Anxiety · Depression

A new place


It has been a very long few weeks, but we have moved.  My mind and body are still in shock.  Having a mental illness adds another dimension to the confusion and chaos.  There are times when I really struggle to remember just why we did it.  It was in part due to my mental breakdown.  We wanted a slower pace of life, and we knew we’d find it in our old hometown on the other side of the country.  But ooh boy, has it been rocky.

Moving out of the place I lived in for the past ten years has felt gut-wrenching.  All the people, routines, places, and a million different memories, have suddenly vanished.  I feel like an exile on a distant shore.  The place I am now is both physically and culturally very distant.

We are staying at my mom’s house until we find a place of our own.  Being back in the town where I grew up feels freaky.  Everything is familiar, yet different.  I am trying hard to reconcile the place I remember with the place I see before me.  There are so many things I recognize, and yet I marvel at the things I never noticed when I was younger.

It is stunningly beautiful here.  Like, knock-you-over, jaw-dropping beauty.  Just across the street from my mom’s house is a gorgeous lake set against a backdrop of evergreens.  In Ontario, this place would be overrun by screaming kids and parents carting gigantic strollers, Tim Horton’s cups, and dogs.  But here our only company is the ducks.


Our bedroom overlooks a forested ravine where trains regularly run by, so close you can almost touch them. The deer are abundant too.  They wander almost up to the house.


The pace of life feels much slower.  There is almost no traffic, and people will stop for you when you try to cross the street.  We are just a short drive from the ocean, which I have always found peaceful and restful.  When the stress of moving is too much and I start to feel derealization, this setting helps combat that.

Fundy Trail

Work is my biggest worry right now.  I have no idea how I am going to feel moving from an incredibly busy, hectic, fast-paced environment to a much more sedate one.  I have another week before I start work.

I am trying hard to combat feeling like a failure, that I somehow couldn’t take “real” life in the busy world.  Any move is a trade-off, and what I lose in amenities and access to things I make up for in nature.

Time will tell how things go…

Anxiety · Depression

Not What She Seems


This week has been terrible.  Last week was good, this one is awful.  It is my last week of work before I fall into the abyss of not working, and I am a nervous wreck about it.  My good-bye party was held on Tuesday and I left it in tears.  My mind keeps spinning around and around, racing with all sorts of terrible thoughts about the immediate and distant future.  Even though I am moving back to my old hometown, even though I have another job lined up, I can only think awful things.

I would be lying if I said I haven’t been thinking about suicide a lot lately.

Nobody would ever, ever, ever suspect that I think these things.  Everyone keeps saying how nice I am, how happy I look all the time at work, how wonderful that everything is working out for me and how excited I must be to move back home after ten years.  How fortunate, they say, for my new workplace, to have someone like me, who loves their job so much and never misses a day of work.  How lucky that I have a husband who adores me and takes care of me, and friends and family who love and support me.

They don’t know that in the cracks between my day, the moments when I’m not doing anything or just driving or on the treadmill at the gym, all I can think of is, maybe I should just cut my wrists and be done with it all.

And honestly, after nine months of this shit, of looking forward every day to crawling into bed at night for the sweetness of oblivion, it is goddamn tempting.

That’s me.  The luckiest woman in the world.  The happiest woman.  The one you work with, your best friend, the one who seems to have her life completely together.  This is what she thinks.  This is how she lives her life inside, every minute of every day.


Anxiety · Depression · Sensitivity

A (negative) HSP week


Source: Introvert Doodles

I really needed this comic this week.  It has been a bad few days, where nothing seemed to go right.  It rained all week, everyone called in sick to work, library patrons were extremely demanding and I felt miserable and full of PMS.  I am back to having an upset stomach and tight chest at the end of the day now.  I found the noise from people just unbearable: the screaming, whiny kids, the obnoxious teenagers, the loud cell phone talkers, the constant allergy sneezes.  I just wanted to stuff cotton in my ears and retreat to a private, quiet space.

I am really looking forward to leaving this all behind.

Anxiety · Depression · Healing

The slowly changing seasons


Artwork by my mom

As this is the second time in my life I’ve been seriously affected by anxiety, I have noticed a pattern in the progression.  I am attempting to chronicle it here, not just for my own future reference, but in the hopes that it might help someone else too.


It approaches in stealth mode.  I don’t feel it coming.  Once in a while I’ll feel a tightness in my chest, or feel down for no reason.  It builds in a way that I don’t really notice, slowly over weeks and months.  As time goes by, I feel more and more a shortness of breath and a growing sense of unreality.  My normal mode starts to become angry and helpless.  My body becomes affected with everything from nausea to uncontrollable twitching.  However, in this stage I am still able to enjoy things when I am relaxed.  Up until the tipping point.

