Celebrating 1 Year Blogging

I’m proud to say I’ve now been blogging about my struggles with mental health and illness for a year. This year has been wrought with both ups and downs but through it all I’ve had the chance to write about mental health issues important to me and for this I am overwhelmingly thankful.

Having the chance to write about mental illness, grief, health, love, creativity, healing, chronic pain, and perseverance has allowed me to capture many of the insights into health and illness that might otherwise have passed through my mind without sticking. I have had a chance to pause and reflect on what I’ve learned and all I’ve left to learn. I’m thankful for the opportunity every day.

I have found myself surprised and flattered with the response I’ve received and overwhelmed with the genuine, loving interest about mental illness. In the words of one wise😉 American, “who knew healthcare could be so complicated?”

All kidding aside, I am so pleased my work has managed to offer insight to those on the outside of mental illness trying to be more understanding and empathetic and to those struggling along with me. Destigmatization of mental illness continues to be extremely important to me and this blog represents the contribution I can make to the cause for now. In the future I hope to be able to contribute in a far more impactive manner.

I plan to continue writing whenever I can and I hope that whether my own health is better or worse I can keep on contributing and, hopefully, offering love and support to anyone in need.

Thank you so much for joining me on this journey so far. I hope you will continue to support my future efforts as I appreciate each and every reader more than I can possibly express.

Much love❤❤❤

K

Isolation and Illness 

Isolation due to hurt or illness begins as soon as illness or injury prevents one from participating in activies of choice. The longer one is away from familiar activities the more isolated one can grow to feel. Isolation may become even more pronounced should it be decided one will likely never return to the previous activity of choice.

The persistent plant shown here could easily feel isolated amongst the stones

For me, my life revolved around the sport of curling and building up as much knowledge as possible over 25 years. When it was finally decided that my career in curling would have to end due to injury I cannot begin to describe the loneliness and sense of hopeless isolation this brought. 

Suddenly the network of friends and colleagues I’d spent three quarters of my life building was roughly ripped away from me. Sure, I could visit, but I dreaded the questions and the looks of pity. I also dreaded simply being around what I couldn’t have. It was too painful. To this day there is a giant curling rock shaped hole in my heart.

Illness can also feel physically isolating. Once my back problems began to cause issues with low impact activities like walking, hiking, and biking, I began to feel isolated. I dreaded telling friends and family I couldn’t keep up or had to turn back earlier than planned. 

Did my anxiety and depression develop just because of chronic pain? Probably not. Frankly, a lot of shit has gone down since my initial injury. 

Chronic pain has definitely contributed to my mental illness. That is for sure. I find my mental illness to be isolating as well as it’s still somewhat taboo to talk about and can be difficult to understand if one hasn’t been there.

Others may empathize, in fact, empathy is the best we humans can hope to offer each other as we all have our burdens to bare. What of it when confronted by an individual with an inability to empathize? Is it worth trying to explain or should I just mutter something about my situation being complicated and hope the conversation drops? I’m not entirely sure but in recent years I’ve begun to tend towards the latter.

What has worked for me to combat isolation? I started taking art lessons and practicing at home as well. This gives me some sense of pride and accomplishment and I have started to make a few friends within that community. 

I have started this blog and I find sharing my stories and feelings to be quite cathartic. I can only hope that my blog offers solace, insight, or a sense of understanding and/or camaraderie to readers. 

I try to schedule at least one social outing a week along with my Dr’s appointments so I ensure I get out of the house for fun occasionally. 

I try to schedule something outside my home almost every day, such as simple errands, and brief trips for groceries. This also combats isolation because I must leave home and dwell amongst the living for at least a little while each day.

Most importantly, when I begin to feel isolated I check my schedule and start calling friends and family. Sometimes we just talk and sometimes we make plans. Either way I begin to feel a lot less isolated and far better equipped to cope in general.

K

Summer Girls – Mini Art Series

Summer Girls is a series of women’s faces in dreamy, garden-like scenes. I didn’t set out to create a series. Every time I finish one in the series I can’t wait to draw the next one, it’s already blooming in my mind. I’ve chosen a few of my favourites to show here. 

I have been really enjoying doing sketches like these in pencil crayon and marker. I think the medium as well as the subject matter compel me to keep creating more.

Mentally, especially when I’m in a lot of pain, sketching distracts me enough to keep me sane. Having control over where I can take a piece also gives me a sense of power where, in my life, so much about my situation is beyond my control. 

Please keep in mind I am an absolute amature artist. I’ve been at it since 2012 and taking lessons for the past three years. I try to practice every day and this definitely helps. I look forward to continuing to study and practice visual art.

K

All art featured in the Summer Girls k.perkins 

Crash

My body has been screaming, “no!”, for days now and I must give in and rest. This is what I would call a cumulative pain flare up.

I was lucky enough to have my husband’s sister and brother-in-law and their two boys, ages 3 and 7, stay with us about two and half weeks ago and we had so much fun! I wouldn’t change a thing.

I tried to pace myself but wanted to miss out on as little as possible.My nephews are so beautiful and smart and fun❤😊❤ I wanted to spend as much time with them and their parents as possible. 

After the boys left, along with their patents we had my husband’s Mum stay with us for another week, which was great as we get along so very well.

I began to really notice fatigue, low tolerance for going out, increased pain levels, and general irritability during the past week. My husband and his Mum were kindly indulgent of me and incredibly understanding about my limitations. 

As of yesterday, Mum left for home, and my fatigue finally kicked into high gear. Now for the really tricky part. 

I must take care of myself.

This is so much harder than it sounds. There are dishes in the sink, beds need changing and laundry needs doing. For now I must push these items down far lower on my list and accept rest as a priority activity and not feel inferior or lazy.

