You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘hope’ category.

May is Cystic Fibrosis awareness month. After many surgeries, infections and hospitalizations, my brother was placed on the transplant list and received a double lung transplant three years ago because of this disease. He just lost yet another of his closest friends to cystic fibrosis, one who had her transplant at the same time as him.

To him and our family, this is a reminder of his continued and coming suffering, and his inevitable death from this disease unless a cure or significant improvement in treatment is found very soon.

For her, her family, my brother, our family and for me, I beg you please register (or check if you think you already are) as an organ donor at

Additionally, my wife and I are participating in the Walk to Make Cystic Fibrosis History in two weeks. Please considering making a donation to help us raise much needed funds for research. All funds go to Cystic Fibrosis Canada and every dollar makes a difference in the longevity and quality of my brother’s life and so many others who face this battle daily.

I need this today, and thought some of you might need it too.

If You Feel Too Much

Jamie Tworkowski, founder of TWLOH

If you feel too much, there’s still a place for you here.
If you feel too much, don’t go.
If this world is too painful, stop and rest.
It’s okay to stop and rest.
If you need a break, it’s okay to say you need a break.
This life – it’s not a contest, not a race, not a performance, not a thing that you win.
It’s okay to slow down.
You are here for more than grades, more than a job, more than a promotion, more than keeping up, more than getting by.
This life is not about status or opinion or appearance.
You don’t have to fake it.
You do not have to fake it.
Other people feel this way too.
If your heart is broken, it’s okay to say your heart is broken.
If you feel stuck, it’s okay to say you feel stuck.
If you can’t let go, it’s okay to say you can’t let go.
You are not alone in these places.
Other people feel how you feel.
You are more than just your pain. You are more than wounds, more than drugs, more than death and silence.
There is still some time to be surprised.
There is still some time to ask for help.
There is still some time to start again.
There is still some time for love to find you.
It’s not too late.
You’re not alone.
It’s okay – whatever you need and however long it takes – it’s okay.
It’s okay.
If you feel too much, there’s still a place for you here.
If you feel too much, don’t go.
There is still some time.


During these turbulent times we must
remind ourselves repeatedly
that life goes on.
This we are apt to forget.
The wisdom of life transcends our wisdoms;
the purpose of life outlasts our purposes;
the process of life cushions our processes.

The mass attack of disillusion and despair,
distilled out of the collapse of hope,
has so invaded our thoughts that what we know
to be true and valid
seems unreal and ephemeral.
There seems to be little energy left for aught but futility.

This is the great deception.
By it whole peoples have gone down to oblivion
without the will to affirm the great and permanent strength
of the clean and the commonplace. Let us not be deceived.
It is just as important as ever to attend to the little graces
by which the dignity of our lives is maintained and sustained.

Birds still sing;
the stars continue to cast their gentle gleam
over the desolation of the battlefields,
and the heart is still inspired by the kind word
and the gracious deed.

– Howard Thurman (mentor to MLKJ), from Meditations of the Heart


I will tell my story.

I will open space for vulnerability where stigma and silence have reigned.

In this, I bring my darkness to light. In this, I find hope.

In this, I kindle a spark for you to bring your own darkness to light.

“You are alone.” “This pain will last forever.”

These are the two great lies of mental illness.

And so, instinctively, we fight or flee.

In telling my story, I challenge myself and you:

Stand still and hold the light.

Do what you can to take the smallest step towards light.

This is my new goal in difficult moments. As November shuffles forward, I hold it close and feel empowered because even the hardest challenge can be broken into smaller and yet smaller steps. The idea for this goal came from my experiences working with adults with autism. For some individuals with autism, requests such as “get ready for bed” can be far too complicated, and a person may benefit from breaking down these complex routines into much simpler steps. If it’s too hard to get ready for bed, perhaps start with just getting undressed, or if that is difficult, just taking of your socks, or if that also seems overwhelming, just sit down on the bed. I could continue, but I think you understand. Any task can be made into a smaller step, and this is what I try to remember when the darkness raises its hand to try to take me under.