Once the tipping point is reached, the dark thoughts begin to enter my head.  I lose all sense of reality.  My body is completely possessed, with panic attacks, racing heart and nightmares all the time.  I cling desperately to everything that is familiar, unable to leave my narrow comfort zone.  The thought of getting better again feels impossible.

In this dark place, there is no pleasure, there is only survival.  There are days when it feels easier to end it all rather than continue in this hideous state.  Somehow, though, I manage to hang on by my fingernails, dangling over the edge of the cliff.  This is the absolute bottom, when all I can do is cry for help.  I take medication, I go to therapy, I reach out to everyone I know and trust to help me through.

Then, slowly, a change begins to happen.  From somewhere deep inside a crack of hope begins to appear.  Just a single crack, one day.  Maybe the next day it’s gone.  Maybe it’s even gone for a week.  Then later on, it appears again, perhaps for an hour.  Then a few days later, for half a day.  A few months pass, and you have one amazing day where everything works out right and the hope is blooming.

After that you have more bad days.  Then another good one.  Then a bad week, and two good days.  You’re whipping back and forth between hope and despair.  But the hope is winning out.  It starts bleeding into the bad days.

Months have gone by.  The crack is now a wide opening of sun.  Most days are good now, but during some you walk in the shadow.  The shadows are growing smaller, though, and it’s easier to see the sun beyond them.  They are like snow melting in the spring.  You nervously walk around them.  Sometimes you have to go through them.  It sucks but it’s getting easier.

Eventually, you notice the season has changed completely.  You no longer tremble in fear of the shadow.  This is the point where you say, Life is Good.   Every so often you encounter the shadows again.  There are always clouds moving across your sky, even on the best days.  But now you know what they are.  You look at them and say, bring it on, shadow.  I survived worse.


I can’t relax


Abstract, January 2017

(The following was written on a cranky Sunday evening, during a very pessimistic mood.)

It’s the middle of a three-day weekend and I am already itching to get back to work.  I know that sounds terrible, but that’s how I feel.

I feel like the only person in the world who can’t relax.  I’m the only person who hates the fact that I get a three-day weekend every other week.  We are required to work longer days to earn that extra day, and I think it’s stupid.  I want to work five days like everyone else.

I don’t understand people who don’t want to work.  What do they do all day?  I would start cutting myself if I couldn’t work.  I love working.  I have a job with a lot of responsibility and I love going in each day and having people who rely on me and lots to do and making a difference in my community.  My mood always elevates the day I go back to work and is really high by Thursday or Friday when I’ve been working for awhile and in the work zone.

Relaxing?  Not for me.  I mean, I get that it’s important.  I am just not interested in relaxing the way other people do.  I like having a bath before bed and reading a good book.  That’s all I need to relax.

But Sunday afternoons?  I’m ready to start banging my head against the wall.  By then my housework is done and I’ve already read and watched what I wanted.  I don’t need any more time off.  I want to be out doing and talking to people at work.  I can’t imagine enjoying things people are supposed to love doing on Sunday afternoons, like golfing or mowing your lawn.  I get bored thinking about it.

Summer?  Forget about it.  I hate summer.  I spend the other nine months of the year dreading it.  It’s awful.  There is absolutely nothing pleasant about summer.  The heat gives me a constant headache, I can’t sleep properly, it’s noisy, and everyone is outside telling you that there’s something wrong with you if you don’t want to be outside enjoying it too.  Being me in the summer is like having the cranky, restless stage of the flu every single day.  Spring, fall and winter are great.  Summer is hell.  Again, I’m an HSP.  Extreme heat feels like being shoved in an oven and stabbed with steak knives.

Why am I writing this now?  Well, because I try so hard to make weekends work for me.  I try to fill them with to-do lists and exercise.  I try to do fun things too, like art and listening to music and eating out and watching movies and meeting friends for coffee.  Every Friday when I drive home from work, I think, I’ve got it this time.  I’ve got this weekend.  And every weekend, inevitably, my good mood deflates the longer it’s been since I was at work, and I start to feel lonely and restless.

The only time I’ve ever been able to get around this is when I’m on a trip.  Somehow, being away from my house makes everything different.

I have a constant, recurring anxious vision of myself retired, old and alone, my mind stagnating, my days filled with tedium and boredom and anxiety.  I just can’t seem to get this image out of my head. It has been haunting me, stalking me relentlessly, since I had my nervous breakdown.  I don’t know how to get rid of it.  I know I am a good thirty years away from retiring, but in my mind I’m already living that life.  It sounds crazy, but I have been trying to think up ways I can keep working until the day I die.  I’ll volunteer all day if I have to.

So many people I work with can’t wait to retire.  I don’t know why.  Everyone I know who has retired loves it, and I honestly don’t know how they do it.  I don’t know how they get through every single day completely adrift and unstructured.  I need, crave, thrive on routine and structure and responsibility.

