Grains of Sand

Ever feel like your whole life purpose has somehow been ripped away from you? Like every goal you have ever set for yourself has somehow slipped through your fingers like dry sand on a sunny day.

My palm is officially empty.  The sand has all but disappeared and I am no longer at the beach to collect more.  Everything I have hoped for gone, waiting for the tide to completely engulf any last bit of hope those grains carried.

My illness, it is costing me everything. My ability to give to my kids, our ability to have family vacations, our ability to pay back everyone who has ever helped us, and finally the possibility of losing our family home, the final straw that is pushing me closer and closer to the edge.

I know the old saying “home is where your heart is”.  Is this meant to be literal, because although physically I may find myself in a new home, my heart will always be in Lakeside Estates. It will always be in the house that we may soon need to sell.  I shudder at the thought.  I cry just thinking of telling my seven year old that our home will no longer be, that we are moving.  

I am costing my family everything.  I so desperately want to be well.  I want to go back to work, contribute to the life that we have come accustomed to.  We live simply.  We don’t have the “big kid” toys, the second car, or put our kids in every sport possible.  But our home, it is everything.  Because of me, Because of my inability to work, we may get rid of eveything.

I am so tired, I can not imagine heading back to work.  But it is coming to the point that it does not matter.  It is to the point that the best case scenario is that I go back to my current position and hope I don’t lose my job over falling asleep or lack of concentration.

I had a consult with an occupational therapist.  It was not very helpful.  She lead me to believe that accommodated positions are easy to get.  The opposite is true.  It could be years until an accommodated position becomes available.  I am completely at a loss.  I am not sure what to do.

The past two years have been full of financial and other blows.  First hubby getting laid off in April of 2015.  His job pays so much less now.  Next me, unable to work since June 2015.  Me not being able to care for my kids, so still needing full time daycare.  My two months away from my family while getting treatment in Guelph.  Now the constant debt accumulating on our line of credit.  All of this because of me.  Because of my illness.  I would give anything to be normal, to be healthy, but the sand, it just continues to flow through, the harder I hold on, the more quickly I find myself left with nothing.

Please Share

Time, like always, is flying by.  I keep meaning to write, but one thing or another needs my attention and blogging gets thrown to the side.  It might have been for the best this time.  I have been so riled up about the terrible psychiatric care at our local hospital, that perhaps it is better that I took time to calm myself down.  Despite that, it does not mean that the problem has gone away.  I have simply had more time to think about it.

Since my last post about my friend being admitted to a surgical floor, she has been admitted to the hospital on two other separate occasions.  I would love to write about how she was treated so much better, but she wasn’t.  The care was still appalling.  I keep sharing these stories in hopes that change will come of it, however not many friends share my post.  Perhaps it’s because the topic is so taboo.  No one wants anyone to think that they have been the victim of abuse or that they are mentally ill.  The Truth however, is that I have never met a single person who has not been touched by mental illness.  I want this blog post to be shared by everyone who reads it. There needs to be change here in Fredericton, New Brunswick, but if no one cares, change will be slow, if we see any at all.

So, here is the continuation of my friend’s story.  A week after being discharged from the surgical floor, my friend was back in the ER.  Not only that, but she was once again left on her own, unsupervised in their “quiet” room.  I was alone with my children and was not able to physically get to the hospital. Concerned for her safety I called the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital (DECH) ER department and requested to speak to her nurse.  I did not think this was a crazy request, considering she was suicidal and alone.  I was advised that I was unable to talk to her nurse and that she herself (the clerk) had no idea what was going on.  I hung up feeling frustrated and angry.  I had no way of knowing if my friend was dead or alive.  I was left with one option. I called 911.

Now, you May think 911 would have been anoyed with my crazy request to send officers up to the DECH to check on the status of my friend.  They did not question me, they did not seem annoyed. If anything it seemed as though they were not surprised by request in the least bit.  They sent officers up to the hospital to check on her.  Within a half hour she was admitted to the psychiatric unit and a 911 dispatcher had called back to update me on the situation.  The fact that I had to waste 911 resources on someone who was in hospital seems ridiculous to me, but this is how the DECH treats psychiatric patients.