If you have read some of my past writings, you may be familiar with my history with November.  As I considered writing this post, it suddenly dawned on me that November 13th is just four short days away. November 13th, a day that has carried the deepest darkness for me for more than seven years. It’s not the day itself really, but what it reminds me of, what it brings back to memory.

It seems at times that my emotional memory is much stronger than my logical memory. The pain of past Novembers feels fresh and new, when in fact I know it is just old scars. The pain pins me down, holds me hostage, and demands to be felt. And instinctively I resist.

Sometimes the smallest step towards the light is accepting the darkness. Letting it in, letting it whisper and rage and swirl and silence. Letting it crawl along your skin.

My own struggle against suicidal ideation is rooted in escaping emotional pain. The darkness flourishes in thoughts of endlessness, of inability to endure the darkness. The darkness tries to panic me, and as I try to flee, it solidifies its hold.

Everything I know (so far) about living with borderline personality disorder and depression is in these words by Rainer Maria Rilke,

Let everything happen to you:

beauty and terror.

Just keep going.

No feeling is final.

I will let the darkness come if it must, as I hold within me the hope for light. When we ache in the absence of light, the ache in itself is a spark. My desire for light in the face of darkness is in fact a source of light. It shows me there is still life here. There is still some fight left in these bones. I will not give up, I will not give in, to the dark scars I carry.

Nothing can extinguish my hope. The darkness may call me stubborn, it may call me a foolish coward, but the embers of hope will still burn and the burning will lead me to light. Sometimes the smallest step from darkness is to accept it, allow it space to sit, and you may find your soul, much like one’s eyes, begin to adjust. There is beauty even in the deepest pain.  So easy to miss, so easy to dismiss, but if you look for it, there it is.

Let everything happen to you:

beauty and terror.

Just keep going.

No feeling is final.

– Rainer Maria Rilke

A dear friend, Karis, shared this quote with me awhile ago, maybe last year sometime.

I took to it and buried it deep inside and have come to it again and again (and still yet again) in my most difficult moments.

Everything I know and have learned about dealing with depression, borderline personality disorder and suicidal ideation boils down to this.

There is life in these words.

Kathryn and I have committed to reading an Advent reflection each night before bed.  We both long for spiritual connection and a sense of meaning.  We long to be connected to the earth, to our fellow creatures and humans, and to the vast universe.  We both grew up with religion as a central principle on which to base behaviour.  And we both now question that foundation and long to understand and to really know Truth.

The Advent reflections we are reading are a collection of writings by Henri Nouwen, a man I’ve grown to respect for his insight into the spiritual richness of life in community with individuals marginalized by society (particularly through his experience with L’Arche).

In tonight’s reflection, Nouwen writes, “Jesus is the source of all peace… There is peace to be found in our own weakness, in those places of our hearts where we feel most broken… Right where we are most vulnerable, the peace that is not of this world is mysteriously hidden.”

This is certainly not the first time this concept has been presented to me.  And without examining my internal thoughts and feelings, I would likely agree that this statement holds an element of truth.  But tonight as Kathryn read the words aloud, my heart broke and anger rose within me.  Where is this peace?  The last couple of days have been particularly difficult and follow a long pattern of struggle that doesn’t seem to be responding to any of my efforts to move towards recovery.

So I am left questioning the validity of this “Jesus is peace” mantra.  I am left wondering what basis I have for believing in Scripture, for basing my life on the assumption that there is truth to be found in placing my hope in Jesus.  Are we being taught to believe in a fairy tale?  Are we being lulled into a faith that simply makes it easier to cope with existence, but has no basis in reality?  If God is peace, and that peace is found in my brokenness, then where is God in my struggle for mental wellness?

Like Nouwen, perhaps some spiritual truth could be approached by reflecting on my experiences living in community with individuals with severe intellectual and physical disabilities.  I think back to walking along Cape Breton roads with a man living with a severe form of autism.  I remember pausing under a tree with him as he listened carefully to the rustling of leaves.  I remember the stillness in holding an elderly woman’s hand, the serenity she experienced in a simple gesture.  I remember finding hope in our weekly chapel routine, the lighting of candles, the words of the songs, and especially, hearing the individual prayers of each community member. One of my friends who is non-verbal takes the time every week to make the sign for each person and thing for which he is thankful.

