The Meaning of “Like As The Waves”

Perhaps you have wondered why this, my personal mental health blog, is titled Like As The Waves. Well, today I’d like to attempt to demystify that for you.

What’s in a name?

In searching for a title for this blog, I kept coming up short. I wanted something that held meaning for me, that spoke to who I am and also related to mental health. I’m confident that, without the context, it might be hard to understand how this relates to mental health at all. The explanation is personal and layered, but I hope you’ll enjoy it. At the very least, I think you’ll learn a bit more about who I am and what is important to me.

The words, “like as the waves”, open my favourite sonnet by William Shakespeare, sonnet 60. I first discovered this sonnet in my teen years when I attended a Shakespeare program at an arts camp. There, I was taught to perform Shakespeare’s pieces and appreciate his work. In my teens I was heavily involved in theatre, a passion I still hold but haven’t practiced in years. My final performance for the camp was a scene from The Two Gentlemen of Verona, but sonnet 60 was one of the pieces I practiced with. Back then I was entranced by Shakespeare’s work for the wordiness, drama and rhythm of it all. Too busy learning iambic pentameter to delve into the most important part of any piece of literature – the meaning. I lacked a real understanding of Shakespeare’s work, so I had trouble interpreting it.

There were other things I struggled to interpret at that camp. My time at that camp was the setting of some of the earliest panic attacks I can remember. I was away from home, I had to socialize, take care of myself and do things I wasn’t always comfortable doing. At the time, I knew I had asthma and assumed my panic attacks were just asthma attacks. It was only years later that I was able to see that I struggled significantly with my mental health during my time at camp.

I think it’s fair to say, I’ve struggled significantly with my mental health ever since, too. I’ve had periods of happiness amongst depressive lows. A pattern which I eventually began explaining as waves. It’s common, when I’m talking to someone I trust, for me to reference my waves (e.g. “this low wave is lasting too long” or “I feel the next wave coming on”). This phrasing isn’t uncommon amongst individuals with mental illness, and its link to my favourite piece of poetry didn’t occur to me until recent years.

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,

So do our minutes hasten to their end;

Each changing place with that which goes before,

In sequent toil all forwards do contend.

 

Nativity, once in the main of light,

Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d,

Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight,

And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.

 

Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth,

And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,

Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,

And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:

 

And yet, to times in hope my verse shall stand,

Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand

William Shakespeare

Sonnet 60

I believe, all these years after his death, it is up to us to interpret the meaning of Shakespeare’s work. Certainly, we can draw on the work of expert scholars for sound interpretations to trust. But, if I may be so bold, I think poetry is as beautiful as it is because it is interpreted by each person who reads it. Ten plus years ago, in camp, I didn’t fully understand this sonnet. It was just a lyrical collection of pretty words. Now I see it as a powerful piece with themes of time, loss and water.

If you’re interested in much more in-depth, academic and, I’m sure, accurate interpretations of this, my favourite sonnet, a simple Google search will bring up hours worth of reading.

Sonnet 60, to me, speaks to how time gives and takes. It tells a story of how time changes us, it brings us in the world but also ages us and takes us from it. I often find depression and anxiety cause me to fixate on time. When I come out of a depression I often feel a sense of grief over the time and life I lost while I was in it. During a panic attack, time seems to be rushing by so quickly, every second can feel like a minute, every minute like an hour. “Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, So do our minutes hasten to their end;” With time we can recover from mental illness, with time our mental illness can worsen. We wish for more time or less, depending on how we are at that moment. Time, along with language, is one of the principal ways I feel we construct our world.

Back to the waves; they are at once captivating and predictable, tenacious and fleeting. A tidal wave can pull you under, while the splash of a wave on your feet can make you feel alive. Waves vary in strength, in number and in size, but through it all they never stop for long. I experience my own waves of many kinds too– happy waves, anxious waves, depressed waves, but time keeps moving and I keep going.

