Category Archives: Mental Health

Is? Or is not?

You’re not paranoid if the Universe really is out to get you.

I stood there contemplating the recycled brown envelope sitting atop the pile of mail before my door as if it were a King Cobra poised to strike; filled with foreboding that the contents of the envelop would reveal the next act in the Universe’s attempt to afflict my Life, my very Self, with chaos, panic and catastrophe.

The first law of Buddhism states: Life is difficult. The laws of probability mean these difficulties are not going to fall at evenly spaced and predictable points in time; that there will be periods where these difficulties clump so that the road of life is full of potholes and where, if the bird of paradise were to fly into your life – it would be to deposit his digestive waste product on your head.

This reality applies to the Outside world and, for those of us living with mental illness, the Inside world as well.

Where life gets INTERESTING, in an inauspicious way, is where – when – the roads of life in both the Outside and the Inside worlds are full of potholes.

When this happens dealing with the obstacles in the Outside world is made far more difficult by the anxiety, panic, depression, obsessive/compulsive behaviours and negative thoughts raging in one’s mind.

And while the potholes in the Inside world are driven by events/thoughts taking place in your mind, the events taking place in the Outside world can trigger or reinforce (or both) events/thoughts occurring in one’s Inside world, one’s Mind. When the events in the Outside world reinforce the events/thoughts, the potholes, of the Inside world the situation can become truly devastating.

Your car fails Aircare – anxiety, panic, depression explode and you find yourself in bed with the covers pulled over ones head. A state that makes it very difficult to get the car repaired. With the car crisis hanging over one’s head, dealing with the anxiety, panic and depression becomes a challenge of climbing Mt. Everest proportions.

From time to time, the depression I live with comes to intrude into my life and my head. With self-knowledge, knowledge, skills and tools acquired in seeking recovery and wellness I have, when depression has decided to pay a visit, been able to move back into recovery, balance, serenity and wellness in a timely manner.

This spring, the potholes in the Outside world reinforced the potholes in my Inside world, resulting in not just Mr. Depression staying free but setting freeing his playmates anxiety, depression, obsessive/compulsive and negative thoughts.

Chaos, panic and order were (are) warring in my mind. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately I have put in the hard work needed to gain the self-knowledge, knowledge, skills and tools to enter battle with Mr. Depression and his playmates.

Fortunate in that I did not crash and burn; Unfortunate in that the harsh reality of the mental health system is that crashing and burning is the fast track to getting access to the help needed to prevail in one’s struggle to deal with the chaos wrecked upon one’s Inside world by mental illness.

If the BC Liberal government wishes to insist that wait times for medical care for medical procedures such as knee surgery are a matter of efficient scheduling and efficient use of resources I can live with that. I have a friend who faced a wait to get his knee operation and while it caused pain and inconvenience he survived the delay and is currently struggling with the healing process.

However in the matter of delays in accessing the mental health services needed, it is not a matter of efficient scheduling and use of resources but of rationing. The difference lying in the fact that the consequences of not being able to access mental health NOW are so often dire, even disastrous or deadly.

Unless it is a matter of self harm or harm to others one faces months of waiting to get access to the rationed mental health services currently available.

As painful and uncomfortable as life may be it is, at least right now, far too interesting and filled with battles to fight (rationing of mental health care for one) to give serious contemplation to suicide. And as satisfying as it may be to contemplate the justice to be found in the harming of politicians, it is against my personal code of behavior.

Leaving me to struggle back to wellness; seeking to balance the challenges in the worlds Inside and Outside; to surf the tsunami in order to avoid being overwhelmed, crashing and burning.

Because of the feelings of powerlessness and frustration engendered in dealing with the bureaucracy that is the Ministry of Housing and Social Development (AKA Social Assistance) any interaction with this Ministry brings on heavy duty anxiety and puts me on the constant edge of panic.

So when I got the letter from the Ministry containing the forms for my doctor and myself to fill out to renew my PPMB status …. Well on top of everything else that was going on it was too much, to overwhelming, and I found myself literally not capable of dealing with this matter on top of everything else I was already dealing with.

Rather than giving up, crawling into bed and pulling the covers over my head and letting my life crash and burn in hope of getting help to deal with the chaos (Inside and Outside) as I SO wanted to do, I dragged myself down to the local Ministry office and explained the circumstances – struggling with my mental health and to avoid a meltdown – and that I was not capable of getting the forms in as scheduled.

I was told there was an extension and that I now needed to get the forms completed and submitted in August. So I focused on holding my head together while I dealt with the potholes in my Outside world one by one.

Careful budgeting, fiscal discipline, creativity, having been a good tenant (I got to remain as a tenant when the home I rent in was sold and my landlords changed) etc. allowed me to fill the potholes one by one.

I was making good progress when my car failed Aircare at the end of June. My quality of life is dependent on having the car as it allows me to be involved in the community and issues, to work part time (buses do not run in Abbotsford at 1:30 AM) and be able to afford my rent, to access the food resources in the community.

I came frightening close to the mental, emotional and life meltdown I was, and continue to struggle to avoid.

