Monday, September 5, 2011

Learnings from a sick leave

It's the long weekend and it's GORGEOUS outside. I just came in from a lovely game of fetch with the dogs.... we might not have made it to the park, but we spent lots of time puttering around at projects and playing. I even got some photos today. It's been good.

That's been the lesson this summer for me: hang out, take it easy, do things you love and you'll feel better. After years of struggling with depression, I was FINALLY diagnosed this spring and began the long slow process of getting better. Yup, that was the issue: Major Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It got so bad that I was having to pull the car over and take breaks when I was in traffic in the city. I had to check the door locks multiple times before I could leave the house. The final morning I worked last spring, I sat outside the school for almost 20 minutes, shaking with anxiety and tears streaming down my cheeks. I went to the doctor the next day.  So, here I am months later and back to work, finally ready to blog to the world that I have mental health issues. One of the big lessons along the way was that I am not alone; the majority of my friends it seems have been there too. That helps!

Anyway, my poor dogs over the last year have paid the price for the frenzy I managed to get myself into- soooo busy I couldn't stop to think about how crappy I was feeling. And, when it all fell apart, I realized at the end of all that busy-ness, there really is just me and my dogs. There's no meetings, no committees, no doggy classes worth my own health- or theirs, really.  So, I quit almost everything extra in my life and spent the summer hanging in the yard with the dogs. THERAPEUTIC! Long games of fetch, napping on my hammock and reading on the deck surrounded by flowers was exactly what I needed. I also learned that I like to be physically busy. I cut the lawn a whole bunch this summer, because if I couldn't focus I found physical labour was often necessary before I could sit. And, it's all good.

So, this fall I am finding myself back to my basics of life.  Work, a little study (slowly plugging away at the thesis- there is no rush to finish to convocate this fall anymore), lots of play with the pups. I've cut my hair off, resumed hanging at coffeehouses and even gotten rats again. I've been writing stories and poetry again and even started to draw.  These are all things from my happier days. And, they make me happy. Better skies ahead right?  We'll see, but I have learned that through this each one of the dogs was necessary in me getting better:

Spike is Mr. Serious. He was relentless in his desire to work and please and play fetch and get attention. And, he took it seriously. He kept me moving, and while we didn't go to agility classes this summer, I still trialed with him. And that was good! We are back to classes this fall when winter season starts as I'm missing it now and feeling well enough to get moving again and that's good. He forced me to get up and do something.

Murphy kept me laughing with her crazy antics. She can entertain herself for hours hunting flies, burying bones in the yard, destuffing toys and throwing a bottle cap around to chase. It's impossible to not laugh at a Jack.

But, it was Sophie who really got me through. Her dark, soulful eyes, full of compassion as she gave a little kiss was exactly what I needed. She was quick to cuddle and wouldn't leave my side if I couldn't get out of bed in the morning. She would sigh, give a kiss and watch while waiting for me to get up. She was glued to me, and I believe she got me through it. I love that dog.

Anyway, it's time I was honest about my "nervous breakdown" as I laughingly call it. But, I am getting it back together and here's some of the reason why.....

Yup, that's the box from my brand new PVR satelitte reciever. It didn't stand a chance against a bored JRT and Labrador, LOL.  Thankfully the PVR is just fine!

That led to lots of this....

Let's play!!  Murphy chasing Spike...

Sophie chewing on her favourite Jolly Ball. It smells like Blueberry. At least it did when I bought it. Now it's Blueberry mixed with Eau D'Wet Labrador. 

Run Spikey!! Get em Murph!

Got it!!  TUGGGG!

GRRR! It's MINE, Spike!

Alright, let's both yank her arm out of the socket. Youch, having tuggy dogs is good and bad. 

Throw it again, please??

Chomp, chomp, chomp!


Can't catch him!

Still focused... She LOVES that ball!

Even through a rough game of fetch, Soph won't give up her jolly ball.

Ah, cool down at the end of a session!

Love those dogs. :)  They make me smile, even in the midst of some dark clouds. Hug your pooches today and remember, they love ya even if you can't seem to get out of bed sometimes. :)

(ASIDE: in the interest of my mother, if you are interested in seeing the ratty family, I've updated the Black Rat Rattery tab with pics.... stay away Ma, trust me! LOL).

Final parting shot of Sophie in action.... chomp, chomp, chomp.


Chester said...

What a fun bunch of dawgs - I'm sure I would fit right in 'cuz I LOVE to play! Mom says I play too ruff but what does she know?

On a side note, my 84 year old Grandma had a rough summer last year with depression and went to the hospital for a week so they could help chase away "the dark clouds". It took a while but she has a lot of better days now. She probably woulda got better faster if'n she would have some fun dawgs to take her mind off bad stuff. Good for you for recognizin' sumpthin' just wasn't right and best wishes as you continue to walk out of the gloom and into the sunshine!

Woofs and happy slobbers,
Chester ;o=)

Mango said...