Despite the pain this week has contained, there have been small amounts of life-giving hope, of simple joy for which I truly am grateful.  Watching ducks dive under water in the stream near our hiking trail, feeling joy as countless chickadees, nuthatches and woodpeckers trusted me enough to land on my hand for seed, feeling wonder as we contemplate the intricate beauty of the natural world around us.  Both Gus and Elliot, our two cats, have come to me for daily snuggles and affection, and have shown appreciation for the nurturing life we’ve provided them.  Every time I walk through my kitchen, I see a picture of each of my nieces on our fridge and I am grateful for the love that wells up within me.  I am thankful for the privilege of reading and the opportunities I have to explore literature.  My grandmother’s piano, given to me by my parents, provides an emotional release like no other.  And I wouldn’t be where I am today without the love and support given by my family and friends, so many of whom inspire me to live well.  Perhaps in these moments, I experience a drop of the peace that Nouwen describes.

And above all of this, I am blessed in my relationship with Kathryn.  For her, I feel a gratitude I can’t express.  If God is the source of peace, hope, love and joy, then she is the embodiment that brings these gifts to my soul.  Everyday she shows me the light of Christ and in my darkest moments, she empowers me to shelter and nourish the flicker of hope that burns within me.

It’s been a while since I’ve written. If you know me, you know it hasn’t been an easy summer, or fall. There have been great things to celebrate, the birth of my new niece Abbigail, Kathryn and I painting our apartment, the beginning of hockey season and finally coming home from the hospital. And interspersed within these moments have been some very painful ones.

November 13th, 2008 was the first time I ever attempted suicide. I haven’t told very many people this. It’s not an easy thing to talk about. But if I want this pattern of emotionally difficult autumns to change, I need to process what happened on that day and what has been happening since.

I had struggled with depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts for most of my teen years and well into university. Growing up, my family expressed strong emotions in response to pain, fear, anger, but also joy, hope and love. I learned to feel my emotions with my whole self. This has both its pros and cons. At times my life has been full of hope and love and peace and nothing can shake my confidence in the goodness of life. I am passionate, fun-loving, adventurous and compassionate towards others.

But when dark clouds roll in, it’s a whole different story. I struggle to hold on to the basic building blocks of my life – my relationship with Kathryn, the love of my family and the meaning I’ve found in the work that I do. I start to question everything I hold to be true and the very meaning of life itself. In 2008, in conversation with a close friend, I decided that I could no longer sit on the fence of indifference. I had to make a choice – to end my life then, or give up this suicidal thinking for good. I swallowed as many pills as I could find and waited, unsure of what would happen. Within a half hour I began to feel dizzy and nauseous and started to panic. I told my friend, and she and another friend came and took me to the hospital. It was my first experience with the medical system’s response to mental illness but certainly wouldn’t be my last.

Autumn has been a difficult time of year since that day and it seems November 13th has become a suicide prompt of its own. Even in years when my mental health has been fairly stable, the approach of this date has stirred up shame, fear and hopelessness. Rehearsing suicidal behaviours and thinking up elaborate plans to end my life becomes normal behaviour and my social world basically collapses. So many daily objects have become part of my unhealthy thinking, and now as I try to change these patterns and build new coping skills, I struggle to change the impact of these “suicidal prompts.” Everything from scarves and belts, to advil tablets and scars on my skin remind me of the struggle I have had to face against suicidal thinking and mental illness.

I quickly discovered that overdosing on medication that causes sedation is a very quick way to lose consciousness – a desired result when feeling hopeless as it reduces the likelihood of becoming scared and calling for help. During my various encounters with the mental health system, I have been given prescriptions for anti-anxiety medication that can have this result when abused. The part of me that is ill and is looking for escape from pain wants to save these medications, to hoard them, to keep them as my backup plan. My first choice is to live and live well but if that doesn’t work, at least I have a plan B.

