cripsy13

Musings, mutterings from the misguided.


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ATYPICAL DEPRESSION

After 30 years of never really being diagnosed with anything concrete – well, finally – FINALLY something tangible.

ATYPICAL DEPRESSION

Reader’s Digest version of events:  After my ‘episode’ of a couple of months ago, where I wound up in hospital after a rather feeble overdose attempt (weaning myself off of Cymbalta was a most horrendous experience), my doctor put me on a new medication, which turns out I was terribly allergic to (I thought it was spring allergies, but it was much, MUCH worse).  She took me off of that and put me back on a medication that I used to take, and it was then that I knew I had to take some time to just get back on track and heal.

While the hospital experience was something I’d rather forget, it opened me up to a much higher level of psychiatric care that I’d never had in the past.  My GP fast tracked an appointment with the clinic’s resident psychiatrist and I was able to get in to see him in a matter of weeks.  The main reason being, was that my GP explained to me that she had run the gamut of antidepressants she was willing to prescribe; anything else needed to be prescribed by a psychiatrist.

So, I toddled off to see the nice doctor and in 45 minutes, he had come up with a diagnosis that made sense of all the different symptoms I’d ever had.  He was ever so kind, explaining to me the different symptoms and how he came up with the diagnosis.  Part of me was mortified that it had a name; the other part of me didn’t care – finally I could relate to something and understand why I am the way I am and that I’m NOT batshit crazy (okay, maybe a little bit, but aren’t we all?)

Since then, I’ve felt stronger, more empowered and certainly less frantic/weepy/messed up.  It is so wonderful (yes, wonderful) to know that it’s not just me acting like a weirdo – there is an actual name for my weirdness (ha).

And, so, for those of you wondering – here is what Atypical Depression looks like:

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erm…wrong picture, let’s try that again:

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So many things just fell into place – especially the ‘sensitive to rejection’ thing.  I can usually control it, but if I’m feeling particularly crappy, and let’s say I send out an email and don’t get a response, I automatically think it’s me, I’ve done something wrong, etc..  WHICH is extremely annoying to those closest to me – especially my boss and colleagues.  Trying to explain that is extremely difficult and frankly, embarrassing.  I’m often very tired and my body feels like I’m wearing concrete weights on my forearms and my legs.  While I don’t sleep in, given the chance, I do like to take an afternoon nap (which can sometimes be upwards of 4 hours).  I crave carbohydrates like an alcoholic craves booze; I always have. When I’m ‘depressed’, for the most part I don’t feel like I’m melancholic, rather, I’m more likely to feel angry and frantic.  Don’t get me wrong; I have fabulous crying jags worthy of an Oscar, but they don’t last very long.  Thankfully (I hate crying).

I had a conversation with a friend this morning about a woman she knows who has schizophrenia and while she has the disease, she is NOT the disease.  While I’m very thankful to have a diagnosis that I can work with and learn about, I too have a disease; I am NOT the disease itself.  My mother lived her whole life with depression as her identity; I don’t ever want to be that person.

If you’d like further information on atypical depression, please visit  http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/atypical-depression.

 


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Picking myself up off the floor, one inch at a time…

Since my ‘incident’ of 3 weeks ago, things have been…well…frankly, fucking awful.

I’m now on medical leave with yet another bout of severe depression.  Almost one year ago to the date.  Time flies when you’re having fun.  Right.  (That was sarcasm).

I’m now no longer taking Cymbalta (thank GOD), but have had a few set backs since my final dose.  My doctor (bless her) put me on a new medication, which caused me to have serious allergic reactions (swollen eyes, swollen eyelids, unable to breathe properly) and they did NOTHING to improve my quickly dwindling mental well being.  I saw her this past week and she took me off of those and has put me back on a medication that I used to take, but went off of it because of the ‘flat lining’ effect that I get with all anti depressants when I’ve been on them for a long time.

I’m beginning to think that having no emotion whatsoever would be preferable to what I’m experiencing right now.

Usually when I go through a bout of depression, I’m basically just sad and very lethargic.  I work with my counsellor(s) and talk things out and the meds start to kick in and I’m back to the land of the living again.  However, this time, things are much, MUCH different.

I’m madangrysadpissedoffweepyfullofragecryinglikeababyfuckyou!ihatemyselfihateyouihateeveryone – it’s everything; all at once.  And, it’s tiring and scary.