I find water to be a powerful source of imagery in describing my life with mental illness. Beyond just the use of the word “waves”, I also find myself using other depictions. “I’m sinking”, “I’m drowning” and “I’m treading water” are other phrases I use regularly. I’ve always been a bit of a water baby. My mom is a fantastic swimmer who always shared her love of swimming with me. As a kid, I also had access to a great outdoor pool at my dad’s home. One of my top coping tools for hard days is taking a bath. A long-term goal of mine is being able to get out to the public pools near me. Given a choice between the four elements (water, fire, earth and air) I will always choose water. Water is my element, I’m in my element with water.

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I was in the middle of planning this blog when I flipped through my Complete Works of Shakespeare for inspiration. In revisiting my favourite sonnet, “like as the waves” seemingly jumped off the page. I couldn’t think of anything else afterwards. No other option would suffice. Yes, I sometimes wish my blog title had a clearer message to everyone who reads it. Yes, I do find it awkward capitalizing the “As The” in the title; while that’s not proper English I visually can’t get past how odd “Like as the Waves” looks. I may change the title someday. However, to me, this blog title is perfect. It’s me. It’s my mental health, my mental illness, my passion for theatre and literature, and my story all rolled in to one confusing (to others, I assume) package. I’m okay with that. Mental illness is confusing. I’m confusing. This blog is at times confusing. There is a certain beauty in uncertainty and confusion, anyways.

If you’ve made it this far, I sincerely applaud you! I’ve tried to write this a few times before and struggled to find the right balance in which I avoided making a lengthy essay while still hitting all the major points of the meaning the title holds for me. (My longest draft was over 5 pages long – so at least you were spared that pain!) I’m not sure if anyone will quite understand this, but it feels cathartic to put it in to words anyways. This is me, I’m Fiona, and like as the waves, I keep going.

Take care,

Fiona

Both images included in this post are my own

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When Depression Ends

Today I’d like to share a positive post with you. I recently pulled out of my latest depressive episode. I have been feeling gradually better for the past month or so. I’m happy to say that the cloud has left for now. Depression always feels inescapable, it is a relief to be reminded that depression isn’t permanent. I have had many depressive episodes in my life and I know myself well enough to know that my depression will be back. Nonetheless, I’m enjoying this moment of respite.

A lot of changes occur when depression ends. In celebration of this return to myself, here are some of the positive changes I have noticed over the last few weeks.

The Big Changes

I’m optimistic about my future

When I’m depressed, I don’t always see recovery as an option. A future that looks any better seems impossible. I feel there are few things worth working towards, because life is what it is: depressing. When the depression lifts I’m reminded of all the things I have to live for and the things that keep me going. I’m able to acknowledge that there is a chance I can make lasting progress. I know that my depression is cyclical and it will come back, but I know that relief from the depression will too.

I feel better about myself

I’m very proud of myself and the progress I have made. I can see how much I have learned in my last couple of years in therapy. I can identify myself as strong and a fighter. I know that I’m a good person and am just doing my best. Conversely, when I’m depressed I feel like a burden. I feel like the worst person in the world and that my existence makes everyone else suffer. Suffice it to say, a break from this horrible self-concept is a gift. As a direct result of this, my self-talk is also much more positive and adaptive when I’m not depressed.

My anxiety is a bit easier to cope with

Since my depression ended I have been trying to leave the house and go for walks more often. I’m even slowly starting to see other people. My anxiety remains painful and debilitating, but I’m determined to try to cope with it when I can. Depression exacerbates my anxiety disorders by impacting my motivation, energy and desire to do things. My anxiety is all the more gruelling when depression robs me of any benefit that facing anxiety might otherwise yield. I’m less resigned to my anxiety when I’m not depressed.

I can feel fully happy

When I’m not depressed I can feel and sustain genuine happiness. When I’m depressed and good things are happening in my life, I can feel a fleeting sense of happiness about it, but rarely does that last. Anything happy is often quickly destroyed by my general sadness or lack of emotion. Or the happiness gets picked apart by unhealthy thoughts like, “I don’t deserve to feel this happiness” or “if I’m happy now it just means something terrible will happen soon.” Those thoughts occur infrequently when I’m not depressed, allowing me to more fully enjoy moments of joy.

