Aligning With The Pagan Community

I attended a Pagan festival yesterday.  I went to sell my artwork but I came away with so much more.  I had forgotten just how much I missed that particular community in my life.  How much I missed the spiritual, the creative, the energy of Pagans.

I had a very successful day.  I sold quite a bit of artwork, found some of my old books and tarot decks new homes where they would be loved and appreciated (not stuck in a dark drawer) and spent time with one of my best friends – my younger brother.
But the energy OH the energy.  I feel rejuvenated today.  After the amount of artwork I had done over the last week and a half I thought I would be all art-ed out.  But I’m not.  The ideas are flowing more free than ever.  I missed this feeling, so so much.
I kept walking by a tent with two lovely ladies in it.  I liked the way they smiled as I walked by.  They were offering $5 chakra reiki alignment so I took a chance and did it.  I’ve never done reiki before.  It was pretty amazing.  I even sent my brother over after to do it as well.  I’ll have to save up and see about a whole session with her someday. (I also bought a bunch of candles but we’ll talk about my smelly candle/incense obsession later)  She asked me near the end if I wanted my crown left “open” and I said yes – because I want to receive energies and it might allow me to see ghosts.
All in all I had a really good time.  I really really needed a day like this to come my way.
 This post ties heavily into my mental health and mental illness.  I think that no matter how isolated we make ourselves, some of us just want to find a community we belong too.  A group of people who understand us.  A place to belong.
But sometimes that drive to find a place to belong can lead to some dark places.  It can be an overwhelming urge, and often we are naive in our expectations.  Easily lead and easily influenced.  This can end up being a slight detour or a life-altering thing.  Not necessarily for the better.
I’ve been down that path a couple times.  Always at my lowest point.  I nearly got myself into groups I’m not sure I could have gotten out of.  I might have ended up getting hurt, or hurting someone else.
The local Pagan community though – that’s a good place for me.  Full of healing energies, love, light and laughter.  And mead.  You can never forget the mead.

Drawing Up A Storm

I’m on new medication.  It is working.

How do I know?

Because I recently did this:

LastUnicorn

And this:

DoctorStitch

And I’m working on tons more!  The hits just keep on coming.  So blogging has taken a back seat to drawing, but if you are interested in finding me and my artwork, here are a couple links:

https://www.facebook.com/JKDoerffer – On facebook for updates and fun previews (also to buy any artwork)

http://jkdoerffer.deviantart.com/ – If you are on Deviant Art, here’s a great place to see my gallery.

There isn’t much…yet.  I’m hoping to build up a good stock and do some shows – and save up to buy one of these:

A Cintiq.  Oh, how many t-shirt designs could I make with that!  🙂  Karen Hallion – the artist at the link above, is such an inspiration to me.  I love her work but she represents someone I could be, should I apply myself.

I’m looking forward to sharing more of my work with you in the future!

Depressed And Tired

“Others imply that they know what it is like to be depressed because they have gone through a divorce, lost a job, or broken up with someone. But these experiences carry with them feelings. Depression, instead, is flat, hollow, and unendurable. It is also tiresome. People cannot abide being around you when you are depressed. They might think that they ought to, and they might even try, but you know and they know that you are tedious beyond belief: you are irritable and paranoid and humorless and lifeless and critical and demanding and no reassurance is ever enough. You’re frightened, and you’re frightening, and you’re “not at all like yourself but will be soon,” but you know you won’t.”
― Kay Redfield JamisonAn Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

I am depressed, and I am lonely.

People will ask me how I’m doing and I’ll always reply “fine” when I really want to break down into exhausted sobs until my body falls and my brain shuts down.

People will ask me what’s going on and I will say, “oh, nothing.”  When really I want to scream and yell in frustration and break open my soul for them to peer inside.

But I don’t.

I smile and chirp cheerfully about weather, or comics, or my son.

I’ve gotten good after all these years at faking it.  Faking interest.  Faking happiness.  Faking being well.

It’s hard for me to read positive thinking threads – where people are learning to love themselves, their lives, their bodies.

I can’t fathom what it’s even like to LIKE those things, let alone love them.