I woke up this morning feeling pretty good.  I had planned to run a few errands (I’ve been away from work since last Thursday and haven’t been out).  I had a coffee, watched the news…the usual.  Then I weighed myself.  And somehow, even after kicking my wine habit (25 days!), eating healthy (for the most part) and even exercising (I’m trying to swim every couple of days) I’ve gained 10 lbs.  The highest weight I’ve ever been and it puts me in that ‘OMG, YOU ARE TOO FAT TO LIVE, SO JUST GIVE UP NOW‘ category (apologies to those of you who find this offensive; it’s about me, not you).  Then an all consuming anger took over me.  I screamed and picked that fucking scale up over my head and SMASHED it onto my floor (which now bears a bunch of scratches).  I saw red.  I started to cry uncontrollable, heaving sobs that were filled with deep, soul destroying feelings and I could barely catch my breath.  In order not to throw the scale (and myself) over the balcony, I paced around my apartment until I could breathe properly.  Then the condemnation came from inside of myself.  “You are disgusting.”  “You are a waste of space.”  “You are so fat and disgusting, you shouldn’t be allowed to live.”  “You will never be loved.”

I sat for a few moments and tried to compose myself and in about 15 minutes, it was gone and I was completely exhausted.  I felt nothing.  I didn’t feel sad, mad, manic, angry – nada.  Something inside of me switched off.  I showered, went out and did some errands, all the while, completely numb.  Some guy cut me off in traffic and I barely flinched.  One of the clerks in the store said hello and asked me how I was and I mumbled ‘fine’ and walked away, when normally I would engage in conversation with her because she is such a lovely person.

I got home and put my things away and sat down and had lunch.  Then my sister called and by the time we were finished talking, I was once again feeling madangrysadpissedoffweepyfullofragecryinglikeababyfuckyou!ihatemyselfihateyouihateeveryone and had to hang up before our conversation was finished because I couldn’t speak.  She was only trying to help; I didn’t want it.

I sit here, right this minute, on the verge of tears for reasons I can’t explain to you – let alone myself.  I sort of feel like that guy in Alien who had that nasty creature explode from his chest:

Alien Stomach

 

I’m just waiting for it to explode from MY chest because then maybe I’ll start to feel better.

I’m very grateful for the love and support from my friends and family and I’m not writing this as an ‘OH, WOE IS ME! – YOU MUST PITY ME!’ because I’m not.  Many people have asked ‘what’s wrong?’ and ‘what can I do to help?’  So, I hope this explains a bit of what’s been going on.

Depression is a bitch.  It steals your personality, your soul and leaves you feeling worthless and unlovable.  It is debilitating, exhausting and will beat you into submission until you can’t fight any more.  It wants to lay you flat out until you believe that you are useless and there is no sense going on.  However, I know – that deep down inside, my soul is fighting to see the good things again.  It wants to enjoy life.  It wants to live, love and laugh again!  It’s in there, but it’s buried deep…it’s like a storage closet - all the precious and breakable things are at the back, safely wrapped and protected, but you can’t get at them unless you pull out all of the shit that’s been piling up for years in front of them.

So, patiently, I will take out each box and put it aside until I find the hidden treasures of my soul again.

 


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FALLING OFF THE FLOOR…

My dad was wrong; you can fall off the floor.  I proved that on Friday night.

For the past month, I have been weaning myself off of Cymbalta with the assistance of my doctor.  I’d done some research online and there are websites dedicated to what it’s like to rid yourself of this horrible drug.

Having successfully weaned myself off from many different antidepressants over the years, I didn’t think much of it; I didn’t have any physical ailments to speak of.  I was a bit snarlier than usual and a bit quieter, but I expected that.

What I didn’t expect was what happened to me on Friday night.  The day at work had been very busy and it was good and although I was a bit on the quiet side (which for me is very unusual); there wasn’t anything spectacular about it.  After work, I picked up some groceries and some wine and headed home for an evening of Netflix, pizza and wine.  My typical Friday night.  I should point out that it’s not uncommon for me to drink two bottles of wine in one sitting and only feel mildly tipsy.

At around 10:00, I started feeling awful.  I mean mentally awful.  I started to cry and couldn’t stop.  Nothing triggered it; it just came out of the blue.  I was inconsolable.  I was beside myself with sadness and nothing was going to change that.  I started thinking that if this is what my life was going to be like; I wanted no part of it.  Evil thoughts started swirling around in my brain – would anyone really care if I wasn’t around anymore?  Would it be a tremendous loss?  I just couldn’t shake the thought that I would be better off dead.

I had a letter on my computer that I wrote a long time ago when I was depressed and wanting to get a will done.  I opened up that letter and below everything I’d written before, I put down into words, a final note for my friends and family.  A suicide note.  I’d written a fucking suicide note.

