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:

Image

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

Image

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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It’s been an interesting week on my new ‘less self indulgence’ lifestyle plan.

I’ve been keeping a written journal of what I eat, what I drink – and what I spend.  At the very least, an eye opener.  Yikes.

I met with one of the leading experts in obesity in the country last week – he was amazing.  If you’ve been following my blog, I’ve been involved with a local “Weight Wise” program, which is geared towards those who are considered obese or morbidly obese.  I’ve met with a psychiatrist, a nutritionist, a nurse and now the doctor.  The whole premise behind this program is to find out if I am a candidate for lap band surgery.  I have to go through a whole series of hoops and jumps before they will even consider it.  The best part of this whole experience is finally having someone understand that it’s not all ‘eat less, exercise more’.  This program is more than that.

He asked some questions that I really never considered a part of being overweight, but afterwards I realized – wow, those questions made complete sense.  He asked me if I had been promiscuous at any point in time in my life, and I will admit – I did go through a phase (of which I’m not particularly proud of) in my early 20’s.  I realize now that I wanted love – and I had confused sex with love (wouldn’t it be nice if we could figure that shit out WHEN we’re doing it?)  He asked me about my relationships with my parents and my sister, friendships…etc.  He asked me if I had a tendency to binge eat (which thankfully, I do not) and if I used alcohol as a ‘crutch’ (oh yes), did I overspend beyond my means (sigh, uh – YEAH) and a few other questions.  The questions he was asking had very little to do with my size or my weight, they were more geared towards my thought patterns and my personality, which can be defined in one word:  ADDICTIVE.  I was addicted with trying to find love, I was addicted to instant gratification and I was addicted to alcohol.  2 out of these 3 things were easily obtained by overspending (yet, another addiction).

Now, this is interesting.  There was an article in the paper this morning – “Weight loss plan can curb spending” (Postmedia news).  There was a line in there that jumped out at me:  “While the authors say not everyone who struggles with weight also has money problems, [Demetre] estimates over 50% of the population has issues with both.”   Wow.  I’d never thought to put the two together per se, but it makes sense.

We live in a society of instant gratification.  We want what we want, and we want it NOW.  We don’t budget for things like our parents did, we put it on credit.  We don’t scrimp and save our pennies, we just buy it and worry about it later.  We don’t do without – we all ‘need’ the new TV, the new iPhone, the new tablet, the new…(insert vice in here).  When I want to eat something, I want it NOW.  I don’t mean binge eating – I just mean regular, day-to-day living.  If I want sushi for lunch, I’ll got and get it ($15.00).  Then, if I want steak for dinner, I’ll go and get it ($15.00) and maybe a few more groceries that I really don’t need, but want ($25.00).  I’ve just spend $55.00 on things I don’t necessarily NEED.  Repeat that every day for about 5 days.  That’s $275.00 just on FOOD related items that I probably only need about $30.00 of.  Let’s add some wine on top of that ($60.00/week) and maybe a shirt or pair of shoes ($100.00) and I’m up to $435.00  For one week.

Great – so now I’m fat AND in debt.  But I can see how it goes hand in hand.  I eat and overspend to compensate for the things that I don’t have, which in turn creates more problems and gets me farther away from where I DO want to be.  It’s a vicious circle and I’m doing everything I can to get off the giant hamster wheel and back on solid ground.  Because the things that I want most – to be happy, healthy, a normal body weight – and to buy my own home – are things that only I CAN do myself.  It won’t happen right this very minute, but with some time and patience, I think I have a pretty good chance.

figure_running_hamster_wheel

Like they say, good things come to those who ‘weight’.  🙂


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So, I had a wee meltdown earlier this week.  Actually, it was bigger than wee, more of an intense 3 hour meltdown.

I had another meeting with Weight Wise, first thing on Tuesday morning (yah, who books a Weight Wise meeting the day after Thanksgiving? – me, apparently).  I always get myself into a state of anger before I go.  Why?  Because I’m pissed off that I have to be there in the first place.

I got off the elevator and walked into the waiting room and just stopped.  Dead.  The whole room was filled with morbidly obese people.  I’m talking people in wheelchairs, people who needed walkers, those that could only wear sweatpants because that would be the only thing they could fit into.  Part of me was horrified; another part of me felt anger.  Horrified because I couldn’t imagine ever being that large, anger because I felt lumped in with these people – there is no WAY I could relate to any of them.