There are a few problems with this plan and my illness does a good job with helping me cope with most of those problems, but there is one that I have never been able to accept the responsibility for. I have two nieces, Britney who is fourteen and Abbigail who was just born a few months ago. I know that I struggle with suicidality because it was introduced to me as a solution to emotional problems when I was at a young age. I never want these two girls to face the same struggle. Although my entire family would be devastated if I were to complete suicide, I think the pain would be hardest for these young ones.

The reality is that 95% of the time, I don’t want to die. I love my life, I love our cats, I love my family, I love my work and I love my city. Above all, there is Kathryn and she has given me a reason to abandon plan B and commit myself to journeying through whatever life brings us with her by my side. This is no easy task, these learned habits are hard to reverse and new coping skills are so difficult to implement consistently.

I’ve been given an opportunity to work through this process with a therapist while meeting with a group of individuals on similar journeys in a program called Bridge to Recovery. I really do want to use this program as a bridge from my stays in the hospital to the rest of my life. In order to do that, to give up plan B, I must reduce the power that various “suicide prompts” have in my life. I need to be able to face everyday objects like a scarf, and see reminders of my journey like my scars without the emotions of those memories returning and overwhelming me. I need to reduce my vulnerabilities but I also need to strengthen my response to crisis. Part of that must be changing the way November 13th impacts my life.

I met Kathryn on November 17th, 2010. This helps. This day that brought great joy and light into my life helps me to get through the difficult memories of the 13th. I hold on for her, for us, for our future. I hold on because I know that life with her is worth the bumps and hiccups along the way.

So this is my commitment, to remember that the morning’s light always follows the darkness. The love we share gives us strength when we are weary and although we are not perfect for each other, our love makes us whole. I look to the future and I know suicide has no place in my life, it no longer holds any power.

I’m not sure how to begin this post. I suppose I should start by telling you that I have been re-admitted to the hospital.  At the conclusion of my last round of ECT I was feeling good, stable, ready to take on the challenge of getting back to my life. Kathryn and I headed up to the cottage for a week of reconnecting and relaxing after such a long summer.  On the drive up, I compared how I felt to a leaf floating on a river, ready to go wherever the current takes me.  Calm, at rest, serene.

After our first night, my mom called us to say my pregnant sister-in-law (who wasn’t due for another two weeks) had gone into labour and asked if we wanted to drive back to be with the family when the new baby arrived.  Of course, we said yes.  We left our stuff, locked up the cottage, and hopped back in the car for another long road trip home.

And it was so worth it.  I will never forget the first moment I heard the sound of a baby crying in Bryan and Sarah’s room, or how we got to meet her when she was only 20 minutes old, or how when we visited the next day, my brother gingerly handed her to me and I felt her small little heart beating, watched her chest rise and fall as she breathed and marvelled at how somebody less than 12 hours old could have already made such an impact on our family.

Those moments with Abbigail, my brother and my sister-in-law, were pure bliss. We longed to stay and hold her forever, but we had a cottage to get back to, and she had some mommy-baby bonding time scheduled in her calendar. So we jumped back in the car and repeated the drive north with joy and peace in our hearts.

The more I thought about how good it felt to hold someone so little, so brand new, the more I longed for Kathryn and I to be at that phase of our journey together. We have talked about having kids, looked into our options, made some tentative plans, but the timeline keeps getting pushed back.  My insecure self wonders if Kathryn is dragging her feet because she may not really want children. But my true self saw the wonder in her eyes as she held our little niece and I know the mom desire is inside her too.

This is hard to admit, but it’s easy for me to get jealous of parents with small children, and especially newborn babies. The longing in my heart turns to pain and in jealousy I think, why them and why not me? Like a toddler, I want to sit on the floor, kick my feet and yell, “It’s not fair! Why does it have to be harder for us?! Why can’t I have what they have?”

Apparently this leaf isn’t quite so ready to go wherever the current takes her. Towards the end of our week at the cottage, I slowly started to experience all the symptoms I dealt with before ECT. My headaches returned. I couldn’t sleep at night and just wanted to sleep all day. I wasn’t hungry at all. I was short-tempered with Kathryn and pessimistic about our future.

