Depression and Cancer

I never liked to hear that depression is like a cancer of the mind. I am a mental health advocate and a firm believer that mental illness is in fact an illness, not just moods. I never corrected someone for comparing depression to cancer as I know how hard it is to describe to those who haven’t had it. But I simply did not understand the link. Cancer is cancer, depression is depression, right? Well today I got it. I suddenly understood the link.

Hubby is fighting stage 4 cancer right now. He went to the doctor this morning who said “you don’t seem yourself today, are you feeling alright?” He said no, and tried to explain but couldn’t quite put it into words. They did see that he was dehydrated so got him hooked up to some fluids. They tried to talk and help while he was at the office. But eventually he needed to go home.

Worried about why the doctor kept him late I came home early from work and found him half asleep in bed. I asked how he felt. He said he didn’t feel well, but wasn’t sure why. He described his day. That the fluids didn’t really help him feel better but it’s good he got them. That he kind of just doesn’t want to move. I asked “is it kind of like the exhaustion and aches that come from the flu but without the actual flu?” Kind of, that sounds a little similar. “Does it overwhelm your body but dull your mind?” Yeah. And I just want to sleep. I don’t want to keep getting up and facing these things. I just want to lay here. I don’t feel good. “Honey, that’s depression.”

As the husband of someone with Borderline he has heard me say so many times “I physically feel my emotions.” But I don’t think that really registered until today, when I put a name to his ache. I explained that it becomes overwhelming and takes over. That he needs to start going to therapy and get back on an antidepressant. He wasn’t quite convinced, though I could tell he was listening. So I went on.

Depression starts in the brain, your mind feels it and starts spreading it. What started as some chemicals in one part of your body is spreading to other parts and making them sick. If not treated it will not just go away. It will spread through you and overwhelm your body just as your tumors are. And that’s when it hit me. Depression is like cancer.

Depression starts in one place. It begins mild but is often ignored which allows it to grow. Untreated it will continue to grow and spread until it overwhelms your body and drastically decreases your quality of life. My husband had mild symptoms of cancer that were ignored. Untreated the cancer cells continued to grow and spread until it was discovered that he had tumors covering his colon, liver, and lungs. The cancer overwhelmed his body and drastically decreased his quality of life. But cancer kills, depression doesn’t, right? Wrong. If he doesn’t get treatment and this depression continues to grow it is possible it can take his life before the cancer has a chance to. And that scares me more than anything.

I get it now. I get the comparison. I likely still won’t use this comparison, but not because I don’t get it. As someone who has faced severe depression and not understood the comparison, I can only imagine how hard it would be for someone who has never faced depression to comprehend the link here. So I’ll stick with other variations to try to explain what depression is, and what it does. But today I gained new insight, and better understood others in the way they describe things. And for that I am glad. I’m happy to better understand them and the intelligence and logic behind their explanation. And I’m glad to have enough insight to help hubby get the treatment he needs for mind and body.

That is the worst idea you have had

When your therapist of 3 years, the women who has seen you through panic attacks, self harm, suicidal ideation, and lord knows what else says “that is the worst idea you have had.” You should probably listen šŸ˜¬

So what was this terrible idea? I went off my meds. That may not seem like much, but remember all the lovely things mentioned in the first sentence? That was during a period of time I spent months arguing with her that I didn’t need medication. Followed by a month of trying to stabilize on my new medications, some of that time spent in a psych hospital. She helped me understand that I need meds, helped me find a good psychiatrist after I had had so many bad ones in the past, she helped keep me safe from myself while I worked to find the right blend, and she helped me understand that the meds bring me to a baseline where I can then work on my self care to become healthy and stable beyond that point.

Recently someone at the office started telling everyone that I don’t care about things. Suddenly rumors where flying around that I am heartless, that I don’t care about my work or my team. This started spreading out of control until someone started trying to tell others I should be fired so they can have someone that actually cares. As someone with Borderline Personality Disorder I’d never been told I don’t care. I’m told I care too much, I care when I shouldn’t, I am too emotional, that I need to shut it off. My whole world shifted as I began to hear these strange rumors and I panicked.