Nobody at work who read this would every suspect it was me who wrote it.  I know they all think I’m someone who has it all figured out, who lives a charmed life, who has her shit together and never doubts herself of gets anxieties.  They don’t know that I’d rather be them.  I’d rather be a screw-up at work and be happy at home and not mind free time than feel like a neurotic, depressed mess when I’m outside my work environment.

Anxiety · Sensitivity

This Week Sucked


This alligator also thinks this week sucked

I have a friend, he used to have a lot of anxiety and depression.  Now he doesn’t any more.  He says he never has bad days anymore.  HE NEVER HAS BAD DAYS.  Wow,  I thought.  I want to never have bad days again, either.  What an inspiration!  If only I think more positively I, too, can achieve this awesome state of being.

Alas, if only it were that easy.  If only my work were perfect all the time.  If only I never had to worry about the future.  If only I never got sick again.  If only I weren’t a woman, living in a man’s world with PMS and hormones and being patronized constantly.  If only I weren’t a Highly Sensitive Person.

Willpower can only take you so far.


Here’s the cheerful thought that’s been running through my mind all day.

The anxiety and depression I’ve been feeling today didn’t come from nowhere.  It came, largely, from the fact that this week just sucked.  I went up to Toronto by myself for a conference, and I hated it.  I hated feeling alone and wandering around the city lonely and feeling small and meaningless.  I hated having to push through the crowds to get anywhere.  I missed my bus connection and didn’t get to do what I really wanted, which was sketch the passenger pigeons at the museum.  I came home tired and with a headache.  I hurt my back this week and it’s been in pain since then.  I have been hunching my shoulders at night, causing me more pain.  The temperature dropped and I feel cold all the time.  I couldn’t sleep last night.  Work was tiring and stressful, and patrons were extra rude and demanding and I couldn’t get a break from constant interruptions.  My thoughts were racing and I couldn’t turn them off. I wanted to take a poker to my brain today.  And there was a beautiful cardinal dead on my driveway on Friday morning.

Fuck you, week.  Seriously, fuck you.

I am wondering in a case like this, is it so wrong to feel down and depressed when things go genuinely badly?  Is it wrong to admit that some days are worse than others, by any objective measure?  Should we try and be cheerful and happy all  the time? Maybe acknowledging when things are wrong, and getting upset about them, isn’t always a bad thing.  It’s what starts civil rights movements, protests, and revolutions.  It could be my body once again saying, “Slow down you crazy woman, you’re getting battered by life again!  Just draw a picture and watch something silly on YouTube.”

I am waiting for the tide to turn.

Anxiety · Depression

January blues


I’ve got a bad case of the January blues today.  Mondays are tough for me.  I always have them off because my work is closed that day, but I rarely seem to enjoy them.  Maybe it’s feeling left out, like everyone else is out working and I’m not, even though I do work full time.  It’s just never felt like a holiday for me.On top of that, the days are short, dreary, cold and grey.  The holidays are over and there’s no pretty house lights to cheer me up.

I just couldn’t bring my mood up today.  I went for a jog on the treadmill this morning, I went to the dentist, I got groceries with my husband, I vacuumed the living room.  Still nothing.

On top of this, I am dealing with news about my childhood best friend.  This weekend, I found out he was convicted of a pretty heinous crime and is going to prison for the next few years.  I did find out he was on trial for the crime a while ago, but this news just brought all those feelings back to me all over again.  I had a dream about him last night, and it was pretty awful.  I  am trying so hard to sort out my feelings.  He was like a brother to me, and we were so close in such a special way.  I am usually a pretty good judge of character, but it is so hard for me to accept that sometimes good people can do such terrible things.  The world is all shades of grey.

The January blues are not a new phenomenon for me, in fact I’ve had them ever since I was a child and would cry the night before I had to go back to school after the holidays.  So today, I tried to think, is there an upside to the way I’m feeling?

Maybe it’s that the January blues are trying to tell me something, that it’s a good time to be inspired by travel.  I’ve often been motivated in January to plan trips or dream about exotic locations (and it’s no coincidence that most of them are to warm places).  A few years ago I read an article in a magazine about Easter Island, and it led me to explore Polynesian culture, which has long held a fascination for me.  I love to watch or read things about this part of the world – Moana is a great example of this.  Not only is it a fantastic movie, the scenery is stunning and makes me want to visit.  A long time ago when I was devouring Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody mystery series I had an intense craving to go to Egypt.  It still flares up from time to time, usually around this time of year.

Right now, this is all I can do: put one foot in front of the other.  Dream about my upcoming trip in the spring.  Keep drawing.  Keep working.  Attend the new French class I signed up for.  Keep exercising.  Keep talking about how i feel to the people I love.  Pour my heart out in this blog.