It’s hard to say how much this has to do with my jealousy over the birth of my new niece. Please know that my heart is truly filled with happiness for them and I am excited to watch this little one grow and interact with all the members of our family.  If the symptoms returning were only about the baby issue, they would subside as I came to accept the reality of Kathryn and my situation, that now is just not the right time for us.  And my inability to manage the symptoms suggests that I have more healing to do before we bring a baby into our family.

Later, once we were home, more serious symptoms began to return – urges to self harm, inconsistency with taking my medication, suicidal ideation. Kathryn and I tried to cope, we tried to find hope, we tried to get through it. But it was as if that leaf had turned to stone and sunk to the bottom of the river. I wasn’t moving in any direction, I couldn’t handle the pressure, and I didn’t know how long it would be before I cracked.

We were so disappointed that the benefits of ECT had not lasted. This was not what we were told to expect. Although ECT is still widely misunderstood, even by psychiatric professionals, we felt we had been given good information about the risks and potential benefits, and thought we had come out of the treatments on the positive side.

When I really started to consider doing something to hurt myself, and started refusing Kathryn’s attempts to help me, she called a crisis line for advice. She was able to convince me to talk to the counsellor, who assessed the situation and recommended I go to the ER. She then told Kathryn that if I would not go willingly, Kathryn should call the police – the situation was that dire. Not wanting to be taken to the hospital by police, I went willingly.

Like most visits to the ER, it was a long night. I had to wait for a psych doctor to be available to assess me, and in the meantime, I alternated between periods of complete boredom, and long sessions of questioning from various nurses, social workers and interns. They wanted answers I didn’t have.  Why the dramatic shift in my mood? Did ECT really work, or did I just want to believe it did? Why aren’t the coping skills enough at this point? And on and on… and endless questions about my mental health history, which I feel I’ve had to repeat over a dozen times in the past few days.

By Sunday morning, I finally saw a psychiatric resident who agreed the change in demeanour seemed serious and extreme, and wondered if I just didn’t have enough ECT sessions for the effects to be long-lasting. After talking with Kathryn, who was legitimately concerned for my safety and well-being, he decided to have me admitted so I could be re-referred to the ECT program.

And so, here I am. Back in the hospital. On a different unit (due to bed availability), which means all new staff to get used to. Frustrated, disappointed, lonely and missing home. Kathryn still visits every day, and I’ve had various friends come to spend time with me, but of course being here is not the same as being at home.

But knowing I’ve been approved for another round of ECT treatments makes it worthwhile.  I don’t know if this time will be different, if I’ll experience long-lasting relief from the symptoms that have plagued me for so long. But I do have hope. I know what I’m in for, I know what to expect from the procedure, I know I’ll be okay.  And I hope that feeling of floating on the water will return, and this leaf can continue her journey home.

In light of my recent discharge, I thought this would be a good chance to allow Kathryn to share her experience of me being hospitalized.  Because Kathryn has seen the whole journey from beginning to now, she has a unique perspective to share. The following is her reflections on the questions that I have asked her.

Q: What different types of treatment were used (pharmaceutical, spiritual care, talk therapy, ECT), and was one emphasized more heavily than the others?

A: Ashley’s hospitalization this summer has been very different than all prior hospitalizations for this very reason. During past hospitalizations, psychiatrists have eagerly explored pharmaceutical treatments and very little else. This time around I noticed that the treatment Ashley was offered was quite varied. Spiritual care, pharmaceutical treatment, electroconvulsive therapy, art and music therapy, physical activity and easy access to fresh air and sunlight have all encouraged healing during this journey. I also sensed the psychiatrist’s determination to help Ashley navigate the darkness which was very encouraging to me, as this has not always been the case with prior hospitalizations.

Q: Do you feel the hospital is structured in a way that promotes healing, or perpetuates illness?