Then I went online and found out how much of a certain medication I’d have to take to effectively kill myself.  I found it, went to my cupboard and got the bottle.  I still hadn’t stopped crying, it’s like everything had caved in on me and I couldn’t see anything beyond what was right in front of me.  I methodically counted them out and put them on the table.  I looked at them through tear soaked eyes and before I knew what I was doing, I grabbed a handful and swallowed them.

In that minute, I knew.  I knew it was wrong and that I didn’t want to die.  I wanted to live.  I called my sister and freaked her out and told her what I’d done and that I loved her and hung up.  She kept calling and calling and then when I answered, I was informed that an ambulance was on the way.  I was pretty sleepy at this point and when they got to my house, my sister had pulled up just behind them.  They came in and led me out to the ambulance and off to emergency I went.

I was sleepy, drunk, and dozy and I felt like I was having an out of body experience.  We got to emergency and when they led me to a bed (I was still able to walk and everything), it was directly across from the bed they had my father in 3 weeks before he died.  That sent me into a fit of hysterics and I started to cry uncontrollably again.  I got settled and they did a whole slew of blood work and hooked me up to an IV to get some saline into my system.  My sister was there and I was angry that she called an ambulance and one minute I was crying to her and the next I was telling her off.

This is the part that scared me the most.  After an hour of being there, I just desperately wanted to go home.  I felt remorse, embarrassment and terrible that I’d wasted the valuable resources of our health system.  I promised I was fine and that I would be okay.  It wasn’t that easy.  They invoked the ‘mental health act’ which meant that I was bound by law to stay and if I put up any resistance, they had the legal obligation to actually restrict me by tying me down.

I had put myself in a situation where they needed to make sure I wouldn’t try harming myself again.  Jesus H. Christ.

So, I lay there and seethed throughout the night – not being able to sleep a wink. I was exhausted, I had a shitload of sleeping pills in my system and yet, my brain would not shut off long enough to allow me to sleep.  The longer the night wore on, the worse I felt.  Not physically, but I felt just awful for putting my sister through it (she has enough of her own problems).  The guilt was overwhelming.

I was told the night before that I had to wait to see the psychiatrist on call once the alcohol had left my system, so at 6:00 am, I asked if I could finally be considered to see someone and they told me someone would be around to see me ‘sometime that morning’.  I started to panic – what if they forgot about me?  What if my birds were scared and I’d accidentally left the door to their cage open?  I just wanted to GO HOME.

Around 9:00, a lovely young girl came in to see me and I gave her the whole story.  We talked for about an hour and from there she had to report back to the psychiatrist on call and she would decide if I could go home or if I needed to be admitted.

What?  I couldn’t be admitted!  I had too much to do!  I hate hospitals!  I want to go home!  I have pets to think about!  I can’t be admitted…I just can’t.  What would people think?  Would I lose my job?

The hours ticked by slower than anything I’d ever experienced.  I’d messaged my two very close friends to let them know what had happened and the messages started coming in fast and furious from them expressing concern and wondering what they could do to help.

I was overwhelmed by the messages – the sheer volume of them, and the love that was contained in each and every one of them.  They wanted to help.  They were sad that I had gotten to the point I had.  They wanted me to know that they thought I was worthy of love and friendship.  They thought I was special.

Around 12:00, after meetings with my young lady and the psychiatrist on call, I was discharged – with the promise from me that I would stop pushing people away and that I would let people support me.  I promised with every fibre of my being that I would.  I will be honest when I say that I would have agreed to anything just to get the hell out of there.

I got home and the first thing I did was open the door to the cage of my birds.  They glared at me, none too impressed that they hadn’t been let out or anything for over a day.  I started to cry, because I was so thankful to be home, to have my beautiful sister with me and to know that I had an entire team of friends that would check on me throughout the weekend to ensure I was okay.

My one little bird, came out of the cage tentatively and looked at me, flew over to my shoulder and buzzed me on the cheek.  What an absolutely glorious kiss that was.

At this risk of this sounding cliché, I was happy to be alive.

That was last weekend.  I had a rough start to the week – I was very weepy and emotional.  I explained to coworkers who asked how my weekend was that I had been in the hospital from ‘extreme reaction to a medication’.

Today is Wednesday and I’m feeling better, although I am weepy and get very emotional over the tiniest of things.  However, for the first time in a long time, I feel somewhat optimistic.  I think that sometimes we do have to fall off the floor so that we can learn how to stand up again.  Maybe we need to completely break in order to rebuild, instead of just putting band aids over the gaping wounds of our lives.  Perhaps – perhaps we need to lose all of the things that were holding our lives together – our egos, our anger, our sadness and depression – so that we can start fresh to build the lives we are supposed to have.

