Some of you have noticed my absence on here, and I just wanted to touch base.

As I mentioned in a few posts before, I’ve been in isolation months before this quarantine took effect. I would say that I’ve been a homebody for almost 6 months now. Being home has been a challenge on my mental health, and it’s also taken a toll on my relationship with others.

When things are too much, I generally back away, and that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been trying my best to tread in the shallow water while observing the catastrophes surrounding me.

My husband has been unemployed for 10 months now, and the stress of that has been eating away. With no real start date on when things will turn around for the film industry, it’s been a struggle for us to stay positive. My maternity leave will end soon, and I am shrouded with uncertainty even though I am excited to get back to my old routine. It’s hard for me to fall asleep most nights now because my mind is racing with what-ifs. I am exhausted in more ways than one.

My health isn’t any better, and I am entirely to blame for the majority of it.
I’ve gained back all of the weight that I lost months after giving birth. I am not as active as I once was, and that’s given me a slew of secondary issues that make it hard to find the motivation to get up and go. Walking up and down the stairs with my daughter is leaving me breathless, and I’m on the verge of tears, thinking I won’t be able to catch up to her soon.

I’ve also been dealing with jaw problems and perimenopause symptoms, which are the icing on top of everything else.

I can hear people getting annoyed whenever I bring some of these things up, so I’ve just stopped. I preach about opening up and talking, yet here I am doing the opposite. In the grand scheme of things, complaining seems trivial. Who has time to complain about my relationship with my husband, my extreme exhaustion, or the severe daily hot flashes when there are more significant issues? From my perspective, everyone is going through their own shit, so mine seems mundane.

My heart is heavy for the world.
It’s been a challenge to be an empath during these unprecedented times. I’ve tried to limit my social media or news outlets to get a breather, but that is only good for maybe a day or two.

When I watch my daughter play, my chest gets heavy. My anxiety-ridden mind wonders why I would bring a tiny human into a broken world. Her slobbery kisses generally ground me back, but those thoughts can jump back at any moment.

I’m trying to stay hopeful that things will get better soon, but some days it’s hard to be positive. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking this, so for those who are also struggling: I feel you.

I usually have a hard time falling asleep. Even when I’m exhausted, my anxiety seems to thrive during the night, and it can take me hours to just doze off.

I’ve started to become more conscious of my body while I’m lying down. A lot of my limbs are stiff, clenched hands, crooked neck, etc.
I started to do a big stretch while I’m in bed to help loosen me up, but the real culprit here is my hands/wrists.
When my anxiety washes over, my hands can be found in awkward positions, so I’ve started to lay them flat by my side (or on my stomach) while controlling my breathing.
This act alone has been making me fall asleep almost instantly; I couldn’t believe it.

However, when the anxiety is a little too much some nights, I rely on “Sleep Stories.”

I listen to these through the Calm app, but you can easily find some free ones online.
I find some can be hit or miss, especially the voices of the actors, but with the few that DO help (and are saved in my favourite) they are AH-mazing

Here’s a link to a free one from one of my favourites, Erik Braa – I could seriously listen to him all night

If you do suffer from sleeping disorders, unfortunately, I don’t think my suggestions would help, but it doesn’t hurt to try! When worst comes to worst, I rely on Zzzquil, which is medicinal. There is no shame in needing medication to help you fall asleep

Why is sleep so important?
It helps with your optimal health: concentration, productivity, emotions and social interactions.
Having a poor sleep can affect your weight, immune system and overall mental health.
It might be hard to practice in the middle of a pandemic, but I urge you to try and get in a better routine. Remember, our mental health during this phase is extremely important and we’re all in this together

I have a confession to make – I’ve been in isolation way before our government told us to stay home.

I have a problem with winter; It’s my least favourite season. I hate all outdoor activities that come with it, and the cold chills me to my bone. During this time, I tend to retreat in my house and only make it outside if necessary.
It’s only when the weather takes a turn that I find the motivation to get out, and that just so happened to be when COVID-19 became a global pandemic.