A: This is a difficult question to answer. Overall, I believe that the hospital Ashley was admitted to this summer does indeed promote healing. The reason why this is difficult to answer is because there have definitely been times in which I have disagreed with decisions that have been made, one of which being the stretch of three days when I was not allowed to see Ashley, simply because the psychiatrist felt it would be best for me not to visit. For patients who are actively willing and able to participate in their recovery, I believe that the hospital does promote healing by encouraging patients to have visitors and allowing them go out on passes, whether simply off of the ward to go to the gym or leisure lounge within the hospital or to go home and participate in ‘real life’ activities. For patients who are unwilling or perhaps not even yet able to understand how to actively participate in their recovery, the hospital feels like a revolving door. During the summer I have seen many patients be discharged and then shortly after, be readmitted.  It is a heartbreaking thing to see, but I do believe that it is safer to navigate the darkest of times within reach of medical professionals than all alone at home.

Q: How did you react when the doctor first suggested electroconvulsive therapy for Ashley?

A: I had a brief moment in which I was completely terrified but recognized that it was a fear of the unknown more than fear of the treatment itself, because I knew very little about ECT. The more we learned about ECT and its potential benefits from the medical staff, the more hopeful I became.

Q: What was it like seeing Ashley go through ECT twice a week?

A: On the day of Ashley’s first treatment, my stomach was in knots but I was relieved to be able to be by Ashley’s side the entire time. The moment Ashley drifted off under anaesthesia I was paralyzed with panic, unsure of what to expect next. The procedure itself is quite short – only about two or three minutes from start to finish but the prep and recovery take hours. As I observed Ashley fall asleep, I almost felt like I was in a dream where something terrible was about to happen and everyone else was totally unaware and going about their business. My eyes were fixed to the monitor which displayed her vital signs. The anesthesiologist casually administered the second drug which was a muscle relaxant and all of the staff around Ashley watched as her breathing slowed down to a turtle’s pace. Then the anesthesiologist moved to the head of the bed and began taking over for Ashley’s lungs, pumping oxygen into her using the handheld ventilator. After about one minute, a bite guard was inserted into her mouth and the staff all looked at each other and said “Ok go ahead.” As the electricity entered Ashley’s brain, the muscles in her face tensed up and her toes curled up tighter than I could have imagined.  The staff then continued their chit chat and all I could think was “This is not normal! How can you be talking about your weekend when my wife is having a seizure!” At first, the seizure was quite noticeable and gradually faded until I could only see small twitches of her toes. Within about a minute, her body naturally stopped the seizure and they quickly unhooked the electrodes, took out the bite guard and moved the ECT machine over to the next patient’s bed. The anesthesiologist and one other nurse remained by Ashley’s side and continued ventilating until began breathing again on her own. Now THIS was the worst part of the whole procedure. Often Ashley awoke, gasping and choking for air, asking for help and saying she couldn’t breathe. It was during these moments that I felt completely useless, not knowing what to do other than encourage her to breathe slowly and remind her that it will be easier to breathe momentarily. Although it was stressful to witness, I am so grateful that I was able to be by Ashley’s side through each and every treatment, offering her support and love and even a few laughs during her most vulnerable moments. And thankfully, she has no memory of the difficult moments waking up after her treatments.

Q: Do you think ECT was effective? In what way?

A: I absolutely believe that ECT has had a positive effect on Ashley’s journey towards health. It wasn’t until the last few treatments that I truly began to notice lasting changes. I started to notice Ashley smiling and laughing more. I would come to spend time with her at the hospital and our conversations would be focused more on hope and life rather than escape and darkness. Early on in her series of ECT treatments, she asked her psychiatrist how she would know if ECT was working and he laughed and said “You’ll just know.” It was at Ashley’s eleventh ECT treatment that I really felt like I could see this dark cloud lifting. After the doctor had said “You’ll just know” Ashley was quite skeptical and desired more concrete guidelines to gauge her progress. It was after her eleventh treatment, as she was recovering, that she said “I don’t know how to explain it, but I feel like it’s working. I just feel better.”

Q: What was the hardest part of having Ashley in the hospital for three months?

A: The loneliness was the most difficult part for me. Although we have only been together for four years, I don’t even remember my life before Ashley. I really feel like it wasn’t until I met Ashley that I was truly alive, so feeling so disconnected from her for so long was very difficult.

Q: What was the best part?