I knew the “issue” was that I was stable, and that I wear an emotional mask on top of that. I also knew that I wasn’t going to lower that mask, so the only way to show emotions through it was to stop being stable. So for the next two weeks I cut my antidepressant and mood stabilizer dosages in half. When I didn’t end up completely crazy after that I just stopped taking them altogether. I went against my better judgement. I went against the advice I give others to never adjust your meds without first speaking to your doctor. I went against the advice I give myself, to talk over decisions I know are probably wrong with my therapist before doing stupid things. I panicked, so I ignored everything but the rumors at the office and I screwed myself up worse.

So at last Monday’s appointment we discussed the issues I’m going through right now, and eventually got to the dreaded question:

“How are your meds working?”

“I’m not taking them.”

Pause… “When did you last see your Psychiatrist?”

“About 3 or 4 months ago?”

“So she doesn’t know you stopped taking them?”

“No.”

“How long have you been off your meds?”

“A week, I was on half dose for 2 weeks before that.”

Pause…. “Why?”

“They were making me stable so people thought I didn’t care. I needed stronger emotions at work or everyone would hate me!”

Longer pause (probably an effort to regain the peace she had found while meditating that morning before I had come in and ruined it) “That… that is the worst idea you have had.”

“They want to fire me!”

“You can’t just stop your meds.”

“I can’t be stable right now, they hate me at work!”

“Do you hear yourself?”

“Yes. But I don’t care. I need my job.”

“You are more important than just a job. You need to be stable for you and your husband and your kids. You need to be on your meds.”

So I’m back on my meds. I’m feeling better, more clear, more calm. But I still have moments of desperate desire to be off them. To let my crazy take control. I don’t know where this desire is coming from exactly, I don’t think it is just from work though that was certainly a catalyst. But something in me says I shouldn’t be stable. And this is a new fight for me, one I don’t know how to face.

When I was young and refused to acknowledge depression as a medical condition, or that I had anything more than seasonal depression, I would refuse meds or go off of them because I shouldn’t need them. I’ve fought that battle and moved beyond it. I’ve learned to ignore the occasional thoughts my brain throws at me trying to convince me of that lie. But this is a new lie. My mind says the meds are working, and they’re needed, but that I should stop anyway. I recognize the truth of my illness and my treatment, and something is telling me not to be treated. To let the symptoms take over. I don’t know what that is. I don’t know how to fight it. Have any of you fought that before? The idea that you can be stable but shouldn’t?

My boss has Borderline Personality Disorder – Part 2

Every month the amount of people coming to the blog to find out how to deal with their BPD boss grows. For every one of you coming here to try to find out how to deal with someone that has BPD I want to hug you! Part of that may be my overly sensitive emotions and tendency towards inappropriate relationships, but more so it’s because I can see you’re going through a difficult time with someone you’re stuck with all day. That is an extremely difficult thing to deal with.

Something I mention in my first post about this topic is that you can’t change the person. That if it gets too bad then maybe look for a new job. Which is entirely unfair. I can hear the “that’s ridiculous!” and “That’s unfair!” and “Why should I be the one to change?!” screams coming through as I read my own words. And to these I respond, “yes” and “it is” and “you shouldn’t”. So why then do I leave that advice there?

The fact is we can’t control other people. We can only control ourselves. I’m not saying that the tough manager shouldn’t be held responsible. Everyone should be held responsible for their actions. But you can’t control your boss any more than I can control you. So then the question may come up of why their manager isn’t doing something about it. Maybe you can’t control them, but certainly their boss can hold them responsible, right? To which I argue, who says they’re not?

I recently fired someone, and ya know what? It took over a year. In a large corporation an HR department needs strong documentation of what the issue is, how it effects the team, how it effects the business, and proof that the employee has been made aware and given all necessary tools to change. If that can be proven and the changes have not been made, then the person can be let go. I was stuck in a situation where the employee did not work in the same office as me and I had to rely on others to provide feedback. If they didn’t then I had nothing to go off of. I needed proof that the employee was not improving despite the additional discussions, warnings, and trainings she had received. There were people who wondered why I wasn’t doing anything, but refused to provide feedback at the same time. I was doing site visits, asking for feedback, documenting everything possible. I was assigning training classes, following up, and more. I was stuck with a system that needed people to speak to me and people that refused to speak.

The manager of your BPD manager might be doing things that you aren’t aware of. Maybe they’re tying to document and people aren’t speaking up. Maybe they don’t know. Maybe they’re in process providing new trainings and looking to see if it helps. We don’t know what’s happening behind closed doors. We can’t assume.