I guess you can say that I’ve been in isolation for four months now, and fuck is it lonely.

I don’t generally cuss on this blog, but I feel like it’s warranted here.

Since my last post, I’ve been watching friends and family afar try to make normalcy out of this chaos. I see almost daily posts of different learning activities parents think of for their children, people getting to chores that they planned months (or even years) ago, and a lot of people baking bread. The scramble for productivity makes me feel as if I should be doing more than the roller coaster that I’m currently on.

I have days where I will bake that bread or make hummus, but then the following days, you can find me eating cereal for dinner with the pyjamas that I’ve had on the night before. My introverted self wouldn’t mind this quarantine, but since I’ve been self-isolated for so long, I feel like this is my new normal. Do I like it? I’m not even sure. One thing is for sure in my mind, though; nothing will ever be the same again.

There’s a lot of small things that I miss
I miss being able to walk to my local coffee shop and sit amongst the other writers
I miss going to the park with my daughter, even though I only did it once.
I miss getting in my car and driving to my friends’ house five minutes away just to say ‘hi.’
I miss being able to go to the gym and work out my frustrations.

So much has changed in such a little time, for everyone.
I can only imagine how the extroverts are feeling at a time like this. If this introvert is feeling lost and unsure, then how are THEY feeling? WHO WILL LOOK AFTER THE EXTROVERTS? (Kidding)

Someone asked me last week how my anxiety was during all of this, and I just shrugged to myself. Being in a constant state of fear is my jam – this is my normal state. Now you kind of know what my brain goes through daily. Welcome to the suck.

If you’re feeling like me, it’s only normal. There’s no right or wrong way to live out this quarantine. I’m taking it day by day, knowing that the two-week extension on Ontario’s State of Emergency will most likely be extended once again come April. I would mentally prepare for this.

What I will reiterate, as I always do in this blog, is to communicate with someone on how you’re feeling. Your priority during all of this should be your mental health before you check on someone else’s, and PLEASE do check up on those who need it. One thing that I hated the most before COVID-19 happened was video calls, and now, it seems it’s all I do to keep my daughter connected to her family.  In the end, the people who need you the most will remember what you did or didn’t do during this time.

 

It’s been hard for me to write this article for the past couple of weeks, for two reasons

  1. I have lost the motivation to do what I generally love, including writing
  2. I’ve been debating whether or not I should share this

The truth is, I’ve been dealing with prenatal depression during my third trimester, and it has not been easy in the slightest. The reason why I’ve decided to share this is because pregnant women don’t divulge what’s truly going on with their mentality during or after their pregnancy – and since I come from a maternal line of different types of depression, I feel there’s a need for me to be open and honest with everyone.

If someone were to ask me right now how I’m feeling, I will generally say “I’m dealing with some depression, but I’m trying to remain positive” instead of the typical “OK” I would typically say during any depressive state. When others ask pregnant women how they are feeling they’re not looking for a paragraph response of ailments, but, I’m hoping that with my concise response that we can change the way society looks at pregnant women instead of thinking we’re all fine and dandy with our belly and glow.

The last trimester of pregnancy is a whirlwind of emotions and a roller coaster of hormones which should be going up and down throughout these last months. However, I still feel as if I’m at the starting point, on the bottom, waiting to feel elated from the adrenaline rush. When I mentioned this to my OB over a month ago, I was given one of those questionnaires that are all too familiar with me. I’ve filled these out numerous times before when I was seeking help through a therapist. When I tallied up my point score at the end of it, I started to shake. I knew that I had been feeling off due to circumstances out of my control, but the answer had been lying in front of me the whole time. I am depressed.

After I got my request to go to a mood clinic, I left the office angry. Why was I angry? Because this whole time during pregnancy, I’ve been anxious about postpartum depression, that I didn’t even think that I could get prenatal depression. I was angry at myself for thinking in the future instead of listening to my present, which, is one of my anxiety symptoms.