Another week or so had gone by after her discharge.  She was still suicidal and once again found herself at the same ER. This time I quickly rushed to be by her side.  She had overdosed on meds, yet the nurse was oblivious to this.  She had taken her pill pack so it was “impossible” that she had taken pills said the nurse.  I asked if she had checked her bags for other pills.  She had not.  She overdosed.

They admitted her to an acute care bed after they realized that she did indeed take the meds.  I was asked to wait outside the room (aka the curtain) while they got her ready.  A new nurse came in, and then I heard the unimaginable. “You again! You are a spoiled rotten brat”.  My heart almost stopped. I could not believe what I had just heard come out of the mouth of a nurse.  Someone who is supposed to care for people when they are unwell.  

Eventually I was allowed in her room. The same nurse came back, I started to record the conversation.  She was being nice, and I called her out.  I have her, on tape, calling my friend a spoiled rotten brat and justifying it to me.  I was apalled.  Sick to my stomach, I continued to record the conversation.  I am i sure what we will do with the footage.

Friends, this is the reality of mental health services in Fredeticton, NB. Please, Please share.  I have her to meet someone who has not been touched in some way by mental illness.  People are being discharged while still suicidal. People are killing themselves after receiving inadequate care.  This has to stop! Please help spread the message.  

The Truth

What the fuck?  Seriously.  I am soooo sick of being made to feel like I am at fault.  Last nigh I posted a plea to my FB friends to share my blog due to the unacceptable health care people with mental health issues receive here in Fredericton.  Unfortunately I posted this after taking my meds and drinking a beer. I made a mistake.  I forgot to block the people that I normally block when I post my blog to Facebook.  I made a mistake. An honest fuckin mistake. I did not do this out of revenge or to hurt anyone. But it is there and aside from deleting it, there is not much I can do.

I am hurt and I am pissed.  I have carried this secret for so damn long.  The cat is out of the bag, and do you know what? I feel fuckin’ horrible.  I know I shouldn’t, but I do.  I feel like the lowest of life form on this planet, because I do not live my life to hurt others, and I hurt people last night that don’t deserve to have to deal with this shit.  

That being said, that is my emotional side talking.  I also have a pretty kick ass cognitive side to myself.  I cognitively know that this “secret” should have never been a secret to begin with.  When I first disclosed, back in 1999, things should have been taken care of.  It should have never been a secret from that point on.  He should have gotten help along with myself and the rest of my family.  Instead, here I am, at 34 years old, being blamed for disclosing the secret to his girl friend.

Out of all people, she has been the most supportive to me, while still supporting him.  She immediately contacted me. We talked, like two adults should.  No blame game.  Just love and understanding.  No jumping to conclusions.  She seems to be the only one that has a good head on her shoulders (along with me of course).

My mom (sorry but it is true) freaked. She castatrophizes things.  “He will never be able to work, he will lose contact with his daughter, he will never be able to return to his home town”. News flash.  The city he lives in does not give a Fuck, and no one is going to find out.  As for our home town, lots of people knew, including the RCMP.  Mom, you know everyone talks up there.  Not to your face, but behind backs.  People know, but they also don’t really give a Fuck.  And finally his daughter.  Guess what?  His girl friend, she is being completely rational.  He will not lose contact with his daughter.  Stop worrying.

Finally, don’t ever pick up the phone and blame me like that again.  I know you get all wound up and speak before thinking, but I am sick of being made to feel like it is me.  Like I am the one causing the problems.  I am not saying he does not have regrets, but in the end it is his fault, not mine.  He will have to figure things out now that his life is a little more “difficult”. My life has been difficult for most of it, but here I am, figuring shit out day after day. Learning skills to deal with the shit that was handed to me.  So now, someone else can take some of that on.  Not because I want to hurt anyone, but because that is the way things work.  Secrets never remain secrets.  Eventually the truth prevails, and that is where we are at.