So along with taking ownership of your actions, make sure to document things and speak to your bosses boss when needed. Do so tactfully and in detail. Don’t speak on mental illness, that will make things far messier. Instead speak on specific examples of things that took place. It may take time to see improvement, but that doesn’t mean that the person isn’t being held responsible for their actions.

Here’s some examples of how to provide feedback:

Instead of “She just doesn’t understand boundaries” say “I stated last week that I am uncomfortable with her hugging, and yet she has continued to hug me.” Notice how the first statement is vague and could mean she walked past you too close for all we know. That will barely get a reaction from the big boss. The second statement, however, is an ethics violation and potentially sexual harassment. The person you report that to has to immediately follow up with some form of action.

Instead of “She has a bad temper” say “She began yelling at me in front of the team yesterday. I felt embarrassed and struggled to focus on my work the rest of the day.” The first statement could be her temper or your thin skin, no way for an outside party to know. The second statement is clearly her reacting poorly to a situation in a way that negatively impacted your work and employee moral. The first statement makes a manger want to say “work it out” while the second is likely to prompt a verbal warning if it’s the first documented offense or written warning if it’s been documented before.

Sometimes this still won’t make things change. I don’t know why, I’m not there. And it may still come to a point where you have to leave because the environment isn’t getting better. I get that. I’ve been there. I had a boss that had extremely high turnover and had a way of making her boss believe that it was because she had developed them for great things, when everyone who worked for her knew it’s because we’re all trying to get away from her. I attempted to provide feedback, my manager knew I might so never had anything in email. It was my word against hers and hers always won. I tried to switch teams and was told that I needed to learn how to work with others, and would not be allowed to work for anyone else. Meanwhile this boss was treating me and many others horribly. I left the company. They lost my skills and experience because of her. I was not the first, nor will I be the last. Last I heard from a previous coworker, her relationship with her boss doesn’t seem to be quite the same. She’s not on such a high pedestal, she’s not getting to run her team however she wants anymore, and her work is being more closely monitored. Enough people provided enough similar, and constructive, feedback that it’s finally being looked into. But not until after I had to get out.

Also keep in mind the potential for your boss to change. I recently called an employee “sweetie”. A habit of mine outside the office that accidentally slipped at the office. He reported it to my boss who mentioned it to me. Not only am I being more careful what I say to him, I am more careful what I say in general. I need to change to ensure my team feels comfortable at work. Whether the change is before or after an employee leaves, it is possible.

I’m wishing you all the best in your career! Please remember that things can get better and less stressful even if it requires tough choices to be made.

Iā€™m back… kind of

Sorry for my sudden disappearance. Life went a little crazy all of a sudden. And by “a little crazy” I mean we moved, I started a new job, and my husband was diagnosed with cancer all within the span of a week. I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to focus and keep things moving. So I plan to get back to posting on a semi regular basis, but things will be a bit slow.

Gotta be honest… looks like a sock to me

Knitting knitting knitting “ah crap”. That is basically the story of this damn sock.

So in case you’re not following, I am knitting socks right now. Knitting is a coping tool for when my brain monster is taking control, so I’ve been doing it a lot lately. I decided to try a sock again, I’ve never successfully finished one but I was feeling hopeful. Upon finishing the ribbing I noticed a mistake in one of the rows. Looks wonky but not overly noticeable so I kept going. Then I finished everything before the heel, success! Furthest I’ve ever made it! Oh wait, my repeat pattern has a mistake a few rows back. I’m really bad at ripping back and picking up stitches so I’ll let it go.

I finished the heel flap yesterday, so proud of myself! And it was done without mistakes! Yay! Started the heel turn. Got to row 9 before I realized I’d done the whole fucking heel turn wrong.

I burst into tears. Hubby was wondering what was wrong. I held up the sock and said it was all screwed up and I should just give up. He said it looked fine and asked what was wrong with it. I pointed to the mistake in the ribbing, the one in the ankle, and then to the heel turn which would fit only if my heel slanted to the left.

Hubby looked at the sock thoughtfully, examined each part I had pointed to, then calmly looked at me and said “I gotta be honest with you. It looks like a sock to me.” šŸ˜

So I went to bed and am trying again today. I had to rip out the heel turn, but couldn’t successfully pick up the stitches in the heel flap, so had to rip back all the way to the last row before starting the heel. Now to start the damn heel again.