A: I wouldn’t say there was a ‘best part’ of Ashley’s hospitalization but the most positive things that came from the past three months are the people who have influenced her journey towards health and healing. There have been several patients and staff who we will always look back on with fondness and gratitude for making our lives richer.

Q: When were you most scared?

A: I was most scared when the dark cloud was at its darkest. When Ashley saw no hope, no light, not even a glimmer, when her illness was at its ugliest, that was when I was most scared.

Q: Did you notice a difference in how patients were treated based on their social, economic or educational background?

A: Unfortunately, I did notice a difference in how patients were treated based on different factors. Because Ashley is so intelligent, well educated and aware of her illness and how it manifests itself in her life, her psychiatrist and most nurses spoke to her candidly and honestly. Other patients who had come from different social, economic and educational backgrounds were not treated in the same way. Even patients with different diagnoses were treated differently depending on their ability to communicate.

Q: Did you feel staff treated you and Ashley differently because of your orientation or were you always welcomed as family and included in decisions that were being made about Ashley’s treatment?

A: I made my love for Ashley and my eagerness to do anything I could to help Ashley journey toward wellness apparent to all of the staff at the hospital right from the beginning. I came to visit Ashley once, twice, sometimes even three times a day and I always got the sense that the staff were happy to see me come and spend time with Ashley, comforting her and encouraging her to look towards tomorrow with hope. The nurses always kept me informed when Ashley was unable to contact me and I was absolutely always included in discussions about Ashley’s treatment goals and objectives. Occasionally the nurses would even turn to me and ask my advice on how we normally navigate certain situations at home and I would have a chance to offer my opinion on how different circumstances can trigger emotions and reactions when Ashley is most vulnerable. In those moments I truly felt respected and knew that my orientation didn’t matter, they simply saw me as a loving spouse trying to be as loving and supportive as possible.

Q: What “blessings in disguise” did you and Ashley experience because of her hospitalization?

A: Being able to be by Ashley’s side through her ECT treatments was definitely a blessing in disguise. No matter how difficult it would have been, I still would have gone to each and every treatment, but not very many patients had loved ones there for support during this process, which helped me realize how lucky we are to have one another.

Q: What signs have you seen that support Ashley being ready to leave the hospital?

A: Ashley’s general eagerness to get outside, experience what is left of summer and ponder the future and all of the great things it holds in store for us are all signs that scream “I’m ready!”

Q: How do you feel about Ashley coming home?

A: I’m so excited. I’m excited even about the mundane things like doing extra dishes and making bigger meals because it means Ashley is alive and home and ready for the next part of our journey. And it also means that I’m not the only one that has to scoop the cat litter.

Q: Has this summer changed the dynamic of your relationship with Ashley?

A: It hasn’t changed the dynamic of our relationship one bit. If anything it has strengthened our marriage. I always want Ashley to know that I made a commitment to her that I do not take lightly. I have promised to choose her each and every day, in health AND in sickness and I want to live out that commitment in every action and word. She is not her illness, I see far far deeper than that.

Q: What are some of the funniest things that Ashley said during ECT treatments?

A: After the sometimes painful transition from breathing via ventilator to breathing on her own, Ashley would have some comical things to say while still heavily sedated. Two of the funny things she said were:

– “My insides feel velvety.” (quoting Phil from an episode of Modern Family that Ashley and I had watched the night before)

– The recovery nurse said “It looks like she is becoming more alert now” and Ashley perked her eyes wide open and said “TIM HORTONS!? Is that what we’re chatting about?”

– Immediately after waking up from ECT one day Ashley complained of stomach pain and the nurse promptly went and got some anti nausea medication to administer. When she returned, Ashley asked what she was doing and the nurse said she was hooking up some medication to her IV to help her stomach feel less queasy. Ashley looked puzzled, obviously having forgotten that she had complained about her stomach hurting just moments ago and shrugged her shoulders and said “OK, I guess so.”


Follow on Bloglovin

Blog Stats

  • 18,372 visits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email (no spam, promise).

Join 126 other followers


Proud Member of the Mental Health Writers’ Guild