That sounds horribly judgmental of me, doesn’t it?  I think what it boils down to, is that I abhor in others what I see in myself.

After finding a place to sit, in the back of the room, I seethed with loathing.  A woman sat next to me, who breathed loudly through her mouth and kept belching, and if I’m going to be completely honest – she had the odor of unwashed feet.

OMG, WTF am I doing here?  I don’t belong here!  I’m nothing like these people!

Oh.  Wait a minute.  I guess I am, or I wouldn’t be here.  I have a weight problem.  Some of it is medically related; some of it is my own fault.  While I’m not as large as some of these people, I am considered morbidly obese.

That brings tears to my eyes.  My mother was obese, my father was overweight – the only one that lucked out in the family was my sister.

I dress well.  I have nice clothes and I always put in the effort to look presentable (by that, I mean wearing clean yoga pants instead of paint stained ones in public 🙂 ).  Part of the reason I was so angry at the people in the waiting room, was because inside I was yelling ‘I understand that you’re overweight, but why have you given up on yourself?’  I saw people in stained sweats and t-shirts, people who looked (and smelled) like they hadn’t showered for a month and a man who was wearing cut off shorts.

I realize that this sounds judgmental, and maybe it is.  I believe, however, that these people have just decided that they’re fat and therefore, they aren’t going to put any effort into their appearances whatsoever.  But – maybe this is just my issue.  Maybe I need to cut these folks some slack.  Maybe, just maybe – they’re not as wrapped up in what they look like as I am.

Maybe – it’s not all about looks – and more about health.  Feeling better.  Being able to walk pain free.  Not having to use walking aids to get around.

I need to get to that place.  I need to accept that I need to learn to love my body, fat, warts and all.  I need to find a place of peace in my soul that allows me to feel calm and accepting of who I am, right this very minute.  Does that mean I’m fine with the way I am?  No – what it does mean, is that I can be okay with my body at this moment, but only I can make the appropriate changes to improve it.  Which I fully intend to do.

My sister and I were chatting last week and we both realized that our dad had teased us mercilessly as kids.  Now, I KNOW he never meant anything hurtful by it – it was never intended to be malicious – but in speaking with my sister, we both understood that his taunts were a part of why we both grew up hating our bodies – we both have SERIOUS issues with how we look and are both very critical on our appearances.

So, my sister and I have signed up for a course called “Be Your Own Beloved” – a course which involves taking a picture of yourself every day during the month of November.  I despise having my picture taken because of my size, but I’m embracing this idea and am going to open myself up to try to see myself as others see me, not the distorted, sad and angry person I see when I look in the mirror.

Wish me luck!

(If you’re interested, here is the link to the online course:

http://www.viviennemcmasterphotography.com/be-your-own-beloved/


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This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for…

As we draw near to Thanksgiving here in Canada, I have been reflecting on what I’m thankful for.  In as much as I bitch and complain about my weight, the government and various assorted other things, I am very lucky have a beautiful home, a great job and good friends.

But the biggest thing I’m thankful for is my big sister.

I should start off by saying that there is a 10 year difference in age between the two of us and we’ve not always been close or seen eye to eye.  We didn’t spend much time together over the years – with that gap in age, we had nothing in common – except for our parents.  When I was born, she was 10.  Trust me when I say that over the years, at some times it felt like a complete generation gap.

As an oblivious teenager, I didn’t pay much attention to my parents or my sister.  It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20’s that I sort of understood the family dynamics.  By that, I mean how manipulative my mother was.

I was the one that was always close to my parents – for a few years, we actually lived in the same apartment complex.  I visited nearly every day, called EVERY DAY and did general errands if they were required.  My sister kept her distance (for reasons I understand now; but I certainly didn’t back then).  I felt like it was always me that was helping out.  Me that was the one they turned to when they needed something.  I was also the person that was caught in the middle; if my sister hadn’t called or visited in a reasonable amount of time (in my mother’s mind) I was sent forth to contact my sister to tell her to contact mom and dad.

(Yes, I actually did that – it never went over very well).  I resented my sister for not visiting as much as I did.

My mother had me brainwashed into thinking that my sister was a BAD person because she never called or visited (she would call and/or visit, but not ‘enough’ in my mother’s world).  Then I’d have my father asking me to ask my sister to call because it was upsetting mom (you see where I’m going with this).  IT WAS ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER.  It didn’t matter if my sister was busy.  It didn’t matter if she was going through some sort of crisis.  All that mattered is that she HADN’T CALLED MY MOTHER FOR 2 DAYS – WHAT AN UNGRATEFUL CHILD!

