Illness and Recovery

Four ER visits.  Two by ambulance.  All four times I was convinced I was having a heart attack.

The sensations came without warning:  the heat that permeated my insides; intestinal spasms that paralyzed me; a racing, pounding heart; nausea; dizziness; crushing chest pain.  Then, one by one, my senses would shut down.  I couldn’t feel my fingers.  Noises were muffled and obscured.  My head spun and vision darkened.  All of these culminated with the very real feeling that I was slipping away and was going to die.
After a slew of cardiac tests came up negative, one ER doctor asked “do you suffer from anxiety?”  My answer?  No!  Of course not!  My life has never been better!
The attacks started coming with more frequency and intensity.  In the middle of the night.  During playdates.  While having supper.
While driving.

I felt I was endangering my son’s life and the lives of others.  I stopped going out.  I stopped getting out of bed.  I was terrified of being left alone.
When every medical test came up negative my husband recalled the question from the last ER visit:
“Do you suffer from anxiety?”

So, one day after dropping our son off at school, my husband bundled me up and brought me to the hospital that changed my life: CAMH.  The diagnosis:  Severe Panic Disorder caused by untreated Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
I was struck by two things upon being treated for this disorder: one, the staff – from receptionist to physician – are incredibly calm.  Two, all staff members have a kindness that permeates everything they do.  There are no jerks at this hospital.

My initial shame at being treated at a mental health facility has turned into gratitude and pride.  If I had known even one person who turned to them for help, I would not have hidden this for so long.  And, like most other things, there is always a positive:  the kindness that was shown to me has inspired me to spread kindness everywhere I go.  I found that the more I looked outward to see how I could help others the fewer the panic attacks.  My little hamster-wheel brain can only handle one thought at a time, so if I concentrated on being kind in every situation, the less anxious I felt.  It was a win-win situation.

Through medication, therapy and KINDFULNESS (my version of mindfulness), I am back to being an active and supportive mother, wife, daughter and friend.  I get out of bed EVERY DAY, happy, ready to take on the world.  Plus, I started this blog to inspire others.

These are dark times with ominous headlines over every news outlet.  CAMH saved my life and now I can bring joy and hope and kindness to others.

I Don’t Have Time For Yoga

And my mind won’t settle down to meditate.

What is left for the anxious and uninspired?

Looking Outward.  

It’s easy to devolve into a negative thought cycle.  So many thoughts racing to be foremost in our hamster-wheel brains.

Money (or lack thereof)

Children (and their never-ending needs)

Work (angry clients, demanding managers, commute times, toxic colleagues)

Family (aging parents, sick spouses, and long standing resentments between siblings and in-laws are just a few of the things I see while working at the funeral home)

Friends (the family of our choosing – when we can make time for them)

Cellphones that have become the 5th (6th?) appendage on our bodies: texts and emails that demand immediate responses.

There is never enough of the good in our lives and too much of the bad.

It’s taken ten years and two hospital stays for me to figure out the antidote.

Kindness.

A thoughtful gesture will put you in a better frame of mind than all the asanas and ohms in the universe.

Looking OUTWARD focuses our minds on what is surrounding us, instead of what is immediately in front of us.

Surrounding each of us is a community of need.  A community of people caught up looking inward (and at their cellphones).

Who are they?  

They are:

The neighbour who is looking after a sick parent and two young children

The single mother who has a cold

The nursing home resident who never gets a visitor

The receptionist at work who hasn’t had a bathroom break in three hours

The check-out clerk who has REALLY checked-out because every customer has had a complaint of some kind.

Can you cure the ills of the world?

Nope.

But brightening someone’s day in even the smallest of ways has a boomerang effect.  While it will make them smile, you will carry the high for days.  

Good shit I did this week: Sent a handwritten thank you note to a person who gave our son a bike.  I love getting cards in the mail.  Hopefully they will too.

How Do You Want To Be Remembered?

When I was a student funeral director, we had a non-denominational celebrant on staff.  Let’s call him Larry.

Larry started every funeral with these words: “Take a moment to look at all the people around you here today.  Let me tell you something:  one of you will be next”.

I choked on my coffee when I first heard him say this.  And there were gasps.  Loud ones.

His follow up was intriguing, though.  He continued: “how do you want to be remembered?”

I’ve had many years to think about this.  I’ve decided I want to be remembered for being kind.

Kindness is contagious.  STD-level contagious.  Random acts of kindness fill your heart with joy.  Your heart becomes so full of kindness, you spread it all around you whether you mean to or not.  

KINDISM

The belief that we need to look outward and see what we can do to bring a little positive energy into the world.

I’ve been feeling bad about a lot of things.  Things out of my control.

Control freak that I am, I decided to run a completely non-scientific experiment.

Do something nice for someone and see if I feel better, worse, neutral, resentful, or disappointed.

Every time I did something nice I felt better.  Stronger.  More able to attack the every-day stressors that come along.  It was like depositing good feelings into a psychological bank account.  I could withdraw those good feelings on my bad days.  

Now, I am as lazy as they come and have the attention span of wait, what was that commercial advertising was that the laundry timer oh I should check instagram.

Plus, I’m not Richie Rich and couldn’t spend a lot on this experiment.

Altruism be damned.  I was a little tired, a little depressed and had a hard time finding some good in every day.

Kindism.  This stuff works.  You will not believe how much better you feel too.

Need a little inspiration?  I try to post “Good Shit I Did This Week”.  It’s little stuff I did, like letting the person in line with only a few items go ahead of me.