To anyone who is suicidal or thinks that life isn’t worth living – I beg you; please call your local distress centre.  Have that phone number on your speed dial.  Call a friend.  Call a neighbour.  Have a plan.  Know that you are worthy of love and happiness.  Know that what they say about it being darkest before the dawn is true – but that the dawn is coming and it wants to welcome you to a new day of being you.


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Greener pastures…

I have a wonderful friend who suffers from debilitating depression.  So much so, there are days she winds up in hospital because she’s scared she’s going to do something to herself.  She is a lovely woman, a beautiful soul and every time this happens, I just wanna pick her up and squeeze her until she feels better.

I wrote her an email yesterday and I tried to differentiate our journeys through depression and it went something like this:

“We have both battled through this our entire lives (sometimes at the same time, sometimes not)…yours seems to be so much more awful than mine and I know that’s your journey – your path, if you will.  It seems to take on the flow of a river, that breaks into streams and occasionally you will take the right stream.  However, that stream sometimes leads you further into the forest of darkness and so you backtrack – but the light is gone and you’re mired in sadness.”

“I get that.  Mine is more like an ocean – it overwhelms me quickly and then it leaves little tide pools behind.  I pick and choose which tide pools I want to explore.”

Interesting.  I guess it’s like having a broken leg – no two breaks are the same, one might be worse than another, but they’re equally as painful to each person.

The one common denominator, I believe, for most folks with depression, is to try and figure out WHY.  WHY they are depressed.  WHY they are so sad.  WHY they feel the way they do.  Some people talk, some people write, some people sit and think.  It can be all consuming, in that it is all that person thinks about.  Yikes.  My friend journals; it’s how she expresses herself – to herself.

Half way through the email I sent, I had an epiphany of sorts…if we spend so much time with all the wondering WHY we are depressed – would that not lead to even more depression?  Sitting there and picking apart our lives, our personalities, our traits that make us who we are – and analyzing them to death – has to be counterproductive.

I’m not saying that we should just all suck it up and carry on like nothing is wrong – but what if we were to subliminal message ourselves?  For every sad thought we have, we try to insert a positive one?

OH LOOK, I’VE CURED DEPRESSION.  Yeah – NO.  If it were that simple, all the psychiatrists of the world would be out of business, as would the pharmaceutical companies AND all of those ‘cheer up’ Facebook posts would disappear.

So does ‘wallowing’ in depression make us better people?  No, not really; it just makes us sadder people.  By spending 24/7 trying to figure it out, we are only feeding the monster of darkness, allowing it to manipulate us and fester within us.  It loves nothing more than to tell us how awful things are, how they are never going to get better and how (in some cases, sadly) we’d be better off dead.

My mother was one of those people who lived her life through her depression; and God forbid should that have been taken away from her.  It was her weapon of choice; we were all taught at a very young age that mom was depressed; therefore, she should be forgiven for every transgression she made.  She never made any attempt to fix it; she thrived on the fact that she could blame everything on her depression and if she didn’t get her way, she’d threaten us with ‘DEPRESSION’ and so we shut up and carried on with life the best we could.  Most of us don’t WANT to be like that; I know I sure as hell don’t.

I try to be positive.  I get up and go to work every day.  I sometimes even make it out for visits with friends, but it depends on my energy level.  I see a counsellor.  But when things overwhelm me, I shut down and don’t talk to anyone.  It’s not that I’m sitting there thinking about how awful things are, I just don’t think about anything.  Which isn’t a good thing.  My friend does the exact opposite and analyzes and talks until she’s found herself sitting in emergency.  Which isn’t a good thing either.  There simply has to be a happy medium. We are in the same county, reaching the same destination, yet our journeys are entirely different from each other.  Here is something else I wrote to her:

“I think you and I are common in that we were raised in dysfunctional families (that’s just a given!) – however, they were complete opposite ends of the spectrum.  Your mom and dad doted on you and your sister and smothered you with love and affection.  I just got smothered (heehee!)…what I learned was that I knew how to take care of myself, a very strong work ethic that my father instilled into me and that if I wanted something, I had to be the one to get it for myself.”

So, I made a challenge to her that I too shall endeavour to work on:  When that black monster starts getting hold of me, I’m going to do my very best to tell it that I’m not interested, and I need to focus on something more positive.  I will always want to learn about myself and who I am and why the way I am, but from now on, I’m going to spend more time on the greener side of the pasture.

lilacs and poppies


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Ah yes.  The inundation of Valentine’s Day is upon us once again.

