Tales From The Psych Ward – Intro

62856_436468245804_2911966_nRecently, I spent a night in the emergency room and two in the psych ward mental health floor of my local hospital. If you’re a regular reader, please don’t worry! It was voluntary, I was not physically hurt, and I am glad I did it.

But it did happen. If I am asked outright, I don’t want to deny it. So I’ll be interrupting other types of posting and making a goal to describe my experience in four parts. A good friend of mine told me to not pretend it didn’t happen, not try to chunk the Catalina that found herself in the hospital – the way I wanted to chunk myself out of life.


Not to be alarming but. Oh. My Gosh.

Do not read if you’ve always thought the zombie invasion would eventually come…because 1 in 3 of us are infected with this little sucker, which has effects on our brains including but not limited to increased risk of depression, delayed reaction time, double the risk of traffic accidents, and interestingly, decreased fear of snakes and spiders (..I love snakes and spiders). 

NOTE: Cat ownership is not a predictor of infection – probably because cat owners typically know their kitty well enough to avoid bites, at least enough to bring our risk down to that of the general population (that’s my guess anyway).

However, the parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, may be transmitted through cat bites or broken skin when cleaning the litterbox. So:

Do get your kitty de-wormed every 3 months to protect yourself and the ones you love,

Don’t clean the litter box without gloves – and always wash your hands afterward. 

SO. I’m…gonna go buy some disposable gloves now.  


Coping Strategy #2 Revisited – 5 Things I Learned at my Support Group

I’m going to an anxiety and depression support group through my local hospital now! It’s a lot more functional than when I tried to make an anxiety support group 😛

I’ve been going for a couple of weeks now. Here are the highlights.

1. How do we relax? Our most common response was taking long baths. Take note, but remember that stealing baths is completely unacceptable bath behaviour…

2. I know psychiatrists need to learn to understand mental illnesses too, such that they can talk to their patients in addition to throwing pills at us prescribing medicine (sorry, psychiatrists reading! I do take medicine, and I’ve met one or two good ones – but many bad ones! so do take note – I, your average patient, am generally having more trouble with you than with other health care professionals!) Basically, our group counselor had a really awkward psychiatry resident sit in with us, without asking us. He looked incredibly uncomfortable when our counselor asked him to join in conversation with us, as though he wasn’t expecting to be subjected to the ‘inferior’ role of mental patient. He didn’t speak unless forced to by our counselor. We weren’t asked if we wouldn’t mind having him there. We weren’t told that he would be there. I felt this was disrespectful to us and I felt helpless, which I think is a common theme with people being treated for mental illnesses and disorders in hospital settings, as opposed to physical ones. We are not grade school children, we are adults receiving medical care and when someone completely irrelevant to our care sits in with us in order to benefit his education, we certainly deserve to be asked permission, or at the very least informed respectfully, before he enters the room. Rarr.

3. We weren’t allowed to get water for ourselves. Because apparently, they had their water cooler stolen a few times. Again, I felt the mental health stigma. These crazies keep stealing the water cooler bottle, was the message I read between the lines as our counselor chuckled. Do you know how much one of those bottles costs? Under $20. Our collective dignity is worth more than $15 plus tax. Let us grab our own darn water, or if you are ever so fearful of these horrendous thefts, install a water fountain. Yeugh.

4. The people in my group are lovely, and my counselor is well trained, well meaning, and quite effective. They clapped the first time I didn’t fall asleep during meditation time, and I was incredibly flattered. We are just a clapping kind of group as it turns out. A bath-loving, clapping crew, motivated to improve our mindfulness. Yay!

5. Speaking of meditation, I found one that works for me through this group, and maybe it will work for you too, because it speaks specifically to that constant level of pain you carry with you every day, every minute, when you are experiencing a depression or an anxiety disorder. It doesn’t pretend that when you sit down to meditate, you will magically float away to happy unicorn paradise, but instead helps ease some of that pain. It’s called First Aid Meditation, by Dr. Jackie Gardner-Nix (available on iTunes for download, only $0.99)


I’m Sorry…

I’m sorry guys, that I’m complaining, but I’m a bundle of fear and dreary gloom. Have I ever told you what specifically I’m affected by? Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder, and subclinical(thank goodness not clinical right now) depression.
I thought maybe it would help to be honest about this, instead of just leaving you high and dry when I’m not feeling well.
On the upside – leaving for Italy tomorrow!
– C.

Anxiety and Depression – An Update

Dear Friends,

I did go to my therapist, and happily it isn’t as big of a problem as I thought.

This Scientific American article explains that,

When people feel stressed, their sympathetic nervous system** typically revs up, releasing energy and preparing the body for action. Then the parasympathetic nervous system steps in, and the body stabilizes to a calmer state. If the parasympathetic nervous system is somehow unable to do its job, a person will remain fired up and may experience the heightened arousal characteristic of a panic attack.

Beyond this, the article explains that both the chemistry and electrical characteristics of the brain change due to anxiety but are reversible through therapy. Then, although the mechanism is not understood, it is clear that on a cellular level anxiety can lead to depression symptoms. I was afraid that my sporadic symptoms of depression would require some extra, extensive treatment, but you know what? I’ve been working hard in therapy to treat my anxiety “chicken”, and am confident that the depression “egg” will fade as well as I decrease my anxiety. When I’m not exhausted by anxiety, my brain will adapt to protect itself from the depression as well.

And that is that for now.


** To quickly clarify, the sympathetic nervous system is what gives us the “burst” of adrenaline coursing through our veins when we’re anxious.

Anxiety and Depression, from my perspective

As my anxiety symptoms have been apparently improving, the apathy of depression has been creeping up on me. 

I am unsure what to do, and to be frank am hoping it’s just some really horrible PMS. I will of course be asking my therapist for guidance (as I hope you do too, if it happens to you – the reason I know embracing these feelings is a dangerous road to continue on is because I’ve been here before).

It’s almost laughable – am I really going to cheerfully tell her I’ve stopped feeling love, feeling much? So often in the middle of a panic attack I prayed for the red-hot burning of my feelings would subside, thinking I would explode with the force of them, not being able to contain them any longer. I suppose they have subsided, or at least been numbed. Unfortunately you cannot numb negative feelings without numbing positive ones as well. 

This comes to mind: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.ca/2011/10/adventures-in-depression.html

Maybe I won’t say anything at all, maybe I’ll just hand the therapist this cartoon. Maybe it will get a laugh?

Anxiety and Depression – Two Sides of One Coin


“They’re probably two sides of the same coin,” says David Barlow, Ph.D., director of the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University. “The genetics seem to be the same. The neurobiology seems to overlap. The psychological and biological nature of the vulnerability are the same. It just seems that some people with the vulnerability react with anxiety to life stressors. And some people, in addition, go beyond that to become depressed.”

They close down. “Depression seems to be a shutdown,” explains Barlow. “Anxiety is a kind of looking to the future, seeing dangerous things that might happen in the next hour, day or weeks. Depression is all that with the addition of ‘I really don’t think I’m going to be able to cope with this, maybe I’ll just give up.’ It’s shutdown marked by mental, cognitive or behavioral slowing.”