Dec. 13, 2013

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Well, how are you all doing? Well, better, or hanging in there at least, I hope.

I think – or more truly, I’m cautiously optimistic – that the new meds may be helping.  Why, you ask? Well, yesterday was a pretty OK day. Nothing much to report really, but I did get a few things done and I didn’t feel anxious at all! Today is looking similar even though my boss just got back from a conference with the depressing news that our industry is suffering badly from the economic downturn and no one sees an end in sight.  Somehow that didn’t send me into a tail spin…so that’s a good sign, I’d say.

I finished the Brene Brown book (The Gifts of Imperfection) and I’m sure I’ll be reading that again – have to integrate these words of wisdom into my psyche.  Say it with me, people:  “I am worthy of love.  I am enough.”  Of course, that doesn’t stop me wanting to be/do more, but it is a good reminder that even if I fail, I’m still good enough.  Not trying, not THAT’S a fail!!  My two favorite movie quotes for when I feel stressed or overwhelmed:

1.  “Just keep swimming!” Dori, Finding Nemo

2.  “Baby steppin’ to the (fill in the blank)…” Bob, What About Bob?

Some days that’s all we can do, and that is OK.  As long as we don’t quit, there’s always the chance that tomorrow will be better/your meds will kick in/something great is around the corner, etc.

My big challenge will come tomorrow when I’m home alone with nowhere to be.  I have 2 baby quilts which I had originally promised would be finished in time for Christmas delivery…which is just NOT gonna happen! Still, I can work hard on them this weekend and make progress in the right direction.  And, of course, there’s always house work…and my dog would be so happy if I made time to take her to the dog park before she gets another bath.  So I hope the mood continues to improve and I can get some of this done.  I will try hard, that’s all I can do!

Dec. 11, 2013

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Well, I’ve got good news and bad news today:  The bad news first? Well, I called in “sick” to work yesterday…just couldn’t force myself to come in.  In my defense, it’s been really slow lately, so I don’t think it caused any major problems on the work front.  However, I should have no problem getting up and going to work in the morning like everyone else, right? So, I spent most of the day in bed and the rest of the day on the couch in front of the TV…Really, NOT my best day.

The good news?  Well, I feel better today. I got up, took a shower, made it to work (not quite on time, but…I’ll do better tomorrow), and upon checking my new blog I find that people have been reading and responding to it!  I knew it wasn’t just me!! Why do I feel better today?  Sleep helps, of course, but I think the big thing is that I was reading while I was in bed yesterday, letting my wheels turn, and remembering some of the very important things I need to do to feel better.  Mind you, these things work for me – they might not work for everyone, but I really don’t think they’ll hurt either.

1.  Read and practice the grounding and strengthening your boundaries exercises in Karla McLaren’s The Language of Emotions.  If I had had this book in my 20s, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have spent all that money on therapy!  I have a sneaking suspicion that many of us depressed people are also empaths (I know I am!) and the world at large can just be too much for us at times.  Grounding REALLY, REALLY helps with the anxiety and it’s sooooo easy to do. Strengthening our boundaries? EVERYONE needs to do this! We could all have happier lives if everyone did…My favorite thing about Karla’s book is that she looks at emotions as tools – not good or bad.  I mean, these things happen within us all, naturally, so they can’t be “bad” or “wrong”.  They must have a purpose, and Karla tells us what that purpose is and how to deal with these sometimes difficult emotions, not how to banish or deny them. Really, I recommend this book to everyone.  It’s not majorly new age-y, hippie, woo woo stuff, it’s practical information for anyone with a mind, heart and soul.

2.  Look for the little good parts in each day and give your attention to them.  I almost thought this blog was a bad idea because writing about my crazy is almost like wallowing in it a bit, giving it a bigger part in my life than I would like it to have.  I firmly believe that we create our own reality to an extent by choosing what/who we give our time and attention to.  If you always focus on the bad things, they because bigger in your mind and you may miss out on or forget to notice the good things.  I live in a beautiful place, so that’s often the good part in my day.  I’m driving to or from work and I look at a tree or the sky or something and just thank my deity for it.  Taking those few seconds to really focus on something that makes me happy just magnifies that experience and makes me feel better.

I know it’s hard. I know some days you just can’t get out of bed. Me too.  But we can’t quit because, look – yesterday I was a mess and today I feel a lot better!! In fact, I think this is the best I’ve felt in a few weeks.  Maybe I’ve turned a corner, maybe I just need to practice my grounding more often, maybe I am having a Spiritual Awakening…the only way to find out is to keep going.

Dec. 8, 2013

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     Today was not a very good day.  It began with low level anxiety – I mean, right when I woke up I felt like I needed to stay in my safe little cocoon.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, perhaps) I was scheduled to volunteer at the library this afternoon.  I spent the morning reading and trying to decide if I should give in, make some excuse, and stay home or gather myself and just go, knowing that people were counting on me and it would all be okay.  My logical, responsible brain argued with my anxious spirit and body…The best metaphor I could come up with to explain this feeling to “normal” people is this:  All day today I felt like a hermit crab moving between shells.  My soft parts were exposed, I didn’t feel safe.  I didn’t have the protection of a shell, but I didn’t have a choice in the matter.  Anxious!

