night. We arrived in Swift Current, Sask. only to find that I had left my wallet at a Wendy's in Alberta. Low on gas we drove around Swift Current until my daughter spotted the RCMP station so we went in to see what help we could get. An officer phoned the Wendy's in Alberta - my wallet had been turned in to the manager who then turned it into the RCMP station there (can't remember the town in Alberta).  We were so relieved!!

BUT, it meant driving back to Alberta, and without my wallet I had no money for gas. A man stepped forward and offered me money to buy gas. We were so touched by the help and generosity when we were in such a pickle. We drove 3 hours back to Alberta, picked up my wallet at the RCMP station and then drove back to Swift Current, another 3 hours.

It was very late by then and a lot of motels were full or closed. Eventually I found a very rustic place that rented out cabins and they gave us a large cabin for free after hearing our story. I have never forgotten the wonderful people of Saskatchewan. They literally would give you the shirt off their back.

Saturday, April 7, 2018


...or Lack Thereof...

Just got back from my brother's studio/house. He was having a small show of artwork he had purchased, was gifted and bequeathed by a fellow artist/friend and mentor. I could really see how her work influenced my brother over the years and it's obvious they had an amazing relationship. She was 20+ years old than my brother and regarded him as a student, a colleague, a model, an inspiration, a friend, a collaborator and a gift :)

My brother knew when he was quite young that he wanted to become an artist. There was nothing in our small town or high school that could help him with that goal so at age 16 he moved to London and attended Beal Tech while living with our oldest sister and her family. When he graduated from Beal he moved to Windsor and attended University there taking Fine Arts for another three years.

He has made his living through selling hi art and teaching oil painting classes. He has never wavered from his dream and has become enormously talented.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, you could say painting is his PASSION. Every aspect of his life is connected to the world of art. That is not to say he hasn't struggled. There were many years when he worked at minimum wage jobs to pay the rent and I happen to know he lived on oatmeal near the end of the school year when he was running out of money.

But this never held him back. He had his passion to keep him focussed and eventually he made a name for himself.

As a depressed and anxious person I don't have a passion. I have hobbies but most days I ignore them and escape into reading and/or Netflix. I try to get a few chores done each day and tell myself that tomorrow I'll work on my sculpture or genealogy. Sometimes I do, most times I don't. I truly wish I could feel passionate about something...anything. Something that made me want to get up in the morning, something to think about, be creative about. I read a quote a week or two ago that really hit home: "Anxiety is always nearly a block to creativity." I see that that is true in my own life. I'd like to change that quote to "Anxiety fosters creativity."

I'm going to think on that for awhile and see what emerges....

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Meditation vs Medication

I don't really take any medication anymore for depression and/or anxiety. Once I retired I didn't care if I woke up at 4am. At least I didn't have to get up and go to work! I would say that for almost
a year I continued to wake up very early and I felt filled with anxiety. (This was after I stopped taking cipralex for anxiety). It was a costly medication and I felt I could get along without it. 
So when I woke up at 4am feeling anxious I would get up (no point lying there) and I would listen to an audiobook (too anxious to read a print book) and usually I would fall back to sleep for awhile.

Now I sleep til 7am. I still feel some anxiety but not as much. I realize that
once I get up and start my morning routine the anxiety will subside.

My remaining medication is a small dose, 50mg, of an older drug (amitriptyline) that has had success for back pain. After taking a few other drugs my doctor recommended trying it and it really helped. Unfortunately it is really hard to get off of. You must VERY slowly wean yourself off. I tried more than once and it made me feel suicidal. I am in the process of weaning off again by having a whole pill one day and then a half pill the next and alternating. So far so good. It's inexpensive but it's the side effects that worry me. I realize amitriptyline masks my true emotions as I struggle to feel much of anything - my sense of humour no longer exists and I feel quite flat. It's a tough go.  I would prefer not to take it and I feel trapped - I read an article that said getting off amitriptyline is harder than kicking heroin!
Every day I do 30 minutes of yoga for pain control and recently I added a 20 minute meditation from the same yoga app called Yoga Studio. EXCELLENT! At first I resented the extra time spent laying on the floor but I do find it is helpful and now I look forward to it. I am hoping the effects of meditation will help both with pain and with balancing my medication. Time will tell. The next step in the weaning process would be to take a full pill one night followed by two nights taking a half pill. I think that will be manageable. I look forward to having feelings again although I also don't want to be overwhelmed with emotions by weaning too quickly. One day at a time I guess.

Positive thought for the day: "The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain."  Dolly Parton

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Finding the Right Balance

I wish I had one of these!

This week has had several outings already and it's only Wednesday. Finding the right balance between socializing and spending time at home re-energizing isn't easy. But it's essential to an introvert's sanity.

So far I've gone out to dinner with family members, gone to play volleyball and have a drink and conversation with my fellow volleyballers, went to see a movie with a friend, had a PM conversation with a friend who is travelling. Now that I write it out it doesn't seem like that much and I feel that I'm coping ok. But today I am going NOWHERE and I'm cooking up an Easter dinner for my daughter and I as she was away with friends over the holiday weekend. And I'm glad to be home.

Every morning when I wake up I think about if I have to go out or not. When I realize I do not I feel relieved. If I do have to go out I feel somewhat anxious even though most outings go well. It's just something I live with.

I don't know what came first - the anxiety/depression or the introversion. Has the introversion led me to be anxious and depressed? It seems logical. Or has the anxiety/depression caused me to be introverted? Also sounds logical.

I'm not sure - I think back to when I was a kid and I managed quite well. I usually only had one best friend at a time though interacted with a group of friends. I also took 4 books out of the library every week and spent a lot of time alone reading. Recharging though I didn't know it then. Another activity I enjoyed, alone, was riding my bike out into the countryside with a paper bag lunch and a book to read. I'd park my bike near a small forest, find a tree that I could climb and sit in, read and munch away to my heart's content. Pure bliss.

The world responds to and prefers extroverts. I find that hard to deal with and on occasion try to "appear" extroverted which must be terribly hard on my psyche.

Time to read my books about introversion again. I accept that I am an introvert though I find it's not an easy thing to be. So there is a struggle between "what is" and what I think "should be."

Talk soon...