The Bleak Hours

The hours, days, months, and even years of living in despair – the bleak hours.

Despair creeps in like a slow rolling fog. An insidious cloud at the edge of my peripheral vision. There are always signs that the bleak hours are coming; the flu-like symptoms, lack of interest, lack of energy and denial.

So, I sleep more, I do less, and I watch my self-esteem crumble. I can’t stay on top of my life, my simple, uncomplicated life. Most people work full-time, take care of a home, raise kids, hang out with friends and spend time indulging hobbies. I don’t work, live alone with 4 dogs, and can live my life any way I choose, and I still can’t make it happen. I have a pity-party, I feel worthless and I sleep to escape my dark thoughts.

Yesterday, I cried off and on, for no reason. I think the pain wells up deep inside of me and spills out of my eyes. I tell myself that if I don’t get a handle on the crying I will have to go to the hospital. I can feel myself breaking apart inside. I’ve been there before and when I get to the breaking point, I scare the hell out of people.

If I’m going to the hospital, I have a few things to take care of first. As I make a mental note of what I need to do I find the dark thoughts lifting. Preparing for a breakdown is too much work, so I start tidying up to distract myself. It works, and I find my internal drama quiets, allowing me to have a pleasant evening.

After a fitful night’s sleep, I wake exhausted and stumble to let the dogs out. I go back to bed for a couple of hours before I decide to get up and head for the dog park. There are other people there and we chat, but I feel detached and heavy in my body and my spirit. I can’t wait to get home.

I pick up a coffee and muffin on the way home and here I sit, browsing facebook and feeling restless. I’ll have a nap soon and sleep away the afternoon, quieting all the noise in my head. Napping is my favorite escape from mental anguish. When I wake up I will feel refreshed and in a better position to fight the chaos in my mind and body. I’ve been here before and I know this will pass, after all, God is with me and He will carry me to the other side.

The bleak hours are always there, hovering on the outskirts waiting for an opportunity to settle in my spirit. This is my reality. Time spent during the bleak hours serves to make me stronger and more appreciative of the beautiful, joyful moments. Moments that fill me with hope for a better day and a better life without the bleak hours.


Fear, Self-loathing and Suicide

DarknessI knew you were back, your whispers stirring up anxiety and self-doubt. I make plans with every intention of following through, and I look forward to my plans with trepidation and excitement. But then you show up whispering doubts in my ear. All the what-ifs and the questions about my ability to cope.

Your name is Fear, you are relentless in your pursuit to bring me down, and you almost always win. By the time you leave me I’m sick with worry, wondering why I made plans in the first place.

I wish it stopped there but you can only do so much, so you hand me over to Self-loathing. Self-loathing and I go back a long way, so far back I don’t remember a life without her. She shows up after I realize that I will cancel, I will disappoint and then I will retreat from the world.

Self-loathing is ruthless, scornful and condescending. She knew I couldn’t do it, she knew I would give up. She tells me I am weak and stupid and worthless. I will never amount to anything because I’m too lazy, I don’t have the drive and I’m a failure. Yea, I’m a failure alright, a big one. My life is proof of that, my marriage ruined and my children growing up with a mother whom was barely present. Self-loathing always leaves me broken, at the edge of the abyss, a bottomless, dark hole of despair.

Suicide has impeccable timing, waiting and watching to step in. She likes to come to me when I have nothing left, so I’m an easy target for her taunts. Her voice is hypnotic almost soothing as she asks me if life is really worth living. After all I’ve destroyed, wouldn’t it be a better world without me in it?

My children won’t have to worry about me anymore, they could get on with their lives. Seriously, it’s not like I was a good mother, I caused them so much heartache. Am I doing anything important with my life? Am I making the world a better place? Hardly. My kids, my friends and family will miss me but there’s a lot they won’t miss. Suicide lulls me with her promise of peace, but somehow I manage to allude her.

I can pull myself back from the abyss, lick my wounds and wait to heal. Mental illness is sly, never revealing more than it has to In one afternoon my three tormentors can visit me and leave me for dead, without anyone knowing they stopped by to see me. When I feel strong again, I’ll show my face, and no one will be the wiser. I’ll be back to the happy, smiling me, the face I show to the world.

Life goes on and so do I, like so many others in my mental club. We carry our scars on the inside and we carry on the best way we know how.  I have a lot of time to make up for, but first I have to make amends.

Note to my loved ones: I am OK and not in danger of hurting myself. Today, I only had to deal with fear and self-loathing. 


You know You’re having a Mental Day when…

Crazy Train
Everyone, now and then, has a bad day. The difference between a bad day and a mental one can mean the difference between eating junk food for dinner or having a psychotic break. I’m a mental, a name I call myself and everyone dealing with mental illness.

A bad day is a good thing, it’s normal and everyone has them, if they don’t, they should. The more experience you have as a mental, the easier it becomes to see the difference between a normal ‘bad’ day and an ‘I’m taking the train to crazy town’ kinda day.

Here are a few ways to figure out what side of sanity you’re sitting on.

You know you’re having a mental day when:

1. You wake-up and wonder why the first activity of the day is so difficult. If the ensuite wasn’t so far away you wouldn’t have to think about it. After lying there wondering how you can avoid using the toilet, it you get up.

2. You manage to have a shower, dress and eat breakfast. By the time you finish eating, you’re exhausted so you take a nap. Your husband put in several hours of work already and your kids left for school before you started breakfast.

3. Standing in the middle of a room, lost in space, your kids ask you if you’re okay. You ask them why they think you’re not okay, and their answer is, that you’re standing in the middle of the room lost in space. You remember turning from the counter to open the fridge but you don’t remember stopping.

4. You eat cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner because anything else is too hard to make. When you go to the grocery store, you stand in the cereal aisle overwhelmed. Do you want the original flavoured or the vanilla, almond, honey, strawberry or chocolate version. You can’t decide so you go home and take a nap.

5. When your husband comes home and asks how your day was, your list of activities include: eating, napping and watching TV. You think your day was productive, your husband wonders why you didn’t go to the gym. You wonder why he didn’t ask you to climb Mount Kilimanjaro at the same time.

6. Are you the glass half full or half empty type? Is this a joke? You’re glass is empty, there’s a drought and you don’t care if it ever gets filled. Your husband asks you why you’re so negative which is cause for hysterical laughter. You’re depressed, you tell him, depression renders your mind incapable of positive, happy thoughts.

7. Then there’s the crying for apparently no reason, the desperate apologies and ‘goodbye cruel world’ speeches. You know you sound crazy and your family thinks you are crazy, so you try to make them see that you’re not crazy, which in turn has them thinking you’re in worse shape than they thought.

8. You don’t say much out loud but you’re having a lot of conversations in your head. You occasionally say something which causes your family to wonder whom you were talking to.

9. Family members ask you if you’ve taken your meds.

10. After a long day you wish your family goodnight and you’re off to bed. They’re giving you that look again because it’s not even close to bedtime.

One mental day is okay but unfortunately, one mental day usually leads to a mental week and weeks lead to months… It’s time to put your coping skills to work, call a mental health hotline or see your psychiatrist. Maybe you need some talk therapy or a dosage increase.

The clueless will tell you to suck it up, snap out of it, or get over it. Well-intentioned people think they’re helping, by giving you unwanted advice. Their advice will drag you down and not lift you up. If you want to get better you might want to limit your time with the clueless group.

Be kind to yourself and surround yourself with loving, supportive people. The mental days will get better as you recover, as the saying goes, “this too shall pass.” Mental illness can feel like a never-ending ride on the crazy train but it won’t always be that way. Just between you and me, do yourself a favour and avoid the clueless people.