Thursday, July 30, 2015

About Mental Illness...

I felt the need to enter something into our little "diary" today, as I have been thinking of writing something to you about this topic for a while. It just so happens that today made itself into the day on which to write.

I started today very early. I was up pretty much the whole night. So understandly when you and baba got up, I was exhausted. I got you to sleep with me until around 9-9:30. As soon as you were fed I decided to get my butt in gear and to drop off a few things at that Bayers Westwood Community Centre. I have never been there before, and as you may know, I am notorious for getting lost in my own back yard. So, it took a lot longer than expected to get there. I had to stop a few times and ask pedestrians and drivers alike, for directions. On one of those stops, a great looking shaved poodle decided to go out for a run, with his owner frantically running after him. No amount of doggie treats, biscuits or friendly drivers could get the dog to stop running back and fro. And understandably the cars that were on this side street just off of Dutch Village Rd. did not want to drive while this great dog was frantic and pacing. It took a car with a lady and a great dog to slow him down and to get him in their car so that he can be reunited with his owner who was standing in the middle of the street, with a handful of treats, calling for him and begging him to return. There is a point, I promise.

It took me at least 5 stops/tries before I actually got to the centre, and that involved a complete stranger, who I happened to have asked an hour earlier for directions, to actually tell me to follow him in his car. I was so frustrated with myself, confused, embarrassed, irritated and thankful all at once. I could not help but hug the guy and furiously thank him for his kindness. And just as he was leaving he got out of his car and asked me if I needed more assistance. I started crying. I thanked him again a many more number of times. He graciously accepted my thanks and went home.
I was talking to the director of the centre when I finally got there and mentioned to her how lost I was trying to get there. She apologized. I explained that there was no need and that because of getting lost, I gained an appreciation for humanity again. I think that whenever I have doubts about the kindness of the human race, I will hopefully look back to this situation, and how like that confused poodle, frantically running back and forth, I was plucked out and returned to my path in life by a stranger's kindness, by my mother's hugs, by my dad's words, by your dad's unrelenting patience.
I am a sufferer of depression and anxiety. I have no qualms in admitting this. I am not embarrassed nor am I ashamed. I understand that it is an illness. I no longer believe that it is the "illness of the spoiled". I believe that some defeatist attitude, associated with my generation, is a major contributor. However, I truly believe that, just like your dad says, it is a disease whose sufferer can not be faulted, just like diabetics.

I can think back to when we found out that we were coming to Canada. That is when I remember having anxiety attacks. I was in grade 11 and was told that my grades needed to be top notch to get into Dalhousie. If I knew then that anyone with a B average is accepted into Dalhousie, I would not have worried about things so much. I was for most of my life an A student. I studies hard, and had parents who did everything in their power to ensure that my brother and I had no reason not to be in the top of of classes.
The anxiety attacks started happening around major assignment and project due dates, as well as before tests and finals. Study partners were always told by their parents that I was playing a trick. That I was trying to get them unnerved. That was obviously not the case. My chest pains and uncontrollable need for weeping could not have bee  a ploy to do anything of the sort. I would have been a sadist if that was the case.

Grade 11 for me, was the first year ever in which I received no recognition or high honors.

When we got to Queen Elizabeth High School, in Halifax, my study habits came with me, and so did my anxiety. To combat this, I stayed after school and made sure that my teachers were at my disposal. I made the effort to speak to them and to let them know that I was there to get the highest grades possible and that I wanted to do well. My goal/your tete and jiddo's goal was for me to be a doctor. So that was the reason I gave to my teachers as to why I was a pest when it came to asking questions and staying with them after school.

Dalhousie came and went, and my grades were not the highest. I was less anxious. But I was more melancholy. Nothing seemed to be wrong, but everything was wrong. When I was at that place, nothing would pull me out. I would sink into a turbulous sea of negative thoughts and it would take dags for me to swim out. I saw a doctor. I was referred to a staff psychologist. Some issues from my past were discussed and blamed, and I was given a prescription. It did not help. In fact, it made things worse. To this day, I blame it for the memory problems I have.

I went off the medication and tried to deal with things on my own. I buried myself in school, and not just studying, but socializing and trying to distract myself. And for a while, it worked. I ended up going back to school at Mount Saint Vincent University and some issues with the Applied Human Nutrition program assisted in the old issues resurfacing and taking central stage. That along with an unhealthy marriage, got me back into a psychologist's office. This time I was happy and relieved. I could not live Martian Abou-El hajj more. Again medication was discussed and again it was prescribed and taken. It worked well for a while.
I got married to your baba and the greatest surprise I have ever had, came into my life. Along with you, however, also came feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy. I felt and still struggle to keep at bay, the self harming and ruinous feeling of not deserving you. Of not being good enough. Those feelings inadvertently contributed to me, on occasion, trying to distance myself from you and your baba, from your grammie and auntie Lynne, from your tete and jiddo, and from everyone else, friends and strangers alike.
I don't know if you will remember this, but right now I have written on the dresser mirror, in our bedroom, the following:

I am in Control
I am Worthy
I am Thankful

The reason why I am telling you all of this, is for you to have an explanation, as to why you will remember me in a positive light some times and in a negative one other times. I want to make it very clear that I have always loved you, even before you were conceived. That you were and always are wanted, and needed. That my behaviour at times was not a reflection on you. If you remember me as an angry person at times, it is probably because I was an angry person some times. I was bubbly, over joyous, sad, weepy, tired, and all the range of emotions in between. I was and still am struggling to get through the days. It would have been nice for you to have a mother who did not go through those phases. And I realize that I am being unrealistic, since those ranges of emotions exist in all of us and are experienced by all mothers out there. I just notice them more because I am paying attention to my moods. That is another part of this illness. I feel like I am self absorbed, and then I feel guilty about being self absorbed.

I hope and pray that your baba and I will show you, whether through example or the power of suggestion, that it is ok to be emotional. It is ok to get upset, sad, desparate, melancholy. The human range of emotions is vast and is to be experienced during one's lifetime. I just need to tell you that if you are feeling something, verbalising it or writing it down, is a great idea. It gives you the power of self analysis. Analysis will then hopefully lead to isolating the issue and then resolving it. I know this might be to complex or philosophical, but this will not only assist you with deciphering feelings and emotions. Inshallah this kind of thinking, critical thinking and cognitive behavioural analysis and therapy, would assist you in your every day life, academic life, professional life, and personal life.
I am rambling I know. But I need to impress on to you the importance of letting yourself feel. Whatever emotion you are feeling, it is important to study it and to let it pass. Supressing it just like supressing problems and sweeping them under the rug would only give them a higher power than they deserve. They would just build up and morph into a monster that is unruly and untaimable. Being a man is not dealing with things in a macho manner. It is honoring your feelings and dealing with them as they come. It is in allowing your gentleness to show, and to have pride in yourself, God, your religion, your family and your principles, to never waiver or give into societal pressures and expectations. Be passionate about life. About your neighbors and loved ones. Work for peace and love, because they are the basis for every good that can happen on this life and the hereafter. You are perfect because of your imperfections my darling. You are so so loved. I know how good and kind you are and I hope and pray that you use the gift that God gave you to make a difference. To face your obstacles, whether innate or physical with nothing but faith and determination. And never forget, asking for help is not admitting defeat. It is recognizing that you are a human being, who is imperfect, and that in itself is a strength that no one can ever take away from you. We all need help every now and then. Be a helping hand for someone, and God will always be there with you, along the way.

I hope this post finds you well. I hope that you gain some insight into your life through my eyes, and that a deeper understanding and a peace of mind is reached through this, as well as through prayers and self care.

I love you with all my heart.

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