I recognize the good things in my life

When I’m depressed, being reminded of the positive things in my life can actually make me feel worse. When my mood is incongruent with the things I “should” be happy about I tend to beat myself up about it. The guilt I feel over being sick is raised because I have so much to make me happy and live for. When I’m not depressed I’m able to appreciate my life and all the good that comes with it. I’m blessed in a lot of ways, chief amongst which is my loving and supportive network of family and friends.

The Smaller Changes

  • My internal alarm comes back. I wake up easily.
  • I sleep more regularly.
  • I make healthier food choices.
  • I want to spend time on my feet.
  • I’m able to play more board games. (When in a low it’s hard for me to focus and cope with unexpected changes so board games become hard to handle)
  • I use positive coping tools as a default.
  • My head doesn’t constantly hurt.
  • I dance and sing throughout the day.
  • I remember everything I have learned in therapy.
  • I drink water.
  • I play with my dog because I want to.
  • My body aches less.
  • I can make simple decisions more easily.
  • I’m able to read more comfortably (no repeating over lines, etc.).
  • I care more about my personal hygiene and self-care.
  • I’m not as easily tired.
  • I can contribute more by doing chores and volunteering.

All of these changes provide much needed light after months of darkness. They also highlight just how much my life is changed by depressive episodes. Depression can be a thief of joy, purpose, energy and self. Depression can make it seem like life isn’t worth living, but even a few short weeks out of depression can be enough to make months of struggling feel worthwhile. I hope that I’ll get a long break before my next low. I hope everyone who is experiencing depression right now will get some relief soon. I hope we all come to know more wellness and joy.

Take care,

Fiona

Photo by Marko Blažević on Unsplash

The Flawesome Award

Image from Sophia Ismaa

I was nominated by Elizabeth for the Flawesome Award. Elizabeth blogs about mental health and lifestyle topics over on The Uncustomary Housewife. She is one of my absolute favourite bloggers. I hope you will all go follow her and read her work. Elizabeth, I think you are fantastic and it means a lot to me that you thought of me for this award. Thank you.

About the Award

Sophia Ismaa created the Flawesome Award. I could paraphrase, but she said it best:

“It’s time to celebrate the flaws that make you awesome. How many times do we see an award that celebrates all things bright and shiny and sunny in a person? How often do we forget that our weaknesses can be a strength? Our flaws make us human, our flaws tell us more about who we are, and in turn we turn those flaws into awesome strengths. In short, our flaws make us #flawesome.”

( From: https://sophiaismaa.wordpress.com/2018/08/31/the-flawesome-award/ )

I believe we learn a lot from what we perceive as flaws, so I think this award is pretty amazing.

Rules of the Flawesome Award

  1. Link back to the creator – Sophia Ismaa Writes
  2. Display the award
  3. List 3 flaws and turn it into a strength
  4. Tag 10 other people

My Flaws & Strengths

I have difficulty discussing my strengths, so this wasn’t easy for me. I decided that given this is a mental health blog, I would take this opportunity to focus on ways in which my mental illnesses have created strengths in me. Bear with me because I don’t want anyone to think that I believe illnesses reflect badly on those who have them. Having an illness doesn’t mean you are flawed. I think illnesses are a part of life. My grandma used to always say, “everything happens for a reason”. I wouldn’t go that far, but I do think we learn things and adapt from hard times. I am going to focus on ways that mental illness negatively impacts my life that have brought about positive lessons for me.

I can be withdrawn

The flaw: My depression and anxiety disorders often lead me to withdraw from my life. I can seclude myself, not seeing anyone for months. This can negatively impact my relationships with friends and family. It also leads me to feel lonelier and more isolated which causes my depression and anxiety symptoms to worsen.

The strength: I value my friends and family above all else. I have always been someone who cares deeply about the people in my life, but my seclusion further emphasizes the importance of my social connections. I am hyper-aware of how much my loved ones mean to me. In a world where we can sometimes veer towards selfishness, I see this focus on others as a strength.

I worry excessively

The flaw: I spend much of my time anxious and worried. My anxiety is severe and impedes my functioning in very real ways. My head is always spinning with “what ifs” and worst case scenarios. I can react negatively to events, information or stimuli I am not expecting. My worry has affected my mental and physical health, and many aspects of my life.