I started to look back at my triggers from March onwards: Not only did I go through some stressful life events (losing my Grandmother and the events that followed) but I was also feeling alone in my relationship with my husband. He started on a new production that is being managed a little out of the ordinary, and I’m lucky if I see him once throughout the working week. Add my family history on top of all of this, and you’ve got your recipe for depression.

I was showing the basic signs:

–    Persistent Sadness & withdrawal from others

–    Difficulty concentrating and making decisions

–    Sleeping & crying too much; my exhaustion is pretty extreme at times

–    Loss of interest in the things I usually enjoy

–    Change in eating habits

–    And of course, my lovely sidekick: Anxiety

I have to admit; I was in denial during those moments. Since these symptoms mirror usual pregnancy symptoms, I felt that it was just a bump in the road. What I did realize, after the fact, is that it’s not normal to feel consistently sad/uninterested and I started to feel guilty that I was making my unborn baby feel this way on top of it all. What started to worry me was the fact that I felt as if I couldn’t take care of myself properly, from a lack of motivation to cook and eat. During these moments I turn to my Grandmother’s spirit and think ‘what would she say?’ – the Jewish guilt is still palpable, and even if it was a quick PB&J that I fixed for myself, I knew she would be happy to know that something is better than nothing.

Since I’ve dealt with depression before, I started to do the following to help (aside from Therapy):

  1. Meditation

I remember a time when I meditated every morning, but ever since I got pregnant, it went down to the bottom of my list. I’m trying to put more effort into this, even if it’s just for 5 minutes a week

  1. Going outside

Even though Toronto humidity is killing me most days, I know that being in the sunshine helps me a bunch. I recently bought some frozen fruit bars to enjoy while I sit on my balcony basking in this sweltering heat! Mmm fruit bars.

  1. Napping

Even though I feel unproductive nowadays with my excessive exhaustion, I still manage to try and nap each day to make sure that I’m getting enough rest. My logic is, either my body or baby need it so everything else can be a lower priority

  1. Set up Reminders

I’m terrible at remembering to drink water throughout the day so several years ago I set up reminders in my phone. It’s been an enormous help, and I started to use it again to remind myself to eat throughout the day. Although to be fair, this little Spawn is the best reminder of all since she likes to kick me in the ribs if I don’t eat on time

  1. Spend time with family and/or friends

This one has been hard on me, so I decided my priority is to spend time with my family instead of my friends. I only have enough energy for one visit at a time now, but I make sure that I STICK to it and remind my friends, online, that it’s me and not them. I’m lucky that they understand that.

  1. Hire Help (if you can)

It’s been no secret with my family what I’m going through, I was honest with them from the start about my depression, and I’m glad that I did so. My mother-in-law suggested that we hire a cleaning service for the time being so I don’t have the responsibility or guilt to get EVERYTHING done personally. I’m glad I listened to her – the service is outstanding, and what would typically take me 8 hours to do, they did in under 3. Worth. Every. Penny.

  1. Communicate

There are days that I don’t feel like communicating, and I want to bask in silence on my couch. Then there are others when I need to express what’s going on. Unfortunately, I don’t have a proper routine for when these moods strike me, and they generally coincide with my husband’s schedule – the need to talk to him some nights when he’s working can feel excruciating at times. When I do see him, I try to cut past the moods of silence and force myself to tell him how I’m feeling, even if I can’t make sense of it myself at the time.

Even though I’m still battling this depression, I feel as if I must make this public since most women don’t seek treatment for their prenatal or postpartum depression out of embarrassment, shame or guilt.
To be honest, I feel thoroughly embarrassed that I’m going through this, and the guilt is heavy. But you know what? There’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with how I’m feeling or the fact that it even crept up on me silently throughout these last months. I am now more susceptible to postpartum because of this, and the fact that I’m already on the right path of healing and treatment is excellent news for baby and me. Untreated depression can lead to a lot of issues, not only for yourself but for your unborn baby too.

If you think there’s any chance that you’re suffering from this type of depression – ASK FOR HELP. Your baby will need a mother who is healthy, not only in body but also of mind.