I’m so goddamn tired.  I want to sleep as much as possible because in my dreams it’s not like this.  In my dreams I’m a Ghostbuster or a Time Traveller or something equally as cool.

Unless I’m having nightmares.  Then I don’t want to sleep at all.

It’s so damn hard for me to put this down in writing.  To express what it’s like to feel worthless all the fucking time.  To look in the mirror and hate oneself so much.  To drown my depression in food and slowly kill myself with obesity.  To avoid drinking and smoking because I know, I fucking know, I would drown myself there too.

I feel like my marriage is falling apart because I’m this big ball of fucked up ness.  I feel like I’m failing my son because I just can’t seem to get a handle on anything.  I think I’ve managed to keep the worst of it from him so far but….

And I’m so FUCKING TERRIFIED that if I do open up, that I do start seeing someone that there will be repercussions.  They’ll deem me an unfit mother and take me away from my Bean.  I’m a depressed mom, someone who possibly has bipolar, and we aren’t painted kindly in the media.

Bean is my only sunshine.  He’s the only thing that keeps me gripping so tightly to the attempt at a “normal” life.  He gets my genuine smiles and all my patience and my love.  He is my touchstone to the future where I’m stable and happy and drawing again.

Gods, I miss drawing.

I don’t even know what do do anymore.  I don’t know how lost I am … and I don’t know when there will be a “coming out the other side”.   Trying to get help is a long and drawn out process.  Three months I have been waiting to see someone.  I want to find someone I can forge a professional relationship with, someone with whom I’ll feel safe, someone that can help guide me back from the edge.  I’m so tired of being shunted around from place to person to place.

The depression, the loneliness, the anxiety and the anger…it’s eating me up inside.  I can’t cover it forever but for my Bean I will keep swimming.  I’ll keep my head just above water so that I can still breathe and I will begin my long swim back to shore.

Because even though I think I’m not worth it, I know that he IS.

“In every way that counted, I was dead. Inside somewhere maybe I was screaming and weeping and howling like an animal, but that was another person deep inside, another person who had no access to the lips and face and mouth and head, so on the surface I just shrugged and smile and kept moving. If I could have physically passed away, just let it all go, like that, without doing anything, stepped out of life as easily as walking through a door I would have done. But I was going to sleep at night and waking in the morning, disappointed to be there and resigned to existence.” 
― Neil GaimanFragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders

Sitting In Mental Health Limbo

About 5 years ago I had a complete breakdown and ended up living in the local mental health ward for two weeks.

During that time I was seen by three different doctors and a dozen stern (but awesome) nurses all trying to piece me back together and figure out what broke me apart in the first place.

I have a history of depression and anxiety.  Sure, not much of it is on paper.  I didn’t talk about it, didn’t even think there was anything wrong, and drowned myself in drugs and alcohol and bad relationships.  Not many people know about the darkness I faced a few times.  Even fewer know about the other things I do to get through the day.

And I broke.  Life got too much and my body shut down to stop the screaming in my brain.

I believe I had my first manic episode in the hospital.  Bi polar was written down along with “generalized anxiety disorder” and “borderline personality disorder”.

I took part in the outpatient program.  Seeing a nurse and a psychiatrist.  Borderline personality disorder won out in the end.  

But 5 years later and I’m still not well.  I drift along experiencing life with a kind of “meh” mixed with often crippling anxiety.  The only time I feel happy and relatively normal is when I’m with my baby.  I’m down so much of the time though that when I think I’m happy it’s not the kind of happy I think I should feel.  I wonder, if I’m so low these days that when I am “manic” that it just comes across as normal?

I thought at first I had some sort of late-onset postpartum anxiety and depression.  I’m on the lowest dose of cipralex for the anxiety and have been throughout my pregnancy – but it’s not working for this.  It’s not working for the part of me that has been struggling all these years.  

I finally convinced my doctor to refer me to a psychiatrist.  He was one of the ones I saw briefly in the hospital.  He was aware of my case and had reviewed my history.  He listened to my “new” symptoms and nodded.

He wrote down Bi-polar.

He believes I was misdiagnosed.

I asked my hubby about it and he looked at me thoughtfully.  “I thought you were bi-polar 5 years ago.” He knows me best of all and has watched all my ups and downs.