The strength: I am organized and prepared. My files are in order, I know where most of my belongings are, I have checklists for everything and I keep an updated calendar. I worry about all sorts of possibilities arising, and I often work hard to prepare for things. This means when I go on road trips I have a binder full of directions, restaurant menus, festivals and events, addresses and phone numbers. Being organized and prepared is a coping mechanism I need to stay afloat when I am anxious. Organization and preparedness help me avoid surprises and be ready for things that come my way.

I’m not where I thought I would be

The flaw: Some of my plans for my life haven’t worked out. As a result of my mental illnesses, I am low functioning at the moment. I am 26 years old but I’m not able to work, I’m very dependent on others and some aspects of my personal life have been put on hold. I am not able to contribute financially to my family. I’m not currently able to take care of myself independently.

The strength: It took me a long time to accept that I might have to let go of things I had always planned for. I have had to re-evaluate some of my preconceptions about life. I have come to accept that it is okay to rely on others, we all do sometimes. We don’t exist independent of the help we are granted. Independence remains important, gaining further independence is a major goal of mine. But I no longer think it’s a flaw to need help or ask for it. Likewise, I used to think that ambition was a universally important character trait. I now realize that ambition sometimes comes at the expense of happiness. We can become lost in our ambitions, I’m sure I have. I have an appreciation for prioritizing the things I find most important and I’m no longer judgemental of anyone who is taking time to find their footing. It is okay to just be. There is a lot to be said for a life of balance.

My nominees

These are the bloggers who I want to recognize for their work. I hope you will go visit them on social media and check out their blogs.

To the bloggers: I’m sure many of you have already received this award. There’s no pressure to keep it going, I just think you are wonderful.

Ain’t No Atlas

@no_atlas

https://aintnoatlas.home.blog/

Dr. Ashley

The Panicked Foodie

@PanickedFoodie

https://thepanickedfoodie.com/

Brian & Chelsea

Two of a Mind

@Brian_ToaM & @Chels_ToaM

https://www.twoofamind.com/

Carys

Carys Emma Blog

@carys_emma_

https://carysemmablog.wordpress.com/

Fiona

The Fractured Light

@fracturedlightx 

https://www.thefracturedlight.com/

Joan

My Best Friend Adeline

@joansenio1

http://kindness-compassion-and-coaching.com/

Khadra

The Good The Human

@TheGoodTheHuma1

https://thegoodthehuman.wordpress.com/

Lindsay

Seeds in the Wasteland

@seedsinthewaste

https://seedsinthewasteland.wordpress.com/

Nicole

Navigating Darkness

@ItsNicoleCarman

www.navigatingdarkness.com

Sam

Mentally Speaking

@MaddDawgDailey

https://maddawgvlogsblogspot.com/


 

Thanks again to Elizabeth for nominating me. It turned out to be a great exercise for me to identify strengths and lessons I have gained.

Take care,

Fiona

Psychiatric Medications: Our Bodies. Our Minds. Our Decisions.

Photo by rtdisoho on Pixabay

As someone with mental illnesses, the choices I make to take medication, change medications or not take medications are often met with strong reactions varying from support to criticism. I like to attribute these reactions to genuine concern on the part of people who care about my wellbeing. Nonetheless, it’s frustrating when it seems no matter what I choose to do I will inevitably be met with judgement.

Over the years I’ve heard it all…

“Medications are for real health problems, not emotions!”

“You’re too sick, you have to take medication!”

“Benzos will ruin your life!”

“You’ll feel better if you just smoke weed!”

“Mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Taking medication is only thing that helps.”

“You’re kidding yourself by taking medication. Eat healthier, exercise more. Mental illnesses can be totally cured by lifestyle changes.”

I am not alone in having faced conflicting opinions, judgement and criticism over my medication choices. Many of us have been questioned, criticized, judged, demeaned and shamed for our decisions. We have been given opinions we never asked for from people with varying levels of understanding. We receive conflicting messages from family, friends, acquaintances, professionals, movies/TV and popular science articles. We have been instructed what to do as though we don’t have the authority on our own healthcare decisions. We have been told what drugs to take, what drugs not to take, not to take drugs, to take drugs, to change drugs, not to change drugs, etc. It’s dizzying. Some of us have been pressured in to decisions we don’t feel comfortable with. For many of us, the cycle of judgement seems to start again every time we make a new decision about psychiatric medications. This can all be isolating and overwhelming. Honestly, a lot of us are tired of it.