When you’re fighting off depression, it’s hard to get a grasp on even the basic things that you need. When I go through my depressive states, the thing that I struggle with the most is fighting an impulse to overspend. It’s easy to look for material things to fill a void, however, even in my darkest hour, I tend to fight off that little voice that tells me “no” and just bounce right into getting an item that I don’t need.

I have a few examples that I think most of you can relate to:

#1 Culprit: Food

When I get depressed, food takes the first hit. I lack the energy to even think of what I want to eat, let alone get up to prepare and make it. Even though I will have all the things I need at home to make myself a decent (and also cheap!) meal, I will find solace in getting take out or junk food. Pizza is a good example here, I usually make a great homemade one on the weekends with my husband for roughly 8$, but if I’m in one of these states, you can see me spending at least 50$ on the same amount of food, delivery & tip. The worst part about this type of expenditures is that they make me feel worse, both physically and emotionally – yet, I continue to do it. It’s a vicious cycle.

#2 Hair & Makeup

I’ve gotten better at this section over the last few years, but that doesn’t mean that I’ll have a slip up once in a while. The thing that I do the most to make myself feel better is to change my appearance. Nothing drastic, a little trim, darker colour, new shade of lipstick, etc.
The only issue is, I don’t get these things cheap in the slightest. My hair alone will cost me roughly 200$ a pop whenever I decide to go to the salon, so, I’ve tried to keep this down to a minimum of once or twice a year. Back when I was struggling as a newcomer in Ontario, I would be in the salon every 2-3 months and watch my money disappear as I tried to find happiness in a hair colour. Being a retired makeup artist also has its problems, I always want the latest and greatest and try to validate my purchases every time I find the new trend. Even though I’m clearly out of business, I still find the need to be “in” with it and will pour my money into makeup that I will use maybe once and watch it dry out as the year goes on.

#3 Gifts for Others

Even when I have only 10$ in my account, my immediate thought will be “oh, maybe I should get something for my husband.” When I get gifts for other people, it’s because I think that their happiness will brush off on me and I’ll be equally as happy. The funny thing is, I never am. I can spend up to 200$ on a person, thinking that this tangible thing will make the both of us happy but it’s only a façade and will last maybe a day (or two, if I’m lucky)
I also include Donations in this category too, if someone needs 20$ or 50$ for a cause that they’re supporting, I try my best to donate as much as I can towards it, even if I don’t have the money. My thought process is, “but it’s for a good cause!” even though my bank account always hurts in the end.

Of course, these examples are more geared towards me, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t flood over into other impulse spends like a pair of designer shoes, another video game to add to the ever growing pile, etc. What I’m trying to get across is that you’re not alone in this. Don’t ignore these problems and please don’t feel shame in saying that you are struggling with your mental health OR your finances. Being in debt, broke or just overall unemployed can lead to a worse depression or even a meltdown, so taking steps to avoid being in this situation is key. It’s important to remember that there is always help around the corner.

The number one thing that I’ve done to help combat against my financial struggles is keeping a budget. I got my parents to help me with categorizing and also a spreadsheet from my local bank to help track where everything goes. I’m currently on my third year of doing this, and I have to admit how eye-opening it’s been – I still slip up from time to time, and I think that’s normal for anyone in my situation, however, I’m on the correct path and just knowing that helps aid in my depressive states.

If you’re still wondering how to overcome your Finances, check out my article from last year

Music has surrounded me in every aspect of life ever since I was a baby. To my mother’s singing, to our car radio tuned into trans-am Radio, to my music players over the years plugged into my ears. I could go on, but you get the point. I always listened for fun, but when my dark days came around, I started to use it to help with the various emotions I would feel: rage, loneliness, love, etc. I love the power that music has to aid my stress and anxiety, but it’s also a great portal to relieve any other loud or angry feelings that can come to us. Personally, it makes me feel less alone when I connect to the lyrics that the band was trying to convey.