Yup, we know about those mental health issues here at the Mango estate. Letting go of stuff really helps. Giving yourself permission to live the life that is right for you. Personally, I found that I became a better dog mom after I stopped trying so hard. Instead of optimistically signing up for classes that I was just too mentally drained to attend, now I'll do a few minutes here and there of training on my own. Dogs love it, I love it and I always say that 1 minute of time with my dog is enough if that's all I have in me. Better to spend small chunks of time then to mope about over not going to dog school.

Hope you can keep things in order. I struggle with managing the simplest aspects of just keeping up with the day to day stuff. Thankfully, I've learned to stop comparing myself to others. Do what I can, be happy.

Mango is the best companion ever. He's just one big ball of love and wants nothing more than to be close.

Glad to have you back online.

Mango Momma

Ms. ~K said...

Oh Jen,
I wish I had your email address...there is so much I would like to share with you. but not here!
Pls know I understand what you have been dealing with, don't give up, remember I care!

Jen said...

Thanks all! EVERYONE I tell seems to know what this is about- can you say pandemic in North America??? I think we put way too much pressure on ourselves to perform and do, then when we can't keep up, we sit in a miserable pile of depression. So, thank you for the support! I was a bit nervous to throw it out there, especially since I didn't tell anyone at work what was going on, until this fall. You know, embarrasment I guess over mental health issues. It's still a bit of a stigma.

I'd love an email Ms K! You were a teacher as well, weren't you? There's something about teachers- we almost all seem to be driven to be as perfect as possible. It's not good! Anyway,


Sophie said...

Mental health problems suck, but seriously - good for you for getting on the path to sorting everything out!

Nobody could stay glum for long with your happy, gorgeous dogs around. :) You can even have Lola if you like, for free!

Pamela said...

I'm so glad to hear you've made some changes in your life to bring you peace and joy.

Depression is such a tricky illness--it's a chronic illness but it's also a way our bodies tells us we're out of synch. Good for you in making such good choices for yourself. Only people who have been in your place know just how hard that is to do.

BTW, are you aware that Winston Churchill called his depressions a "black dog?"

Wyatt said...

Hi pups!
Nice to meet you :)
Stopping to say "hi" from DWB.

Wyatt and Stanzie

Lauren said...

Jen, I have been dealing with major depression and GAD for fourteen years - more than half my life! Things have been rough this year, especially with the depression, and there are many days where the sadness is just overwhelming. The times that I feel the best are when I am with Claire :) Find a good counselor for additional support, and remember to ALWAYS do what is best for you! Thank you for sharing, and feel free to email me if you need to chat with someone who absolutely knows what you have been going through!

- Lauren

achieve1dream said...

Your dogs are so cute. I love the pictures.

I'm glad you're feeling better after the break and diagnoses.

I used to think I suffered from depression. Now I think it's a combination of things. For one I'm Vitamin D deficient which explains why I get depressed in the winter. I'm also pretty anemic which is why I'm so tired all of the time. So with a vit D and iron supplement I feel a LOT better. The other thing I think was my problem was a learned habit of thinking of everything negatively. I'm still fighting that part of it, but it takes time to build newer, healthier habits. Lack of exercise and poor diet have been a factor too. Ever since I quit eating fast food and started working out I feel a lot better.

I am fairly certain I do have generalized anxiety although I have not been diagnosed. It can get fairly severe at times and I have had panic attacks, but luckily it's not as bad as some people I've known. Exercise helps with the anxiety, but distraction is my favored coping mechanism. I have no idea if that's a healthy one. I also strongly suspect hormones to be a contributing factor because my anxiety seems to cycle monthly. When I have health insurance again I'm going to get my hormones checked for an imbalance. I'm trying to fight it all without drugs because I have an irrational fear of side effects, but sometimes it is necessary. Sometimes the depression/anxiety is too strong for us to fight on our own. And medication doesn't have to be permanent. I had a friend who took it for a couple of years to get her life back under control and then was able to wean herself off (under the supervision of a doc).

I hope things continue to improve for you. And don't feel embarrassed or bad about it. It's way more common than what most people think and yes I think our society has a lot to do with it. Keep up the good fight. :)

Jean said...

Jen, somehow I missed this post before. I struggled with major bouts of depression throughout my young adult and middle adult years. I have two bits of advice, based on my experiences:
1. If you are getting professional help for this, don't be afraid to shop around until you find the RIGHT therapist for you. I have had both the right ones and the wrong ones, and it made all the difference in the world when I was with the right ones.
2. Balance. It is so easy to end up in a downward spiral because we think we aren't doing enough, or doing good enough, or being the perfect pet owner or teacher or parent or whatever. We only have to be 'good enough' in the roles that we hold; and if we maintain balance in our lives, keeping those roles appropriately proportional to the rest of our needs - like the need for sleep, for relaxation, for a walk in the woods, for laughter, etc. - then those downward spirals become less frequent and more manageable. We do not have to be perfect people, and it is perfectly okay to let some things go.
Take care. Know that we are here if you need us.