Round 1 goes to sock, but Round 2 shall be mine!

Socks to the rescue!

I’m breaking down, so I am knitting non-stop. I’ve never successfully made socks, and am trying again. Usually I wouldn’t try a new pattern when breaking down, but my current feeling of constant failure requires a victory. So far I’m doing well and it’s definitely helping. If nothing else I’m proud of the fact that I’ve gotten myself to a point that I can fall back on a self care technique.

If we were having coffee…

If we were having coffee we’d be sitting on my couch under my favorite quilts drinking white chocolate mochas that my husband went and got us from Starbucks. Assuming you have bribe money to get him to go to Starbucks for us, it’s a bit cold today so we’ll probably need to pay him pretty good to leave the house.

If we were having coffee we’d be sitting and sipping somewhat quietly as we listen to the History Chicks. I recently stumbled on their podcast and can’t turn it off. We would listen intently until suddenly we’re joining the conversation. Cause Beckett and Susan can hear us through my iPad right? If you haven’t heard them before I highly recommend it! If you even vaguely possibly enjoyed some aspect of history, then ignore the child in your brain yelling “but I don’t want to memorize dates for a test!” and put it on. You’ll thank me.

If we were having coffee we would just be relaxing. Last week was a hard one and this week doesn’t look too promising. But today is good. It’s quiet, just the right amount of cold outside (if you don’t listen to my husband), and nothing else need exist. Just us, coffee, and podcasts.

If we were having coffee…

If we were having coffee we would be drinking it and munching some bacon. Hubby’s making bacon right now and the whole house smells yummy.

If we were having coffee you would notice that I’m making my way out of a depression. I still have those days of “I can’t do this anymore.” But I also have days of “wow, I accomplished things!” So I’m clinging to those days to get me through the tougher ones. I’m crafting more and talking more, but still fairly exhausted most days. I’m getting there. And I appreciate y’all being around even when I struggle to write.

If we were having coffee we would color or knit or something else that keeps our hands busy and our minds light. Bring whatever craft you want, but don’t worry if you don’t have one. I have a fairly large collection of colored pencils, and tons of yarn. Maybe we’ll learn to finger knit together!

Broken Heart

I was 13 and you cancelled our plans again, and it broke my heart.

I was 14 and you took me to dinner because my brother told you you didn’t spend enough time with me. You promised to do better. You didn’t. And it broke my heart.

I was 15 and hadn’t seen you in months and you heard from a family member I was in therapy. You called to find out why, saying you feared that you had “screwed me up.” You didn’t understand my depression or how to even try to speak to me about it and it broke my heart.

I was 16 and you tried to make decisions for me on driving, school, and work. You felt being right was more important than acknowledging your x-wife might have better ideas. It broke my heart.

I was 17 and angry with you. Speaking less, doing less, avoiding you more. And you didn’t notice. Didn’t try to bring back the communication. And it broke my heart.

I was 26 and hadn’t seen you in 2 years. I decided not to be angry, just to accept. The decision broke my heart.

I was 30 and trying to give you time to spend with your grandkids. We were pushed away by your new wife who told me to leave. I saw the look on your face as you felt hopeless to stop her. That look broke my heart.

Last week I cancelled our plans, as infrequent as they are. You had been drinking and I was exhausted. I choose to stay away. You say it broke your heart, that I would cancel on you. But why should it take you this long to feel our distance? Why have you not seen the countless ways you have not been my father these many years? And why, upon hearing your pain, is it again my heart that breaks?

If we were having coffee…

If we were having coffee I’d be complaining that it’s not cold enough here to be fall. I want to knit for winter, but can’t bring myself to knit because it’s not fall weather yet. šŸ˜­

If we were having coffee we’d be calmly hanging out in my living room. It’s a lazy day. Even with the caffeine I’ve got no energy, and no desire to get energy. The whole week has been go go go and I’m very happy to be lazy. Except that I’m hungry and don’t want to get off the couch to cook. So you’re totally going to bring over some food, right?

If we were having coffee I’d ask how your week was. I feel like I’ve been too trapped in mine and have ignored you. I don’t want to ignore you, you are all so special to me. So comment on your week, good or bad, I want to hear from you. šŸ’•šŸ’•šŸ’•