My regular doctor is arguing this find.  She has, in her notes, borderline personality disorder.

They often get misdiagnosed as one another.  Here’s a quick what’s the difference blurb:

From Psycology Today

Bipolar disorder causes dramatic mood swings, from overly “high” and/or irritable to sad and hopeless, and then back again, often with periods of normal mood in between. Severe changes in energy and behavior go along with these changes in mood. The periods of highs and lows are called episodes of mania and depression.

A cycle is the period of time it takes for a person to go through one episode of mania and one of depression. The frequency and duration of these cycles vary from person to person, from once every five years to once every three months. People with a subtype of bipolar (rapid–cycling bipolar) may cycle more quickly, but much less quickly than people with BPD (shifts can even last minutes/seconds).

According to Dr. Friedel, director of the BPD program at Virginia Commonwealth University, there are two main differences between BPD and bipolar disorder:

1. People with BPD cycle much more quickly, often several times a day.

2. The moods in people with BPD are more dependent, either positively or negatively, on what’s going on in their life at the moment. Anything that might smack of abandonment (however far fetched) is a major trigger.

3. In people with BPD, the mood swings are more distinct. Marsha M. Linehan, professor of psychology at the University of Washington, says that while people with bipolar disorder swing between all-¬encompassing periods of mania and major depression, the mood swings typical in BPD are more specific. She says, “You have fear going up and down, sadness going up and down, anger up and down, disgust up and down, and love up and down.

Another difference is that Bi-Polar is, as far as my research shows, is a chemical thing.  There’s something going on upstairs that isn’t right.  And BPD is a psychosis – something that is up with the personality and psyche and can be worked on with cognitive behavioral therapy.  Not to say that the therapy can’t be helpful to Bipolar people but I know, for me, it wasn’t – and if the chemicals are still wrong in my brain no amount of therapy is going to fix it.

So I’ve got differing diagnosis now and I’m sitting in mental health limbo.  My reg doctor, who can help me with the meds, doesn’t agree with the Bipolar one and is questioning it.  The other doctor thinks it’s Bi polar (and thought so 5 years ago) but the meds he prescribed have terrifying side effects and aren’t breastfeeding friendly.  I need my reg doctor to change the meds to another mood stabilizer but she won’t because …. well you see the circle.

Not to mention I can’t really afford these medications, and I want to apply to get some help from the government until our situation improves, but until the doctors agree I can’t.

So here I sit.  Depressed and possibly on the wrong medication.  I am on a wait list to go see a nurse with the outpatient program.  I might get in before April.  If I’m lucky.

I’m confused and frustrated.  I am having trouble dealing with day to day life.  My tolerance is super low for anybody but my baby boy.  I have no energy and have to fight every morning with myself to just get dressed and walk out the door.  

I really need something to give.  I just have to make sure it isn’t me.

Confession Of A Medicated Woman

I have a confession to make.  

I have asthma coupled with severe allergies.  I’ve battled this disease since I was a child with many doctors weighing in on how to best control the symptoms.  It was decided that early on I would have to be medicated in order to keep breathing.

There were so many different kinds of medications I’ve lost count.  Some worked ok.  Some made the symptoms worse.  And some…some I had horrible side effects with.  Like vomiting and nausea.  I was told by my Dr to just keep using them – the side effects would go away eventually.  Finally we settled on a combination that works for my specific type of asthma.  Ventolin inhalers as needed with Advair to back it up.

Sometimes I’m angry.  Angry that I can’t live without this medicine.  Angry that I can’t be just a NORMAL person who breathes without difficulty.  Who can play sports and cuddle with kittens without fear of hospitilization.

Mostly though I’m ashamed.  I’m afraid to talk about my health issues in public for fear of judgement.  So many times I see posts from people with similar problems asking for help and there is a resounding cry that they can just “work through it” and that medication isn’t really needed.  When I was in grade six I had a gym teacher who believed I could just “walk off” my asthma after gym class.  It took a severe attack for my parents to remove me from that class – an attack that I nearly died from.

According to statistics Canada 8.5 % of the population aged 12 and over have been diagnosed with asthma.  More common during childhood, asthma affects more than 13% of Canadian children.