Mental Health Care in Fredericton

On Thursday evening I got a text.  A friend of mine was in the ER.  She was alone and suicidal.  It was four in the afternoon and no one had checked on her since noon. She told me that if she were to die, she hoped I would continue the work she has been doing and bring her story to the attention of the media. At the time I could do nothing but tell her to hold on and that I would be there as soon as I dropped my family off at home.

At 5:30p.m. I arrived at our local hospital.  A triage nurse was quick to escort me to the ER’s “quiet room” where all the lights were out and my friend sat in the dark.  At first I thought she was sleeping.  I tried to wake her.  I thought it was the drugs.  My eyes adjusted, and then I saw it.  A piece of ripped off pillowcase tied tightly around her neck.  I quickly untied it, checked her pulse and counted her respirations.  She was coming around, and soon enough she was completely conscious and able to talk to me.  

On the inside I was livid.  Not at her, not because she had tried to take her life, but because if I hadn’t arrived when I did, she probably would have died that night. No one in the ER was checking on her.  In one nurses words “we don’t have time to check on her”. I told her how I found her.  She scolded me for not getting the nurses.  I told her it never dawned on me since everything was under control and that until then they did not seem to care if she lived or died.  I think I was partly trying to protect her from them.  From their judgement. 

That night we fought a battle with our mental health system again.  They wanted to send her to the nearest city to get treatment, despite having the same treatment available in our city.  We fought hard to keep her in this city.  The doctors, their hands tied by a care plan that she had never even signed, kept on saying it was Moncton or home.  We continued to fight into the morning of the next day.

We questioned why the nurses could not deal with her here.  They simply said the therapeutic bond with our local psychiatric ward had been broken.  Last year she went to the media.  Similar to me, they kicked her out of the hospital while still suicidal.  The difference is They left me outside the door of the ward.  They had security take her down and parked her in a wheelchair, outside, in her night clothes in sub zero temperatures. 

Both of us know the system.  In her career she has been a nurse, a nurse manager, and was then appointed to several positions within the health authority.  We know our rights, and we expect to be treated with dignity and respect.  In Fredericton, as a psychiatric patient, you are treated like a child. Someone who needs to be babysat.  Not someone who needs help, who may need to talk, who deserves a fighting chance.

So my friend has been admitted, to a surgical floor.  Nurses from the psychiatric unit are assigned to her and they sit with her 24/7.  This happens to work out quite well for her. It is pretty sweet.  She has a one on one nurse, is treated well, and is getting the care that she needs.  Am I happy for her? Hell yes. However, there is a systemic problem.

Why was 2SE (the psychiatric ward) not forced to take her. Are the nurses on that ward so poorly educated that if a mental health patient challenges them, they are given permission to dismiss them and not have to work with that patient again. Our province is poor, yet the health authority decided to admit her to a ward where one nurse would have to sit with her 24/7 instead of admitting her to a ward where she can be watched by camera. No matter what angle you look at this situation from, it makes no sense. 

I am once again appalled at the whole system.  The amount of time that we spent fighting to get her the care that she deserved was ridiculous and unacceptable.  The fact that the ER nurses did not check on her for hours is unnaceptable.  The fact that they did not have time for her, unacceptable and heartbreaking.  People often ask me why I say I will never go back to the DECH (local hospital).  Well that is why.  I’d rather save myself from all the secondary wounding. I’d rather die than have to deal with the incompetence of my local hospital.

If you are local, think about writing to our mimister of health, stating your shock about our mental health care in this province.  It is time that we try to make a change.  Someday it may be someone you know that is in the system, someone you care about, and trust me, it is heartbreaking to see someone you love and care for being treated so terribly just because of a mental health issue.  We need to make change happen before others lose their life.