The ads for jewelry, chocolates, flowers and yes, lingerie – has taken over.  Happy, shiny people looking upon each other with love and awe.  Big, tear filled eyes light up when they see the token diamond ring being presented to them.  Awwwwwwwwwwww?  Isn’t love GRAND?  Everyone on social media expressing their undying love for their partners…gag.

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Okay.  I’m gonna stop right here and say…I hate Valentine’s Day.  Sour grapes?  Maybe a bit.

As a kid, everyone at school had the little construction paper envelopes made up so that they could receive Valentine’s Day cards from their classmates.  How exciting it was to watch someone plunk one in your envelope!  Wait – who was that kid?  Are we in the same class?  Huh.  Then you’d go home and covet them, singling the one out from the cutest boy in Grade 3 (which, you knew was only because his mom made him make them out to EVERYONE in the class).  Remember this?

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Yeah, poor Ralphie.  Lisa broke his little booger filled heart.  It was the best of intentions for her to give him a card – nobody else would.  Broken hearts and promises at the ripe old age of Grade 2.

Junior High – the introduction of Harlequin Romances and heaving bosoms and throbbing manhoods.  Girl meets boy (girl is usually blonde, blue eyed with perfect measurements; boy is tall, handsome, rich and a CEO of some giant corporation and had a sexy name like Rock or Thorne – there were no Bobs or Mikes in HR) and they would fall madly in love, have 2.5 kids and live in a house with a white picket fence.  Ah…how romantic!  I couldn’t wait for that to happen to ME!

(INSERT THE SCRATCH OF A NEEDLE ON AN ALBUM HERE – young people, look up ‘music album’ on Google)

My very first real boyfriend ever was in Grade 10.  I thought it was going to last forever…well, it did until he dumped me for the school tramp.  But that’s not in the Harlequin Romances!  WTF?

My 20’s didn’t fare much better…met and fell in head over heels love with someone, only to find out (eventually) that he was engaged and dating several other women at the time.  And then there was the guy who was married (that I DID NOT KNOW ABOUT) as he had a cell phone (this was back in the early 90’s when they looked like the shoe phone from Maxwell Smart (young people – look up ‘Maxwell Smart shoe phone on Google) and was always at my place).  Then there was my ex brother in law’s brother (got that?) whom I was dating for a while – I went away for a couple of days to visit a friend and came back and found out he’d been sleeping with my roommate (that ended with me actually punching him the face and breaking my thumb).  That was ALSO not in the romance novels.  How about the guy I’d started seeing at work who failed to tell me he had Hepatitis B and that I only found out because the nice lady in Human Resources at the time, broke the confidentiality clause to tell me about it?  And wasn’t that fun having to get shots and praying to the universe that I never started to exhibit signs of having it (thankfully – nothing so far).  That was certainly NOT in any romance novel I’ve ever read.

So, I have to say:  ROMANCE?  WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?  The only thing I’ve ever received from a guy on Valentine’s Day was a card that said “Happy VD” on it.  Flowers?  BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  Jewelry?  BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  Chocolate?  BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

I’d put myself out there, only to get knocked down again, so at the ripe old age of about 40, I said SCREW IT!  I’ve got a good life, great job, roof over my head, amazing friends – what more could I possibly need?  (Okay, well the occasional night out would be nice, but meh – I have Netflix).

So yes, I’m a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to Valentine’s Day and all its’ promises of love and romance.  Me?  You’ll find me curled up on the couch with a glass of wine, with my birds singing their little hearts out, as I watch a cheesy horror movie.  But hey, feel free to slip me a Valentine’s Day card in the construction paper envelope I have hanging on my door :-)


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MY FATHER, MY BEST FRIEND.

The anniversary of my father’s passing is coming up and I felt the need to write his story.Image

I remember as a kid, my dad playing silly practical jokes on me all the time.  We were at the seaside; I was about 10 or so.  Dad thought I might like to feed the birds, so he told me to take a piece of bread and hold it up over my head – so I did.  Which, of course, brought a million seagulls to the surrounding area and if what they say is true about it being good luck if you’re pooped on by a seagull, I must be the luckiest person in the world?

My dad and I were visiting my grandparents in  Florida when I was about 19 – they had a lovely grapefruit tree in the backyard, so both my dad and grandfather told me to pick as many as I wanted.  I picked one – it was HUGE!  It took me forever to peel it and when I did and took that first bite – my face turned inside out and tears poured from my eyes.  They failed to inform me that it was the kind of grapefruit they used to make marmalade.  Had I been able to see properly, I’m sure the sight of two grown men rolling on the grass would have been very funny indeed.

There were countless other times when dad was just being dad and I can’t imagine him ever being any different.  He could cheer me up when I was down, piss me off to no end about something stupid – but he was my biggest supporter, always helping when and how he could.