So I’m not alone.  There are many others like me.  So why does society view having asthma as something I can just “get over”?  Why am I constantly asked how long I’m going to have to be medicated and whether or not I really need the inhalers?  Some even feel the drug companies are to blame and I’m not really sick.  They just want to have me on inhalers so I’m easier to control by the corporations/governments.

I see people telling pregnant or breastfeeding women to “go off their inhalers” due to misinformation about the danger to the baby – despite the fact the mother may be a danger to herself without them.

No wonder I, and many others, are ashamed of their asthma.  Why we hide it.

If I have an attack in public I just tell people that I’ve got a slight cold.  I turn away from people if I have to take my inhaler so they won’t know I’m sick.  I don’t talk about it much online so that I won’t incure the judgement of the internet.

Sometimes I’m afraid to get help for my asthma thinking I’ll be judged.  That my friends and family won’t understand or think I’m a burden and abandon me.  That the doctors won’t think I’m sick enough to warrant medical attention.  It can be so difficult to admit I need help no matter how hard it is for me to breathe.

I live in a society where there is a stigma against asthmatics – especially those who are on inhalers.  Where we are judged from all sides and shamed into silence.  Where we suffer and often times don’t find the help and support we need in time.

………….Wait a minute.  Asthma is a serious illness.  I shouldn’t be ashamed and this is just ridiculous.  Is it though?  Let’s re-write this post with what it’s actually about.

I have a confession to make.

I have an anxiety disorder coupled with depression.  I’ve battled this disease since I was a teenager with many doctors weighing in on how to best control the symptoms.  It was decided that I would have to be medicated in order to keep functioning.

There were so many different kinds of medications I’ve lost count.  Some worked ok.  Some made the symptoms worse.  And some…some I had horrible side effects with.  Like vomiting and nausea.  I was told by my Dr to just keep using them – the side effects would go away eventually.  Finally we settled on a combination that works for my specific type of anxiety.  Ciprolex with the occasional prescription of Prozac if my depression got too bad.

Sometimes I’m angry.  Angry that I can’t function without these pills.  Angry that I can’t be just a NORMAL person who controls their emotions without difficulty.  Who can deal with stress and major life events without fear of hospitalization.

Mostly though I’m ashamed.  I’m afraid to talk about my mental health issues in public for fear of judgement.  So many times I see posts from people with similar problems asking for help and there is a resounding cry that they can just “work through it” and that medication isn’t really needed.  When I was in my twenties I believed it and almost did something irreversible.  I could have died.

According to the World Health Organization depression effects 350 million people worldwide. CAMH says anxiety disorders effect one in ten people.

So I’m not alone.  There are many others like me.  So why does society view having depression and anxiety as something I can just “get over”?  Why am I constantly asked how long I’m going to have to be medicated and whether or not I really need the pills?  Some even feel the drug companies are to blame and I’m not really sick.  They just want to have me on the pills so I’m easier to control by the corporations/governments.

I see people telling pregnant or breastfeeding women to “go off their meds” due to misinformation about the danger to the baby – despite the fact the mother may be a danger to herself (or others) without them.  They quote sources that aren’t even close to being scientific.

No wonder I, and many others, are ashamed of their mental health issues.  Why we hide them.

If I have an attack in public I just tell people that I’m having an asthma attack or allergies.  I turn away from people if I have to cry or hyper ventilate so they won’t know I’m sick.  I don’t talk about it much online so that I won’t incur the judgement of the internet.

Sometimes I’m afraid to get help for my anxiety or depression thinking I’ll be judged.  That my friends and family won’t understand or think I’m a burden and abandon me.  That the doctors won’t think I’m sick enough to warrant seeing me.  It can be so difficult to admit I need help no matter how hard it is for me to function.

I live in a society where there is a stigma against mental health – especially those who are on pills.  Where we are judged from all sides and shamed into silence.  Where we suffer and often times don’t find the help and support we need in time.

……

Did your feelings change when you read the re-write?  Many people’s do.  The point is summed up in one simple sentence.

Everyone, PLEASE, stop shaming those on medication for their mental health issues.