     Well, I talked myself into ignoring the fear because it was irrational.  I bet I looked just fine to other people.  I did my hair, put on make up, put on a cute outfit – the armor of the modern woman.  I thought if I looked better maybe I would feel better.  Sadly, I really didn’t.  I sat at my desk zoning out on the computer, trying to hold it together for my designated 3 hour shift.  Then I made a mistake – no biggie, really, just something I didn’t know that I really should have know, but really not a big deal at all.  I mean, I didn’t know the rule.  Now I do.  If someone else had made this little error, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it.  But I sat and thought about it for the next two hours, all the while feeling the tension in my neck and shoulders increasing until I was wearing my shoulders for earrings.  They still hurt several hours later!

     By the time I got home I was exhausted from the stress of it all, but I felt I had to write this up.  The hermit crab metaphor comes in handy here again.  That Brene Brown book I’m reading?  Well, she called her own “breakdown” a “spiritual awakening” instead. (actually, her therapist did, but Brene ran with it, and I’m glad!)  So, in looking for some meaning in all of this madness, I’ve decided to embrace that concept.  Spiritual growth certainly can cause you  to be open and vulnerable, it feels unsafe/strange/unusual.  It could even make you feel anxious…like a hermit crab who has to change shells because it has outgrown the old one. (See what I did there?)

     So, with that more inspiring, less down on myself thought in mind, maybe tomorrow will be better.  All I can do is keep trying….

Dec. 7, 2013 – My Depression

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Most people hear the word depression and think “sadness.”  They hear the word anxiety and think “fear” or “stress.”  Well, that’ not the whole story.  If it were, we would all be cured the moment we were happy or safe again.  Here is my experience of these disorders.

Depression, for me, is mostly a feeling of being overwhelmed.  It overlaps with anxiety that way.  I am a very goal oriented, don’t like to ask for help, always do my best kind of person which often sets me up for failure or disappointment.  The problem is, you see, that I am only human.  I get tired, distracted, fed up, and/or hopeless.  I set standards for myself and everything I do that are sky high.  So, I start a project – write a paper, start exercising regularly, begin a daily meditation practice, eat healthy, be Green – it could be almost anything as long as it’s important to ME, and at some point I’ll look at what I’m doing (or not doing) and see everything that could be better.  Of course, life rarely allows you to have only one such project/challenge going at a time, right? So there are multiple not-good-enough things happening at once.  Suddenly you look around and go, “I’m buried under unfinished/not-good-enough projects! I have to fix this – without ANY outside help, of course – and OMG, where do I start? I better sit here and think about it, make a plan…” THEN I either feel the walls closing in and my heart racing and like I’m going to DIE, or I feel like I can’t possibly do all of this, I’m not good enough, what’s the point, I can’t move.  When I’m in a better frame of mind in the same situation I may just pick one project from the pile and decide to work on that one, get some momentum going, one less thing to worry about.  That just doesn’t seem possible when depression kicks in, though.  Like now.

So, things pile up – laundry, dishes, books you mean to read, emails you meant to write, etc., etc. – all of which makes you feel worse, less powerful, more pathetic and useless, and now I REALLY don’t want to ask for help because then someone will see what a total disaster/useless mess I really am!  I mean, really, how hard is it to sort the laundry and go get it done? It requires very little effort as far as physical activity and almost no mental work at all, and yet my bedroom floor is littered with dirty clothes and I’m almost out of clean underwear!  That is depression for me most of the time.

I didn’t go to war, I wasn’t abused as a child, I didn’t lose a loved one recently, I’m not SAD.  I’m just inert.  I need to overcome inertia and it’s really hard because to the more healthy people in the world (and to myself most of the time) if just looks like laziness.  That is the truly awful part because no one gets it and it looks like such an easy thing to fix – just get up and go! Then you’ll get something done and you’ll feel better and start a new life habit and you won’t be depressed anymore, right? WRONG.  Yes, I am a total mess on the inside most of the time and on the outside a lot, too, but I am not lazy as a rule.  On the contrary, I’m a perfectionist and I can do many things very well and all at once…for other people.  Not lazy – out of balance.

I don’t have as clear a handle on the anxiety since it seems to be so closely related to the depression symptoms that it’s hard to see them separately.  All through high school I had a “nervous stomach” – almost chronic diarrhea, nausea, etc.  I just pushed through and kept going because no one else seemed to think this abnormal.  It certainly didn’t keep my from showing my horse or joining the debate team or any other potentially stressful thing.  I felt it, but no one else did.  As I got older the stressors changed but I just kept pushing through it because  I always had.  I was so happy when, a little while after my first nervous breakdown and starting on Prozac, I had a normal bowel movement! I know, it’s gross and it’s a little thing, but it was a noticeable change in my life.  Sad, right?