Back in about 2003, he started changing…it was so gradual; I didn’t really notice (nor did my mom or sister).  He lost weight (he’d always been a big, robust kind of guy).  He started slowing down, he got tired more often and he seemed to always not feel well.  That went on for about a year, with numerous trips to the doctor and a few emergency runs.  Doctor’s kept telling him he was fine…just age (he was only 74).

In November of 2004, my sister and I went to see his doctor to see if she could provide any information on what was making him feel so poorly.  Of course, we adhered to the confidentiality clause, understanding she could only give us basic information – so she told us that she thought he was ‘just depressed’.  Okay, well that made sense (living with my batshit crazy mother would make ANYONE depressed).  So, we had a family meeting and we told dad what we’d learned and that we wanted to help him by being more active and if he didn’t want to see a counsellor, we’d be happy to have him talk to us.

Now – I should stop here and provide some information on my mother.  During this entire time, my mother thought my dad was just being a lazy ass and ‘faking’ his symptoms.  She’d constantly complain about how his issues were affecting HER (my mother was a bit of a narcissist).  Both my sister and I would receive phone calls about how his complaining was causing her to fall into another depression (not that I’m belittling depression; I too suffer from it – but my mother made it her life mission to never NOT be depressed) and she ‘couldn’t stand much more’.  It was very hard to feel any sympathy for her.

So dad, being dad, said he’d shape up and I told him in an email that anytime he needed to vent or cry or whatever – to please talk to me, because mom was having a hard time with everything – to which he readily agreed.

January 2005 – I was visiting my parents when all of a sudden – my dad passed out and slumped to the ground.  I immediately called 911 and they came right away.  Before they had even reached my father, my mother had kidnapped two of the paramedics to tell them that he was faking it and it was she that was REALLY suffering.  They bundled dad up, took him to emergency and after hours of tests – they told him he had a bladder infection, and sent him home with some Bactrim.

A couple of weeks later, I was at work and my dad phoned and said that he and my mom had doctor’s appointments, but he didn’t feel well enough to drive.  My dad had been driving since he was 10 years old, so I knew something was very wrong.  I left work and picked them up and took them to the doctor.  Their regular doctor wasn’t in; it was a med student who was filling in.  She saw mom first and when she came out, my dad went in.  My mother started whining about wanting a cigarette, so I told her to go out and sit in the car.  Awhile later, the med student came out and looked very upset.  She asked to speak to me and I said sure and she said ‘your father is a very sick man and he needs to go to the hospital straight away’.  I went in to see dad, and he was lying there with tears running down his cheeks.  ‘I’m scared’ he said to me – ‘Am I going to die?’  Trying to remain brave, I told him not to worry, I would take care of everything.  He needed to have blood tests before he left, so I had to get him down some stairs, when he passed out.  A couple of people got him down the rest of the stairs and situated in the waiting area.  I told the nurse that he needed his tests done NOW, as I was taking him to the hospital, so she brought everything out, got ‘em done, and with the help of the kind strangers, got him up and into the car.

As I got him seated, my mother said with derision ‘so NOW what’s his problem?’ – I looked her straight in the eye and said ‘dad is very sick, I’m taking you home and taking him to the hospital and I don’t want to hear another single word from you’.

With mom dropped off, we headed for emergency where I got him into a wheelchair and up to the triage desk.  ‘Please take a seat’, the nurse said without looking up.  I said ‘no, you will see him NOW and if you don’t, I will chain myself to your desk and won’t move and if you think I’m kidding, you’ve got another think coming’ (I can be a super bitch when I need to).  With a sniff and a huff, she took his blood pressure.  It was so low; he basically should have been dead.  They rushed him into a suite and started a complete workup.  He stayed in emergency for 3 or 4 days, and they did test after test after test and couldn’t find anything wrong with him.  Meanwhile, dad continued to crack jokes and pick on the nurses.

The finally admitted him to a ward and started more tests and finally, and exploratory surgery.  What they found was horrific.  Basically, his intestines had turned into concrete.  Anything he ingested was not passing through and was causing horrible toxicity to take over his body.  He was hooked up to a nasogastric tube suction machine and the shit that came out of his stomach was black.  And there was a lot of it.  From there on in, he wasn’t allowed ANYTHING to eat or drink – not even water.  It was beyond awful and dad, although he was really trying to remain upbeat, was slowly starting to wane.

I’d go to see dad and he’d be crying because all he wanted was some water.  Nothing else.  Just water.  I’d often give him tiny sips to ease his pain and even the nurses started slipping him the occasional orange popsicle.  You’ve never seen anyone so happy to have a popsicle in your life.