When I get too anxious/stressed, there are a couple of things that I like to listen to,

  • The App “Calm” has helped with guided meditations and deep breathing exercises, but what I love most about this app is the background noises that you can choose from in the main screen: Serene Lakes (two) and Rainforest. I love being surrounded by nature sounds.
  • Matching my symptoms to the rhythm/tempo of songs almost validates what I feel, for example:

    Feeling anxious because no one understands me:
    Alice Merton – No Roots

    Feeling angry over things that happen in our society/culture
    Marilyn Manson – Beautiful People

    Feeling lost when someone leaves your life
    Fleetwood Mac – The Chain

  • Classical Movie Scores/Soundtracks when I find the time for a relaxation bath. Sometimes I need something without lyrics to melt all the nonsense that’s floating through my brain.

    Check out “Epic Film Scores” through Google Play

Music is magical to me; not only is it universal, and it helps us cope when we need it the most – it activates our entire brain, creating the potential to improve our feelings.

I love listening to music as a stress reliever, and I always recommend to do it when you’re doing things in the background, like driving (especially when you’re alone and can BELT out the lyrics!) and cleaning house. Dancing around my kitchen is the only exercise I can do nowadays! Whether you decide to listen or create, make sure that music is a part of your life so you can start seeing the benefits it has towards your physical and emotional health.

Have you ever been so stressed that your body has just given up on you?

There are times when I try to push through discomfort and stress, but sometimes that ends up making me sicker in the end. Trying to pinpoint why I’ve been overly stressed is a little hard, but I think I’m angry at myself for not recovering fully from my last car accident. Due to this, I’ve been battling the flu/cold for a little over a week now, and I’m just thankful that I didn’t end up missing more work than I needed to (sometimes, I’m not that lucky!)

I forget that taking care of yourself means that you also need to look after your physical health, too.
When I went back into Physiotherapy, I was initially told that my lower back pains weren’t as bad as I thought. I was a little concerned as the pain was consistent and didn’t seem related to my pregnancy in the slightest. When I went to their Massage Therapist for a consultation weeks later, I found out that my ribs were out of place and since I was pregnant, we would have to split the treatments in two. He worked on my left-hand side first and not only did my lower back pain almost dissipate, but I was able to take deep breaths again.

I couldn’t believe it. A month of worrying and overthinking that my back pains would never subside, I was on the right track. My anxiety did not help my physical health – I need to remember how highly intertwined both our physical and mental health is.
I was feeling inadequate over not being able to do basic activities, and this caused my stress levels to skyrocket, not to mention interrupt my sleep patterns. I wish I had a button that I could switch off during these times.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, Canadians who report mental health symptoms can experience three times as many chronic physical conditions compared to the general population

signs-of-stress-on-the-body

People tend to brush stress aside, but we need to look at it more seriously. Think of it like a see-saw; if we don’t have a handle on our physical health, our mental health will suffer and vice versa.
We aren’t always aware of what we’re going through or even open up to others about our struggles. It takes a lot of strength to be open and honest that you need help or support (and arguably the most difficult step) but the sooner help can be provided, the more likely you will experience benefits of treatment (whether it be physiotherapy or therapy!)

Check out my friend's blog "Work Out, Feel Good" 

I’m a firm believer that if you have already decided if you want kids (or not), you’ve already made up your mind, and it will not change in the future.

I had a recent conversation with my sister about this because years ago I was under the impression that I could not have kids naturally. Even though the weight of that news was crushing for me to hear at the age of 22, I tried to go on with my life the best way that I knew how. For years I acted selfishly without a thought of alternatives, I was with my ex-boyfriend at the time and convinced myself that if I could not have them naturally, then I did not want them at all. I already knew that I was lying to myself, but this was how I coped.
The thought of a family has always been in the back of mind, ever since I was a kid. I remember during my childhood playing “house” with my friend and talking about our futures; always with marriage and kids. Poking at my adopted family for another sibling so I could help take care of him/her. Leaving my toxic atmosphere at 18 with a repeat to myself “When you have kids, you’ll show them what love is.”
It wasn’t until I broke it off with my ex at 25 that I started to think more deeply into my need for a family.