As I got older, I started to ‘rebel’ against wanting/needing to call my mother every day (as should most normal adults).  I LOVED talking to my dad – he had no agenda, he was just happy to chat.  She’d call me at work and start in on what a terrible child I was – after all the nice things they’d done for me – I couldn’t even take the time to call them?

One particular time stands out in memory – I was working for an organizing committee for a worldwide event that was taking place in my city.  I had been working 12 hour days with no breaks for about 4 weeks.  One day, as I was in the middle of a very high level meeting, she called me.  And, she began yelling at how awful I was, how self centered I was and that I was basically, an ungrateful little bitch (her words, not mine).  You see, I’d nicely asked if they would mind looking after my parrot while I was working ungodly hours and they said that it would be no problem.  All of a sudden, it became a HUGE problem and I was told to immediately come and pick him up.  All because I hadn’t been able to visit for a while.  Forget the fact that I was working stupid hours; I barely had time to eat, sleep and pee.  I remember walking out the door of my meeting and calling my mother every name I could think of (and some I think I made up on the spot).  I don’t think I’ve ever been that angry in my entire life.  The event was a huge success and the final day was on my birthday.  I had to be at work at 3:00 am to assist in getting 40,000 people out of the city.  We still weren’t speaking; and at about 8:30 in the morning I got a phone call from my dad – who had snuck out into his parkade – to wish me a happy birthday.  Then he wanted me to apologize to my mother and well, that was the end of that phone call.

(I know now that it was because she was making HIS life a living hell all because of OUR fight).

I was beginning to understand my sister and her reluctance to call/visit.  A few years later, my beautiful, wonderful dad died of cancer – which was the beginning of my downward spiral into the depths of hell.  However, my mother, she needed to follow me.

My sister and I had to team up.  Mom would call and say ‘she said this’ or ‘she did that’ – pitting us against each other in order to get her own way.  This was the first time that my sister and I really started to get to know each other as people, not just as sisters.

While the event that brought us together was the worst thing that has ever happened to me – I’ll always be grateful for it allowing me to my sister as a human being.

After dad died, my mother became even more of a challenge.  My sister and I were put through the ringer.  Spending time with my mother was painstaking, soul sucking and emotionally draining.  Nothing we ever did was good enough, fast enough (don’t get me started on taking her into restaurants).  We didn’t call enough, visit enough, and when we did, it wasn’t long enough.

Mom passed in 2010 and shortly thereafter, my beautiful sister, who I’d come to adore, learned she had Parkinson’s.  WTF?  My sister, who’d sat on the International Rowing Committee, who’d traveled the world to different rowing events, who’d effectively created a rowing program strictly for disabled rowers – had a neurological disease that caused her pain and suffering.

It was like the universe was watching and waiting before it unleashed the hell that is Parkinson’s.  But, why?

I’ve watched my sister over the past few years fight this horrible disease with grace, dignity and even some laughter.  She doesn’t let it stop her, nor does she sit back and let it consume her.  She continues to work a full time job, have an active social life and volunteer her time for rowing events.  She is a dynamo, she lives life to the best of her ability and she is always, ALWAYS there for me.

To add insult to injury, she suffered a broken femur earlier this year (riding tandem with her husband – yep, she was entering a tandem bike race – she’s also a bit on the crazy side).   She was wheelchair bound for a couple of months and has graduated to using a cane.  During this time, she’s once again proven that she is made of tougher stuff than most people.  While she has her moments when everything just crashes in around her and she needs to just cry it out, she is strong, determined and most of all, she is still grateful for everything and everyone in her life.

This past weekend we made a trek to the Rocky Mountains for a quick visit and we had a wonderful time.  It was, however, hard for me to watch her struggle, as I knew she was in serious pain, but not ONCE did she want to give up or give in.  We walked, talked, laughed and cried (well, I did – when she wasn’t looking).  We learned that we each had a completely different upbringing – and that was insightful, as it helped me understand her better and vice versa.

So, thank you universe.  Thank you for giving me my big sister.  Thank you for providing the life experiences we’ve had apart and together – that has brought us both to the here and now.  Thank you for showing me love and for letting me see how wonderful a sister can be.  You’ve given me my best friend.

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