They tested him for this and that and everything in between.  ‘He has cancer!’ they’d proclaim, but couldn’t back it up with blood work.  He had 2 or 3 more exploratory surgeries; they brought in some of the top doctors in the region – still, nothing.  They could not for the life of them, figure out what it was.  By this time, dad was tired.  He didn’t want to play any more.  We’d visit him every day, taking shifts.  (I should say that by this point, mom had stopped telling everyone ‘it’s all in his head’).

February 17, 2005:  Dad was scheduled the next day to have yet another exploratory surgery.  My mom, sister and I met up with his surgeon in dad’s hospital room and he explained what they would be doing.  Dad was feeling pretty good that evening, cracking jokes, making us smile.  Towards the end of the meeting he said ‘when you all come in to see me tomorrow, please bring me a coffee!’ – And of course, we all agreed to do so.

February 18, 2005 – 10:00 am:  I was at work and received a phone call from the hospital indicating that they had given my father too much morphine and he hadn’t woken up from his surgery.  They indicated that they had ‘reversed’ the dosage and that it was still within normal limits, just on the high side.  So, I went to the hospital, and there I saw my poor, beautiful father lying there with his eyes wide open – but no sign of life.  The nurse kept trying to get him to close his eyes, but even in his unconscious stupor, he was being a pain in the butt.  I went over and said ‘C’mon Harold, you gotta close your beautiful brown eyes or they’re gonna dry out!’ – And I gently closed them for him, and they stayed that way.  I spent the rest of the day talking to him, telling him stories about work and other things…and he never woke up.  The doctors indicated that they did fully expect him to wake up soon.  Later on in the day, my mom and sister came and as I left, I gave him a big kiss and told him I’d see him again tomorrow with a cup of coffee.

Tomorrow never came.  Later that evening, after my mom and sister left, my wonderful father passed away ½ hour later.

I was very grateful to have had a friend over, because when I received that phone call, I fell completely apart.  My friend and a couple of other friends came with me to the hospital and there I met up with my sister and mom.  I walked into dad’s room and he was just…lying there, like he was sleeping.  I slumped to the ground and started weeping like I’ve never done before.  My brother in law crouched down and just held me until I could muster up the courage to actually go in the room.  My mom, sister and I sat down and the surgeon came and joined us and he actually had tears in his eyes and apologized to all of us for not being able to save him.  He explained that they just could not figure out what had happened and asked our permission to perform an autopsy, which we agreed to.  When the meeting was done, my mom and sister said goodbye to dad and I stayed behind.  I went over to him and kissed his forehead and brushed back his hair and told him how much I loved him.  Looking back over my shoulder, I said goodbye to my dad for the very last time.

It took weeks for the results to come back.  He was finally diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma – a form of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos.  Dad never worked anywhere with asbestos – where had that come from?

I did months of research and through a friend of mine I was able to figure it out.  Dad was in the RCAF in the 50’s, living in the barracks – which contained asbestos in the walls.  These asbestos fibres can live in a body for up to 60 years.  The timing fit, it all fit and I was on a mission.

I called my dad’s doctor and asked for his medical records and was met with ‘do I need to call my lawyer’?  As you can imagine, by this time, I hated her with a burning passion and said ‘I don’t know, I haven’t looked at them yet’.  I received those and then I filed a claim with Veterans’ Affairs and they gave my mother a nice settlement – it wasn’t going to bring my dad back, but it would help her to remain comfortable for the rest of her life.  She passed away in 2010, never having bounced back after dad’s death.

I write this for me – and for anyone who wants to read it.  For anyone who has gone through the agony of losing a loved one to cancer or any other disease.  For anyone who misses someone and wishes they could say ‘I love you’ and ‘goodbye’ – just one more time.


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Finding My Religion (with apologies to REM)

**THIS IS NOT A ‘RELIGIOUS’ BLOG**

I grew up in a non-religious home.  We never went to church and when I asked my parents about it when I was in my 20’s, they told me that it was up to me to decide who, when, how and what I wanted to worship.  Oh, um…okay.  I also remember taking a course on Tibetan Buddhism and my mother warned me ‘not to tell my father’ – which indicated to me, that they considered themselves Christians, but just didn’t admit to it.

As a kid, I would occasionally go to Sunday school with a friend of mine – she belonged to an Anglican church and yeah, I lost interest pretty quickly.  Then, a few years later, another friend came along and her family were devout members of a Pentecostal church and I think I might have gone once and well, that was some scary shit, right there.  Yikes.  All that yelling and weeping and wailing and flailing of arms – uh, no thanks.