Ironic

It’s ironic.  Now, more than ever before, I have a team of health care providers who are on my side.  My family doctor, my psychologist, my psychiatrist, my OT, they are all officially part of circle of care, yet the care I am receiving feels disjointed, a jigsaw puzzle that has been lying around with no one there to put the pieces together.  Maybe I am confused. Maybe it’s me who is supposed to take this disordered care and bring each individual piece into focus, then painstakingly put all the pieces together. I don’t know. And then, I can’t help but feel that even if I recruited the best puzzle makers I know, there would be a hole smack dab in the middle of that puzzle.  

I have not spoken a word about my trauma since being back from Homewood.  It is like it does not exist. My psychologist concentrates on DBT. The way I think.  They way I think about myself, about others, about my kids, about anything.  I do thought record after thought record.  I can do them in my sleep.  I know how I should think.  I fucking know!
My psychiatrist, we talk meds.  This makes sense, it’s her job.  The last time I spoke of my trauma with a spychiatrist my medical records were full of notes from said psychiatrist stating, as if it were abnormal, that I spoke about my trauma a lot.  I did, I agree.  However, when you are in a hospital spychiatric ward after attempting to take your own life, I am comfortable in saying that talking about the trauma that lead you to such despair is somewhat expected.  I saw a psychiatrist almost everyday.  In comparison I saw my psychologist (an intern) a total of 4 or 5 times during the 10 weeks or so that I was in hospital.  I wasn’t given the opportunity to talk. The nurses were quick to give out Ativan.  No one ever cared to listen.

At Homewood, the opposite was true. There was always someone who was waiting to listen.  The nurses, they cared. They talked.  Ativan was not their magical answer to every problem.  We were encouraged to try the skills we were being taught.  Each day at 4pm check in they stressed how their job was to be there for us.  If we needed to talk, they would listen.  I think I only ever spoke with my nurses a few times, but the point did not go unoticed.  At night, when you could not sleep, we found peace in one of the many lounges.  At my local hospital they were put off limits and we were quickly forced back into our room with Ativan in hand.  No talking, no using tools.

I find myself in this position again.  Yes, I am home.  I am not in an institution, but I don’t talk.  I am no longer seeing my counsellor from the sexual assault centre.  I am on the waitlist to see someone else, which I am completely supportive of.  However, I NEED to talk. It was recommended by Homewood that I contiue trauma therapy at the sexual assault centre and continue to see my psychologist for DBT.  It was also recommended that they work as a team. In NB, that will not happen.  I am supposed to choose one.  Getting counselling from two organizations is considered double dipping, and although both individual care providers don’t seem to care, they are not formally allowed to treat me as a part of my team. Only one can fulfill that.  The other, they are to remain unknown to the rest of the team.

I need to talk, yet for the first time in years, there is no one there to listen.  I just came back from the hardest thing I have done in my life, and my quarterback is out.  I feel alone.  I rarely see friends.  I rarely make the effort, not because I don’t want to, but because the depression does not want to let me.  

So, here I am.  I need to talk, but no one is here to catch my words on the other end.  I feel alone.  Alone surrounded by a team of healthcare providers.  It’s ironic.

I Wonder

I have been back home for well over a month now.  It seems like Homewood was in another lifetime.   It seems so distant and far away.  I can barely remember the calmness and the hope that I had.  Even more distant are the memories that I made there.  There were times that I found myself a bit more on the happy side, it was somewhere in the middle of my stay. As my final days drew near, so did the clouds that were all too familiar.  I knew they’d be coming back with me, whether I liked it or not.

I don’t know what to do now that I am home.  Half of the summer is almost over, but I have nothing figured out.  It was presumed I would return to work in September, but even that is very unlikely now.  With the medication I am on, going back to work would not be safe for myself or my clients.  Weaning off of those meds will take months.  