One of the best things I have learned in my journey of recovery is how to be a friend. As a result of this I have not just friends but good friends.

It was funding from a very good friend that allowed for car repairs and the passing of Aircare which permitted me to turn my attention to dealing with the final Outside pothole – the forms for the Ministry. Once I had dealt with this last curve ball the Universe had thrown at me, I could turn my attention to dealing with the potholes Inside – or so I thought.

The Universe however had another curve ball to throw.

When you do something that should put positive karma in your karma account – giving a friend a ride to a weekly program they wanted to take but needed a ride to – and a negative outcome occurs – your exhaust pipe is knocked off as a result of the steep incline of the driveway – it is understandable if one begins to feel that the Universe is really out to get you.

Control, deep breathing, talking myself out of the urge to floor it and let the chips, and the exhaust system, land where they may enabled me to hold it together long enough to call another friend, then carefully drive over to Grumpy’s Garage and get the muffler repaired after 9 PM at night.

When no new potholes developed in the week that followed I was able to get the PPMB forms filled out and submitted.

Achieving this required not giving in to the panic that tried to erupt each time I phoned to make a doctor’s appointment. Doctor’s offices are busy places and every time I phoned I ended up on hold listening to Muzak and hanging up as panic tried to erupt. Friends are beautiful things to have as another friend took (dragged) me up to the doctor’s office to make an appointment and back to keep the appointment.

Closed eyes and a focus on breathing let me remain in the waiting room and the examination room and avoid giving in to the flight urge; permitting me to have the needed form filled out by the doctor which allowed me to deliver the forms before the end of August deadline.

As I began to considered how I would deal with the potholes of the Inside world, the simmering cauldron of anxiety, panic and negative thought patterns kept the question ‘what is going to be the next Outside pothole to appear’ intruding into my head.

It was these negative though patterns about a new Outside pothole that had me standing there contemplating that envelope containing the notice of deposit from the Ministry as though it was a King Cobra. With the Ministry’s ability to devastate one’s life I ‘knew’ that what was in that envelope would reveal not simply a pothole, but an Empire State Building sized sinkhole.

It was only the fact that if I left it there I would see it and be reminded of the perceived looming disaster that had me picking up the mail and carrying it inside. Where another mental struggle ensued as the urge to hide the envelope from sight warred with the knowledge that if it was a sinkhole it needed to be dealt with ASAP.

Teetering back and forth, pro and con until I could slice the envelope open and look at the notice of deposit and …

… found the notice of deposit in the amount of $96 instead of the normal $630 (approx.), leaving me short $504 for rent, raising the specter of being homeless once again. Resulting in me struggling not to close the blinds, crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head and stay there as Life collapsed around me.

Instead, a good set of wellness tools had me going out for an evening meal, then joining some friends for coffee and making my regular evening swim to avoid sitting there allowing anxiety and panic to take over.

There is a reason that May you live in interesting times is considered to be the first of three curses of increasing severity – May the government be aware of you and May you find what you are looking for being the other two.

Which suggests it may well be wise for me to keep the old proverb warning one to Be careful what you wish for you just might get it in mind.

Still there is appeal in the thought of the ministries that are, in theory at least, there to help not hinder being helpful and the hope for less interesting and more boredom in my life to afford some quiet time for finding my way back to wellness.

It is at times like this, when the urge to retreat into denial and bed with the covers over my head refusing to come out that I come closest to understanding the lure of alcohol or drugs (legal or illegal) as a way to cope with or escape the mental stress and pain living can inflict on one’s mind and soul.


Wednesday night was mostly sleepless, with what sleep did occur not being restful – occurring as it did when I drifted off from time to time as I sat focused on writing about what was occurring. Writing being the diversionary tactic I chose to focus my mind on something to keep anxiety and panic from exploding.

Having succeeded in keeping the anxiety and panic relatively controlled the struggle moved to not retreating to bed, denial and avoidance through procrastination. The internal debate was long enough that I nearly missed lunch, having chosen lunch as the first step in getting to the Ministry’s office to deal with the matter.

After lunch I took advantage of the opportunity to share the situation with a friend, allowing me to calm and center myself to the point where I could proceed to the Ministry’s Abbotsford office. Where, because the day before was cheque issue day, I joined the line outside the doors of the office.

Knowing that I would face a long time in line I had brought what I had written the night before with me to edit as my choice of diversionary tactic to focus my mind on something to once again keep anxiety and panic from exploding.

By the time I finished editing what I had written I was left with only a manageably short period of time alone in my head with my thoughts before getting to speak to a worker.

With my Serenity worry stone firmly grasped in my hand as an aid in not letting the panic and trembling get out of hand, I explained the situation to the worker who checked my file and told me that the PPMB paperwork was in process and I would have an adjusting cheque in my hands by Tuesday.

I really appreciated his calm politeness and the understanding he showed of how panicking the situation was to me. Laughing when I looked at him after his telling me not to worry, as two of the multiple barriers I deal with are anxiety and panic.