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Photo by stevepb on Pixabay

Are psychiatric medications the only solution that works or a scam? Are they helpful or harmful? Are we over medicating? Opinions differ on these and many other questions. Part of the discrepancy in opinions about medications can be explained by an overvaluing of individual experiences. Medications used to treat mental illness have varying levels of efficacy and side effects from person to person. Likewise, some people respond better to medications than others. Our personal experiences are important, but no one person’s experience can encapsulate the efficacy of a treatment. What is right for me isn’t necessarily right for you and vice versa. The information available to most people through popular science is also confusing. When we go looking for answers we often find more questions. It’s no wonder strong opinions form on an issue that is polarizing even amongst mental health professionals and advocates.

I have come to realize that the only people I want involved in decisions regarding my medications are myself, my medical team and anyone whose opinion I specifically ask for. Simply put, I am in the best place to judge what is right for me and my doctors are the only people whose authority I trust on medications. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate the concern of others. What I don’t appreciate is concern expressed in prying questions and unsolicited advice. My decisions around my mental health care treatment are my own. I should not have to defend them for fear of being judged. Nor should anyone else.

Please allow us the right to make our own decisions without judgement. We should be able to choose treatments that we feel comfortable with without fear of the reactions they will provoke. These choices are personal and they should be. Bottom line: when it concerns our bodies and our minds, it should be our decision.

Take care,

Fiona

Blogger Recognition Award

Photo by Jess Waters on Unsplash

I’m very touched to have been nominated for another blogger award. Nicole from Navigating Darkness has nominated me for the Blogger Recognition Award. This award is given between bloggers in recognition of each other’s work. It means a lot to me that my writing is being read and appreciated by amazing people like Nicole.

Nicole not only blogs candidly about her mental health, she is also always coming up with ways to bring the mental health blogging community together in advocacy and awareness initiatives. I believe she is still accepting submissions for her post series “Taking Care of Your Mental Health During the Holiday Season” which I will be contributing to. She has also created The Mental Health Awareness Project (MHAP). The MHAP launches in 2019 and aims to raise awareness through monthly mental health topics which bloggers can contribute pieces to. You can also find both Nicole and the MHAP on Twitter at @ItsNicoleCarman and @OfficialMHAP.


How the Blogger Recognition Award works

  1. Write a post to showcase your award
    2. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
    3. Give two pieces of advice for new bloggers.
    4. Thank those that nominated you and link their blog
    5. Select other blogs to give the award to.

How Like As The Waves Started

I’ve written about the origins of this blog before and to find out all the details you can visit my post for the Sunshine Blogger Award. It’s worth noting, brevity wasn’t something I aimed for in that particular description.

I began blogging in response to the overwhelming support and encouragement I received from friends and family after beginning to share openly about my mental health on Facebook. I began sharing updates with my loved ones from the hospital in 2017 and the support I received completely floored me. I have always loved to write and wanted an outlet to do so. After my wedding last October I was looking for something meaningful to do with my time. I started Like As The Waves in November 2017 and am so glad I did. I am learning and growing from writing about mental health and mental illness. I am also glad to be connecting with some inspiring and supportive people who I feel privileged to get to know online.

Advice for New Bloggers

It is strange for me to offer advice to new bloggers, given I feel like quite the newbie myself! However, as it is part of the award, here are two things I try to adhere to as a blogger.

  1. Be yourself.

Always be yourself. The blogs I admire most are written by people who write with an authentic voice. Sure, there is a lot of information out there on how to best run a blog, but none of that advice will work for you if it isn’t true to who you are. Write about what feels important or interesting to you in a way that is true to who you are. Your blog will be much more compelling that way. William Shakespeare wrote it best, “this above all: to thine own self be true”. That quote has been my absolute favourite since I read Hamlet many fortnights ago. Honest, I even have a necklace with that quote engraved on it. (Bonus piece of info – did you know my blog title is the opening words to my favourite Shakespearean sonnet? More on that in a blog post soon). Point being, I think blogs are best when they are backed by honesty and passion. The best way to fuel those in to your blog, in my humble opinion, is to be yourself.