I sit and wonder when it is all going to become too much again.  I came across an article yesterday about not understanding how people actually like to live.  It is the first time I read something that actually puts in words what I think everyday.  Where do people find the will to live?  Why is it that some of us go through life, eager to experience to the fullest each passing moment, while many of us are left wishing each lingering moment away?  Why is it impossible for me to just enjoy the moment when things are actually ok? Why do I slowly sink back into that void, that dark hole, that whirlpool that I just can’t stay out of?

Right now, in this moment, like in many moments, I feel exhausted, yet I go on.  I haul my body, my empty shell, around and around and around.  It climbs up the ladder to our children’s play house, it pushes smiling kids while they learn to pump their legs.  It bends and it sits to weed a garden, it even runs to catch a sneaky boy before he runs out of the house in only his birthday suit and rubber boots.  It does all of this for me, yet I am not thankful, I am not greatful, and I damn well should be.  My body is healthy.  A cancer patient would beg me to trade places, she would be thankful for a body that was full of life.  But no, my mind.  My mind is not healthy and it makes the rest of me umhealthy.  I do all of this “stuff” everyday.  But it is not what I want, it is not what makes up my dreams.

So, I really do wonder what it is like to want to live.  I wonder what waking up in the morning, feeling refreshed and revitalized feels like.  I wonder what it is like to be thankful for a healthy body to carry you through the activities we face with each new day.  I wonder what it’s like to feel rested.  I wonder what it’s like to be thankful.  Just thankful. Thankful to be alive.

Crazy…That’s Life

It’s been so long since I have worked I forget what sane people do all day long.  It just took me about an hour to convince myself to shower.   I settled on a bath cause while I am in here I can sleep, or be on FB or even write this blog.  I bet sane people have way fewer options over lunch hour.  Sane people also find themselves in the shower more often than not in order to make the best use of each possible nano second in their lives.

I was one of those people, but the thought of going back there is enough that I become so exhausted I want to immediately put this phone down, stop writing and close my eyes.  I would be long showered by now, no doubt running errands on my lunch hour, while I stuff some kind of lunch into me, all while swearing and navigating the god damn construction in this town.  I probably would be late getting back to work because somewhere in my brain I thought it was possible to accomplish all that was on my list while anxiously awaiting for the flag person to turn his friggin stop sign around, even though I would  have no doubt that I wouldn’t make it through on the first round.

Nope, instead here I am, in the tub.  A somewhat dirty tub thanks to my 7 year old taking a bath instead of a shower last night.  I contemplated washing it, but deemed it necessary to save my energy for some other task today.  A task that will no doubt get noticed, like doing the laundry or cleaning a room.  Yes, when you are depressed and down the precious energy must be captured and let out at only appropriate times and places so that from the outside you look normal, or at least what you thought normal was when you worked out of the house.

To be normal, you leave work at lunch hour, list in hand (you might even sneak out five minutes early).   You go to the bank, get out $20, drive to your daughter’s school to drop off the $4 that you did not have in the morning so she can enjoy an end of year pizza lunch, drive back across town, choose an end of year Teacher gift, break a nail while trying to find the keys to your vehicle (where the hell did I even park?), find said keys, blue tooth with your aesthetician while you dream about getting to work on time, make an appointment for that nail (insert major guilt trip here since you have no money), find a parking spot in the overflow parking, run into work (at least yoi got a work out in) only to find your client has left a voice mail canceling their appointment.  You collapse in the chair, grab a coffee and do some mindless paper work since now, and only now, do you really get a break.

Why do we want that?  Why is it that that is what I strive for, now that I am not “normal”, now that I am mentally unwell with depression and PTSD.  What the fuck do I want all that crazy shit back for?  Sure, this crazy shit is not any better, but my point is that being mentally unwell is just as fuckin crazy as being well enough to work (in a different sort of ways).

I know I do want to get well enough to work.  What I don’t know is what type of work I want to do.  I want a better work life balance, but that means I need a higher paying job so that I can work part time.  I want to believe that full time work is in mu future. But realistically I know it is far fetched.  We are all living crazy, but what side of crazy will I be on?

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