So, I was sort of left to my own to decide what I believed in.  Hmm.  Good question.

I never put much thought into it, to be honest.  I just assumed there was God and Jesus and for the most part – what I learned about religion was based on Jesus Christ Superstar (I still freakin’ love that movie).

jcs-logo

About 15 years ago, my family all went to see the Passion Play in the badlands of Alberta.  I wanted to go because it was set outdoors and it was supposed to be quite spectacular – and indeed, it was (if anyone is interested, here is the website:  http://canadianpassionplay.com/).  I laughed, I cried, I was moved – it was I suppose, a religious experience.  I’ve been back once since then, and I’d go see it again in a heartbeat.  It’s an amazing story.  I also remember my sister and I having a heated discussion on the way there – I asked her about her beliefs and she declared herself an Athiest and I couldn’t figure out why the hell she’d want to go see the story of Christ.  Ah, good times.

I plodded along, not paying much particular attention.  I’d go to church for weddings and funerals, but that was about it.  I have very good friends that are Ukrainian Orthodox and the inside of their church is simply beautiful and steeped in tradition.  I was in Paris a few years ago, and two of my favourite places were the insides of Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur.  They were awe inspiring and immensely beautiful in their design and age.

It wasn’t really until after my father died that I started wondering.  I look back now, and I think it was because I of course, was questioning ‘life after death’ and the idea of heaven and all those things that one thinks about upon the death of a loved one.  Was I mad at God?  Well, I was mad, but I realized it wasn’t at God, because I didn’t BELIEVE in God.  Huh…well isn’t THAT interesting.  I realized that I had a spiritual sense – rather – I believed in the spirit of the universe and that we are all energy and connected.  Did I believe in Christ?  Well, I think he was a stand-up guy; he was principled and preached the words of love and kindness.  Did I believe he was the ‘Son of God’?  No.

So, the past several years, I have found a sense of comfort, if you will, in putting my faith into the universe and knowing that everything happens for a reason…if I didn’t have that, I think I’d be in a much different frame of mind (and not in a good way).  When something goes wrong, I get upset, angry (insert emotion here) – but through it, I try to remind myself that it’s the universe’s way of telling me it isn’t the right time, right thing, right person – whatever the case may be.  That helped me through the agonizing grief I had after my father died and a number of other life altering things that have been thrown at me.  Don’t get me wrong – I get good and mad and weepy when something happens – but it’s that little voice telling me to be patient.  Whatever it is that I need, will come to me in its’ own sweet time.

Fast forward to this past week:  I have been invited to join the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.  Wow, really?  Me?  Huh.  So, I did some research and it’s an amazing Order that basically supports those who are sick or poor and can’t help themselves (I paraphrase).  That’s something I could certainly get behind!  It’s an Order that dates back to the Crusades…er…wait a minute…that’s ‘Christian talk’ – and I don’t consider myself a Christian.  Would joining the Order go against my own beliefs, also – would my lack of Christian beliefs offend those already in it?  I had to give this some serious thought.

I spoke with the woman who nominated me and she has assured me that my lack of Christian beliefs were nothing to worry about – the Order requires that one lives ‘by Christian values’ (and by that, I’m assuming they mean the ‘good’ Christian values, not the bad ones – because, there are some of those).  I researched the organization and came across this:  Notwithstanding the order’s devotion to Christian ideals of charity and its official position that the order has a “Christian character”, its Grand Council has since 1999 affirmed that “profession of the Christian Faith should not be a condition of membership of the Order.” The issue of the order’s Christian character and the issue of “inclusive membership” was dealt with in the Grand Council’s Pro Fide Report in 2005, wherein it was said that the order’s life is shaped by Christian faith and values, but that “[r]ather than the emphasis being primarily upon ‘spiritual beliefs or doctrine’ it is on works of mercy rendered through St. John”. Therefore, while the Great Officers are required to profess the Christian faith, the same is “not an essential condition of membership” and “[t]he onus is on the man or woman who is invited to the privilege of membership to decide whether he or she can with a good conscience promise to be faithful to the stated aims and purposes of this Christian lay order of chivalry.” On the subject of inclusive membership, the report stated “Christian hospitality is a criterion which can be applied to the Order’s relationships to persons of other religious faiths,” and “the Order needs to be characterized by a hospitable disposition towards other faith traditions while holding fast to its own origins and foundational identity in Christian faith.”

I have begun the paperwork this morning.  It doesn’t matter WHAT we believe in – as long as we’re all working towards the betterment of humanity.

PS:  For more information on the Order, here is a website:  http://www.sosjinternational.org/

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