  1. Don’t be afraid to share your work

Your blog is probably pretty awesome, make sure others know it exists. I am still painfully bad at promoting my blog, but I do try to always share the pieces I write. I suggest acquainting yourself with Twitter if you haven’t already. While I was pretty excited to write a blog even when my readership was mostly just one person (hi mom) it has been nice to connect with a broader community on Twitter. By sharing my work and seeking out the work of others I have made some great friends and learned a lot.

If you are a mental health blogger starting out on Twitter, the @SickNotWeak and @KeepTalkingMH communities are a great place to start looking for other advocates to engage with. Start using their hashtags #SickNotWeak and #KeepTalkingMH for your own tweets and search out those hashtags for awesome community members to follow and connect with. Nicole’s new project @OfficialMHAP is another great community to connect with on Twitter, use the hashtags #MHAP and #MHBlogFam.

Probably the most gratifying response I receive from my blog is from family and friends. I often feel vulnerable or embarrassed when I share my blog posts on Facebook for them to see, but I try to do it anyways. It’s been great for the people I care about to get to know me better, and has allowed some of them to feel comfortable opening up to me about their own struggles.

My nominees

Here are some of the writers whose blogs I am most grateful for! If you choose to make a blog post about this award, please let me know so that I can read your responses. I would love to hear what advice you have to share for other bloggers.

I hope anyone reading will check out these thoughtful writers and their blogs.

Anja

The Calculating Mind

@CalculatingMind

https://calculatingmind.wordpress.com/

Anja is a mental health advocate living with Bipolar Disorder. She writes from a mixture of personal experience and insight into broader issues. The intersection of research and personal stories makes her blog a favourite of mine. One of her recent pieces, “3 Assumptions Mental Health Providers Should NOT Make”, spoke to me on a very personal level as someone who has been on the receiving end of those harmful assumptions. She is also a great presence on Twitter and perhaps the only other person who I know to have gotten excited at receiving a DSM-5 as a gift.

Elizabeth

The Uncustomary Housewife

@UncustomaryHW

https://uncustomaryhousewife.com/

Elizabeth is a longtime blogger who writes about her Bipolar Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Anxiety, along with other lifestyle topics. I love her blog not only for her own brilliant pieces about mental health, but also for her Not Alone Series which features stories and interviews from other individuals with mental illness. She is also wonderfully geeky and her love of Broadway makes me infinitely happy.

Jaaron

Worn Pages and Ink

@wornpagesandink

https://wornpagesandink.wordpress.com/

Jaaron is a book blogger and close friend of mine. Long before I read any other blogs, I was reading Jaaron’s! She has a knack for relaying the essence of books. After reading her recent review of “Tin Man” by Sarah Winman I wasted no time in running to Amazon to order a copy! I’m forever jealous of her beautiful books organized by colour. Most importantly, she is a beautiful person, amazing friend and talented writer. If you love books (or want to read reviews that are sure to make you love books), hop on over to her blog.

Khadra

The Good The Human

@TheGoodTheHuma1

https://thegoodthehuman.wordpress.com/

Khadra’s blog focusses on mental wellbeing. She is a trained counsellor whose blog is uplifting and informative. She frequently shares insightful advice on maintaining mental health and supporting those who are struggling. Her recent blog “How Would You Respond? Part 2” about responding to self-harm beautifully captures how to be helpful to someone who discloses their self-harm to you. She has also recently co-created the Mental Health Crisis Angels (@MHCrisisAngels on Twitter). The Mental Health Crisis Angels are a group offering peer support through Twitter messages. You can find out more about this amazing initiative here.


Thanks for reading! I hope you will show some love to the amazing blogs I linked to. Thank you again to Nicole for nominating me, it was fun to put this together. I will be back, hopefully later this week, with a new blog entry.

Take care,

Fiona