I find it hard to admit I’ve pushed too hard. I see  people moving through life at breakneck speed and achieving left and right and I want that back so badly. 

For now I must accept my body’s mandatory invitation to rest for as long as it takes to recover. This flare up will end then I can get back to living a little more and inching forward once again.

K

Contraption Attractions 

While listening to the radio one day I heard about a desk that could transfer from standing, to sitting, to fully reclined. Ears perking up I imagined this contraption potentially helping me and others get back (pun intended) to increased productivity. 

Sit to stand apparatuses help but I run out of steam after an hour at very best. The reclining option would potentially open up a number of possibilities. 

I know most such inventions are simply out of my price range and, perhaps, difficult to accommodate. Still, images of writing, taking courses, gaining time I could spend productively flashed through my mind. 

“This invention is for the laziest people ever,” the DJ followed up with. He and his cohorts went on discussing how lazy a person would have to be to work in a reclined position. 

Tears slid down my cheeks uncontrollably as I processed the perception and judgment this group made. Rationally I knew they just didn’t understand. Ignorance. It still hurt.

My point is, before mocking an invention, before assuming things about the potential consumer, think broadly. Think carefully. Think sensitively. 

Not everything is what it seems at first glance. Keep an open mind and an open heart as empathy is the key to peace and inclusion. 

K

BTW I wrote this piece in a reclined position and I’m glad I was able to.

Chronic Pain Changed how I Plan and it Helps 

I plan differently than others because there are things I didn’t ever consider before my injuries and illness that I must consider now, such as; recovery time, stamina, energy levels, pain levels, other obligations coming up, medication, stretching, rest periods and a partridge in pear tree. 

To give a recent example, I planned to attend a close friend’s wedding in Invermere BC a couple weeks ago. I frequently visit the nearby town of Radium and have an idea of how I generally feel after the 3 hour drive.

So, cotton to patterns past, I booked two nights instead of one. This way we could spend a little more time with friends and I would have more time to rest and recover.

During the two and a half days we were there I socialized more, did more, and had more fun than in a very long time.  I also paid a steep price pain-wise. Recovery for two and a half days was a little over a week.

Please do not misunderstand, I absolutely wanted to be at that wedding and support a longtime gap-pal in every way I possibly could. It was a lovely event and I enjoyed every moment of it. 

In fact,  I managed to help my close friend with a bit of wedding decor, I hot tubbed, ate out at a few restaurants, attended the wedding, and even attempted to dance for one song. I was so thrilled with how I held up and proud for doing something outside my comfort zone.

I didn’t go into the event blindly though. I took the following measures to make sure I was giving myself my best chance to enjoy myself and not be overwhelmed emotionally and/or physically;

1.I scheduled three stops along the drive to stretch and walk and stand a bit as I have great difficulty sitting for any period much beyond 20 minutes. 

 I made sure I did not suffer the whole 3 hour drive without breaks because, from experience, I know it leaves me in an immense amount of physical pain. Choosing to plan breaks set me up for a more energetic start once we arrived. 

2. I stretched. A lot.

3. The bride was kind enough to assign me a few tasks I felt confident doing as I desperately wanted to help but also know I can’t always be relied upon for time-sensitive tasks, or physical labour. 

Being included in the details made me feel as though I had contributed in some way to such a major and happy event in her life – also I owe her big time from my wedding. Let’s just say she literally worked so hard she bled for me and I only paid her with wine😉

4. I scheduled breaks into the wedding day. The event was all held at the same resort so I knew ahead of time I could go lie down in our room during the photography session and some of the pre-dinner mingling. 

I also lay down after the speeches and watching the first few dances. This made such a difference in that I was able to go back to the reception for another hour or two before leaving after getting to see a lot of great friends and check in on their lives❤

5. Most importantly I gave myself permission to take the breaks I needed whenever I needed them without guilt or feeling like a failure for not lasting longer.

Yes, as I mentioned, it took about a week to fully regain pain control and get the extra rest my body wouldn’t let me go without but I’m still calling this a huge win! 

I’m hoping the more I implement planning and reasonable limits into my life the more I can enjoy myself and share enjoyment in the lives of others.

K

Showered with Depression

I wrote this a little while ago and have been very nervous about publishing it as I am rather embarrassed about it. I soon realized I’m just embarrassed by the stigma. If I want to help destigmatize mental illness I have to be brutally honest and candid. So this is me trying to do my part.

Today I showered and washed my hair. It was my first shower in four days and my first hair wash in more than a week.

Disgusting right? I quite agree but I can’t seem to drum up enough energy to give a flying fuck.

I want to care but I just don’t. What’s the point? The chronic pain won’t go away, the depression and anxiety won’t go away, I can’t wash myself away…so I’d rather languish in my own filth.

I can’t explain it because I don’t fully understand why I feel this way. I guess if I have to try; I’d say showering and especially hair washing seem like exhausting feats. I feel like…what’s the point? I’ll just have to do it again and again and again and that seems so ineffectual.

I’ve read up about this, asked an Occupational Therapist about it, asked my psychologist about it and I am comforted knowing certain aversions to various forms of hygiene happen to others suffering from mental illness. HUZZAH! My abnormality is normal!

I’ve identified the problem pattern but I still haven’t figured out a way to get past it inspite of trying many different ideas. I’ve tried using my favorite scented products, playing music, buying pretty loofahs, mindful showering, but I can’t seem to scrub-a-dub-dub my aversion away.

For now I spray on dry shampoo and use extra deodorant, a spritz of perfume and hope this too shall pass. 

If anyone out there has experience with this depressed disinclination towards showers and baths please know you’re not alone. 

If you have methods that have worked for you and others I’m all ears…don’t worry I washed behind them this morning 😉

K