If you wouldn’t tell an asthmatic to stop taking their inhalers, if  you wouldn’t tell a diabetic to stop their insulin, DON’T tell someone with depression, anxiety or any other mental health issue to stop their medication.

What people need is support and understanding.  Patience and empathy.  Help them know that they are not being judged and that they are still worthy of your time and love.

With better support at home and in their community things do get better.  I’m living proof.

Someday I’ll talk more about my mental health journey.  The self-medication, the hospitalization, the attempts at…well, we’ll get there.  I know that without that one little pill I take every night each day would be substantially harder.  I wouldn’t find joy in my precious baby and would spend my time agonizing over “what ifs” instead of focusing on “what is”.  That one pill helps me be better and manage my illness and really, is that such a bad thing?

inhalerpills

Missing: Inner Artist

When I was little my parents indulged my flights of fancy when it came to classes and sports.  I tried various types of dance (ballet, tap), various sports (baseball, soccer) and other types of activities.  They discovered early on that I got bored or frustrated easily with almost everything I tried – except art.  I always stuck with my art classes until the bitter end and then begged for more.  Drawing, painting, sculpting – it didn’t matter.  If I was allowed freedom and creativity I was in.

Art was my saviour in grade seven and eight when I attended a religious school and was horribly bullied.  Through art and poetry I gained the favour of a wonderful teacher and made it through to high school with my creative confidence intact.  Though everything else was shattered through her support of my art and writing I knew, at least, I wasn’t completely worthless.

Outside of school I explored many different types of art but it was cartooning and animation that peaked my interest.  I loved anything Disney and dreamt of one day working in their studios.  When The Lion King came out I saw it many times in theatres.  One particular time I was so overwhelmed during the opening I began to cry.  “What’s wrong?” asked one of my friends.  Through tears I sobbed that I wanted to be the one to make something so spectacular.

I drew comics at home.  Mostly detective comics with anthropomorphic dogs and raccoons.  (Dog City and TailSpin were on TV at the time).  When I wasn’t drawing or hanging with friends I was watching cartoons on TV.  While other teen girls drowned themselves in the drama of 90210 I was hurrying home to catch the latest Darkwing Duck.  When Dawson’s Creek was in it’s heyday I was obsessed with Animaniacs.  I loved animation.  I lived and breathed animation.

In school I was exploring different media.  I was trying to “say something” with my art but I never really quite got the gist of subtlety.  Instead of something where the meaning is hidden through symbolism I usually painted dead whales to make a point about over-fishing.  It worked but wasn’t really what the teacher wanted.  Also I attended a high school where art was the lowest of the low.  The Principal hated the arts (unless it was Drama which made him money every year with a show) and only thought English, Math and Science was useful. I’ll never forget being pulled into his office during his “talk” with the seniors about their futures.  He sat me down and asked me what I wanted to do with my life.  “An animator or a comic artist” I said proudly.  He told me that it was a useless endeavor and that I should concentrate on math and get a real job.

My parents continued to support my quest for a better arts education though and outside of school I began taking classes that would ensure my entrance into the school of my choice.

One of those classes was Life Drawing.  It’s important to learn to draw the human figure and the best way to do that was to draw them naked.  They had to sign a release as I was only 16 when I signed up for my first course.  I was to take my supplies and go to the local art center where I would draw a model on my own without instruction.  Let me tell you about my poor 16 year old innocent virgin self’s first experience life drawing.  It’s a doozy of a story.

So there’s about 8 of us in the room.  A couple older ladies, a couple younger girls like myself and a few middle aged men.  The model comes in.  It’s a man.  There’s a box in the center of all of us and he disrobes and climbs up on it.  He’s posing with his arms crossed above his head and is standing tall.  It’s a longer pose so we all get to the business of drawing this naked man. As time wears on I notice that the part I was trying so hard not to stare at is … moving.  Rising, in fact.  I stop drawing and the girls beside me start to giggle.  At this point he’s got a full on erection and I’m not sure what to do.  I mean…do I draw it?  Leave it off?  Draw a leaf?  Then … all of a sudden … he SHOOTS IT.  That’s right.  He ejaculates.  He still doesn’t move.  I leave the room.  So do the other girls.  We go to the bathroom and start LAUGHING hysterically.  I mean, none of us had even SEEN A GUY NAKED before that night and here we are getting a demonstration on ejaculation.  One of the elderly women gets all huffy on our behalf and complains.  I decide to leave and go home for the evening.