Luckily for me, the majority of my issues stemmed from my ex-boyfriend so when I changed doctors and had a proper physical a year later, my concerns were nearly half gone. I reiterated what was told to me from my previous doctor and relayed medical history – He said that I could go through testing, but since I wasn’t planning on starting a family just yet they could wait. During these years I met my now husband, and I remember having lunch with a close friend of mine explaining how I was back in therapy and maybe starting a family wasn’t really for me. I wasn’t well mentally, and the thought of bringing a little one into this world started to frighten me. I will never forget her question; “Well, do you WANT to want kids?” Without a pause, I immediately said yes. I’ve always known that I wanted kids; I just kept telling myself I should not due to the obstacles that I was facing.

Working on myself was the best thing that I did, and I’m not ashamed that I was selfish for the latter years of my twenties. I needed those years to get better and confirm that I did want to be a mother. When I turned 30 and married my husband, we started the process of discussing (& testing) what our options would be. These years were gruelling and hard on the both of us, we had many discussions that almost tore us apart, but we stuck it through. When I got pregnant in November of 2018, a huge smile formed across my face. I’ve been pregnant before; this wasn’t the first test that I’ve done – the only difference was my reaction. I didn’t tell anyone immediately in fear of miscarrying again but once those weeks past, all I wanted to do was shout it from my rooftop. Even though I was still scared as I was back then, I was also hopeful, happy and excited.

So, when my sister asked how my mind has changed over the years, I tell her that it honestly didn’t; it just went on a crazy path. If you know deep down that children aren’t for you – if you’ve never fantasized about being a mother, chances are your thoughts won’t change and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Becoming a mother is going to be one of the most challenging things that I will ever go through, and I’m welcoming this crazy with open arms. Motherhood is not for everyone so don’t let others guilt you into thinking that you’re selfish for not wanting them. Stand firm in your opinion and choice.

I’ve been toying with the idea to start up an advice column for those that would like to reach out anonymously. I understand that there is still a huge stigma around mental health, and there are some people who are uncomfortable to reach out directly for any advice.

I would love to start this monthly, but I would love to hear from YOU!

If you’re at all interested, please don’t hesitate to contact me via my website

I live in a townhouse complex that generally gets quarterly newsletters in regards to issues and updates within our community. Yesterday, we received such a newsletter, and I was quite alarmed to see the language that they used within.

Newsletter Snip

Generally, I don’t stand up to these things and would let it slide, but after they discussed mental health previous to the secondary issue, I knew that I had to say something.

This morning, I sent the following letter to not only our on-site manager but to the president, vice-president and executive assistant to the company:

To Whom it May Concern

This is in regards to the Cooksville Mews Newsletter that was issued on February 27th, 2019

I am an advocate for mental health and was quite elated with your “Caring Community” spot on etiquette between our residents.
However, I was quite taken aback with your next section on “Rezoning of the Commerical Truck Parking Lot” where you used improper and inconsiderate language (e.g., “What’s wrong with you?”) to relate how upset you are at 1/5th of our residents.

Now, I don’t speak for everyone else, but the reason why I was unable to attend or even put a vote in for this matter was due to a short-term illness and not being fully abreast on the subject. I will never feel comfortable voting for something that I am not fully knowledgeable on, and due to my short-term illness, I know that I was unable to make any valid decisions.

You have to take into consideration that life happens to a lot of people and issues will arise that are even worse than mine. Trying to instill fear in us by discussing exhaust sickness and kids being hit by a truck is going over the line. These issues are prevalent not only to our little nook but in fact to our whole city as a whole.

As well, after a mindful paragraph on how to address mental health within our community, the language used within this section is unacceptable. If you would like to understand why our units were not able to attend or sign a petition, the correct response is to contact us directly instead of bullying us within a newsletter. The fact that 60 units were able to attend and vote on our behalf speaks volumes and should consider this beyond successful, especially in correlation to our low-attendance to our annual general meetings.

I do not doubt that I am the only resident who was flabbergasted when I read this newsletter and expect a formal apology to all those who were affected within the next issue.

I hope that I made a difference today and that the office will reply within a timely manner to not only me but to my fellow neighbours