The reality I live with is that until I have the cheque and September’s rent paid I will have to deal with anxiety. Having been told I would have a cheque that would allow me to pay September’s rent by Tuesday will, or at least should, avoid anxiety turning into panic.

Perhaps more importantly, the knowledge that having succeeded in getting the PPMB renewal forms in will result in being able to pay September’s rent will permit me to avoid self sabotaging or destructive behavior between now and the point in time that September’s rent is in the hands of my landlord.

It does seem to be probable that the Universe is not out to get me and that anxiety, panic and depression make me a little Paranoid when they are running loose in my brain without adequate adult supervision.

Still, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that there isn’t an invisible demon about to eat your face.

The reality I live with is that anxiety, panic and depression can always find something as a focus upon which to base negative thoughts of impending doom and catastrophizing upon.

Recovery/Escape from homelessness is a tricky path.

I was at a housing meeting where the speaker asked people to take out their keys and look at their house key; to take a moment to think about what the key meant or represented to them.

I don’t know what the others around the table thought or saw in their key. I don’t know what the speaker sees when he looks at his own key.

I suspect it was not what I saw in looking at my door key – a burden.

Like rain on a mountain, poverty slowly wears away at you.

The stress of scrambling and pinching pennies until they scream, month after month after month, in order to pay the rent and cover the monthly bills wears away at one’s spirit and mental health.

The stress wears away at one’s ability to manage/deal with anxiety disorders and as anxiety creeps back into your life, over time the levels of anxiety increase becoming harder and harder to deal with.

As anxiety works its way back into one’s life it brings with it feelings of panic, then panic attacks. Increasing anxiety and panic open the door for depression, obsessive-compulsive behaviours and negative thinking.

The grinding of the spirit and mind by the constant threat of homelessness drags at you, seemingly seeking to drag you into a downward mental spiral and back into a head space where your mental illness more and more impairs your ability to function.

Your house key, your home, becomes an albatross around your neck dragging you back into mental illness. You look at the key and you see a burden that portends a return to the darkness of mental illness and inevitably once again to homelessness.

As the strain on your mental health increases so does the temptation to seek relief or to take the edge off through self medication.

The roots of addiction are buried in the soil of seeking relief or alleviation from one’s own mind and the darkness or pain or both that reside there.

The need to find a doctor to fill out the medical report to renew one’s status as ‘persons with persistent multiple barriers’ or have your monthly income halved and face dealing with the fallout that would result from having one’s income abruptly reduced by 50% = stress+++.

A voice mail message conveys the need to phone the Ministry about an issue with the stub. Of course when you phone the line is always busy, forcing you to go down to the Ministry office.

As a result of past dealings with the Ministry, even when mentally well, dealing with the Ministry is at best a challenge. When one’s mental health is under pressure dealing with the Ministry employees means struggling to hold anxiety and panic at bay.

Facing a need to chill out in order to be able to enter the Ministry’s den and deal with the Ministry without succumbing to either (or both) an anxiety or panic attack … well a toke or two or three of marijuana to take the edge off and mellow you out becomes somewhat of a seriously temptation.

And yes, there are some prescription medications that take the edge off but they also stuff one’s head with cotton to the point of nonfunctioning. Remember you need to have a doctor prescribe any medication and since one of the current obstacles is the need to find a doctor …

Understanding just how tempting and easy it is to end up using whatever substances you can find that offer a way to deal with, alleviate and/or escape from one’s own mind and pain has a profound effect on how you view addiction and addicts.

Good thing – I made it into the Ministry. Bad thing – I made it into the Ministry. Part time work contributes to my income but getting paid every two weeks means every six months three pay periods are claimed as income for the month, resulting in exceeding the income permitted. This will result in a reduction of the next Ministry cheque by $280.

Although I have been able to scrimp and scramble and survive this reduction in the past, my finances have been exhausted to the point that no amount of scrambling will enable me to be able to pay June’s rent with this reduction.

Standing in the Ministry office Monday afternoon amending the stub to include the extra pay period did not cause feelings of anxiety or panic. The feeling evoked was much closer to relief.

Yes I now need to find someplace to store belongings, reduce my belongings to fit into that storage space, get those belongings stored and dispose of the rest of my belongings. But facing the constant risk of homelessness I have been forced for months to think about what to keep and what to let go of.

Rather than living in fear and anxiety of the sword falling, now that it has (or will shortly) fall it is a matter of dealing with what needs to be done to transition to homelessness. Having been homeless and lived in my car before homelessness does not hold fear or high anxiety.

Indeed although I will lose the $375 rent portion from the Ministry I will be over $200 ahead as I no longer have to pay the difference between the $375 and my actual rent. Additional savings will be realized as expenses related to having housing cease.

There is regret for the need to step back from volunteering and other community involvements in order to be able to focus on the day to day needs to survive while homeless.

Still, this simplifying of life will hopefully permit and/or contribute to the pursuit of a return to mental wellness.

Recovery from homelessness is more difficult and complex than it appears.

The current Mental Health, Housing and Social Development systems/programs hinder more than help, If you are not fortunate enough to escape the system before your luck runs out …

Such are the Realities of Life.