So yeah.  Anyways needless to say I didn’t tell my parents about that particular event and I left the flying sperm off my drawings from that evening.

Ok, back to the original thread of this story.

I guess the point of this back-story is that I’ve always from my earliest memories had this drive to create.  To do art.  I dreamed big and thought I would, by this point in my life, be creating something for Disney or some other animation company.  I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when I lost those dreams but I know that it was sometime during the downward spiral of booze, boys and drugs after my failure to get into Sheridan’s animation program.  I guess I just gave up.

Sure, over the last few years I’ve done some stuff.  My ability and drive to create comes in and out of my life depending on my situation.  If I’m having a hard time with depression and anxiety – I just don’t draw.  I put away that part of myself that creates.

I don’t know what kind of an artist I’m supposed to be.  I don’t know where that fire and passion went.  Perhaps the candle has finally been snuffed out because I just don’t know if I can draw anymore.  I pick up a pencil and stare and stare and stare at that paper until I finally begin to shake with sadness and frustration.  It’s like a part of my soul has been locked away and I’ve forgotten where I put the key.  I knew once but now I forgot.  It’s frustrating.  And I’m sad that all those dreams, all those hopes – they are all gone.

I know right now I’m super busy and I know right now I’m suffering some PPD and anxiety and I know I created life and it was awesome.  But something is bugging me.  If I’m not Dee the artist…then what am I?

A part of my identity is missing and I don’t know how to get it back.

I did this in 2004 - never able to replicate the style.

I did this in 2004 – never able to replicate the style.

She’s a Rambling

Apropos of nothing, here’s a video of adorable Japanese mascot commercials.  Just because.

I’m 33 weeks and counting.  My feet are still swollen so much that the only shoes I’m wearing are flip flops despite the colder spring weather.  Babybean has gone from movements only I can feel to protruding limbs that everyone can see.  It’s something else to sit and watch your belly ripple and bumpy bits of flesh poke out of it while you have no control over anything in that area.  I’m not sure I like the sensation but I am fascinated by it.  Even Fatherbean gets to see the show once in awhile if he can drag his ass away from TV Tropes on the internet long enough to take an interest.  I’m freaking tired ALL THE TIME now.  No energy to do even the simple tasks.  Which is pissing me off as the nursery isn’t even clean let alone finished painted and I don’t have time to do it with work draining every last inch of my sanity and…and…*cries*.  Oh, yeah, the crying.  Lots of it.  I have reason to be but also, GAGH.  Too much.

Agis is gone and I miss him.  Spitha is still here and being awesome but I do miss the youthful energy that Agis brought to the house.  Agis isn’t doing well in his new foster home and is having aggression issues.  They will have their work cut out for them and for awhile it looked as if he was going to be shipped off yet again – which set me off into a world of despair that had me anxiously thinking I’d let him go to his doggy death – but thankfully a dog behaviorist has stepped up to the plate and things are progressing slowly.  I feel horrible and guilty and like I failed him.  But I had to do what was best for him and for my family and need to take solace in the fact I did just that.

I’m also on some meds.  Cipralex to be exact.  Just a bit to start and it seems to be working.  I’m less anxious and other than normal pregnancy stuff seem to be taking small steps to enjoying this last couple months.  Also the Dr overseeing my therapy sessions with the Comorbidity Clinician reminds me of David Tenant’s Dr Who.  Seriously.  He’s young and talks JUST LIKE DR WHO.  Even Fatherbean agrees.

Now, I just need to get that room done.  Oh yeah, I’ve also been crafting – painting things and knitting things for baby – so I’m feeling a bit more accomplished.  Today was a “sick” day from work (thanks to a killer migraine this morning) and I managed to finish painting Babybean’s step stool tonight.  And eat ice cream.  That was the important part.

I want to try and get back into my blogging groove though it’s hard.  The energy being sapped from me often leaves me speechless or unable to communicate.  With the pills settling in and life taking a turn for the better though I think I can get back into the swing of it.