More recently, I had an anxiety attack at work – all alone with my dog for NO reason I could point to – and I ended up in the ER and back on medication for the first time in many years.  This was new and terrifying.  I really thought I was having a heart attack and I was going to die.  I’m not in my twenties anymore and although I am a generally physically healthy person, these things happen just out of the blue to people sometimes, right?  People just keel over dead.  That’s how I felt that day….and then to a lesser degree for the rest of the weekend after that.  You see, ER doctors (or maybe just this one, I really don’t know) don’t seem to be very good at dealing with “crazy” people.  You’d think that would be part of their training as they are bound to see a lot of them….Anyway, he told me my EKG and blood work were normal and he gave me some beta-blockers, which he told me that heart attack patients take all the time, and told me to follow up with my doctor.  That’s all.  He didn’t say, “I think this was an anxiety attack.”  He left that for me to figure out.  I was unsure what had happened to me and I was wracking my brain, weighing all the possibilities, trying to figure it out, wondering if the head rush I felt was a stroke about to happen, wondering if the floaty feeling as I drifted to sleep was my soul leaving my body!!!! Yeah, it was ROUGH! Then I went and did something I love for a few hours (because if you’re going to die, you should, right?) and for a short time there, for the first time in days, I felt “normal.”  I was OK when I was occupied doing this thing I love, but as soon as I got in the car to come home, the fear came back.  It was that little break that made me see that the most likely explanation for my ER episode was an anxiety attack.  GREAT! A new mental problem!!  That’s awesome…

My GP agreed with my diagnosis when I finally saw her, put me back on antidepressants (Lexapro, this time), and the anxiety has become more manageable.  I have had a few more “attacks” but now I see them for what they are more readily.  That helps, but the fear of the attack is the worst.  I can’t even read (or write_ about it without having a little mini-flashback and having to calm myself down.  It’s been well over a year since the ER trip, and I’m still dealing with it.

As for the depression, well, like I said at the beginning, I’ve been here before.  Intellectually I know of some coping mechanisms that will improve my state of mind – exercise, for example, or choosing a small project or a couple of little things from my enormous to-do list to complete – but I just can’t.  I want to, but it’s so hard!  And I’m so tired, and I have more bills to pay than money, and the laundry!! Back down the rabbit hole I go….I’ve tried to pick myself up and push through, I’m on medication…I’m just a mess right now.

I just saw my GP a few days ago for my annual exam, and I did a good thing – I asked for help!  That’s how I know I’m a real mess because I generally don’t ask anyone for help ever.  That means I know I can’t figure this one out alone.  I’ts gone on too long and it’s gotten worse in the last few months (not that anyone who lives outside my brain would have really noticed a big change, but I do).  So, new plan:

1.  We increased my Lexapro dose to 30mg/day;

2.  We’re adding 5-HTP supplementation daily; and

3.  Mostly in hopes of a placebo effect, we’re messing with supplements for weight loss (another issue for me…told you I’m a mess!).

I really like my doctor, but she does tend to ask me a lot more than she tells me what to do…which is hard when I’m clearly asking for help.  But, we’ll see how this stuff works.  I started the higher dose of Lexapro 5 days ago, I started 200mg of 5-HTP once a day yesterday, and I’m planning to experiment with the weight loss supplement in a somewhat scientific manner.  She suggested a few things to me  Garcinia cambogia, Raspberry ketones, and Green Coffee Bean Extract.  Other doctors who are her friends have recommended them to her and their own patients, she says.  So, although I’m skeptical, I’ll give it a try.  I’m starting with the least expensive option (because I’m poor) – Raspberry Ketones, 250mg/day.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Since today is a better day – it’s Saturday, I woke to rain on the roof, I’m not feeling rushed, I started a new self-help book which I’m loving (The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown) – for me, I’m starting this blog/journal thing and I’m going to do laundry…and maybe get a hair cut.  Baby steps in the right direction with full knowledge that I am not a totally together person right now.  I’ts a process, and I decided today that as long as I’m still here and working on it, I’m making progress.  I hope you are, too.

Intro – Dec. 7, 2013

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     I am, once again, struggling with depression with a side of anxiety.  Although I didn’t have a name for these problems until my early 20s, I have suffered from and lived with them all my life.  I don’t think any amount of medication or therapy will ever make them go away since, in smaller, more manageable doses, these are natural and beneficial parts of our psyche.  We need them to survive, but they can kill us if they get out of control.

     I’m calling this blog “My Latest Nervous Breakdown” half jokingly.  Yeah, I’m going though a bigger rough patch than usual, but I’m not a complete disaster like I was the first time I really lost it.  I’m older now, I’ve grown and learned a lot, and I’ve survived some rough patches before.  With experience comes perspective and an ability to step back and really examine the situation, use the tools I’ve developed over the years, and search for new ones.  Probably none of this is very original, but that’s another reason to write the blog! I can’t possibly be the only one who is dealing with this, right?  I’m just a regular person with issues – maybe someone else’s issues are like mine.  Maybe I’ve learned tools that someone else hasn’t yet.  Maybe someone will comment here and I’ll learn something new from you.  That is the point and purpose of this exercise.

     I’m writing anonymously to protect my privacy and that of the people I will talk about here.  I hope you all understand and respect that.