Is It a Rebellion? Maybe.

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Krishnamurti

I both love and hate this quote. Looking at the world around me, and it isn’t just ill, it is violently ill. It’s no wonder so many of us are coming forward and recognizing the truth of our mental health. We are profoundly more aware of the atrocities of man. Unless you are a hermit living in the woods and well beyond the reaches of human interaction, it’s impossible to avoid being inundated with negative stimuli. Is it any wonder so many of us are “mentally ill”?

I remember one day, just before I started my meds, I was scrolling through social media and it seemed like every headline was about the possible catastrophic end of the human race and/or the planet. This deep sense of “Why bother doing anything productive? It’s all going to end anyway, whether by our own self-destruction or some imminent act of nature.” Looking back, I feel like that moment was the moment my mind became cognizant of my need for treatment, similar to drifting slightly into consciousness before you’re jolted awake.

This morning I read an article once again touting a non-pharmaceutical solution to a variety of mental illnesses by way of propping up a former psychiatrist’s new book, much in the same way anti-vaccination believers prop up the one or two doctors who have (in my non-medical-professional opinion) lost their damn mind.

The article itself is written in a way that boasts loquaciousness rather than skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion. (If you clicked through to the article, I’m hoping you’ll get the joke of that last sentence.)

The gist of both the article and the book it’s adulating is “that depression, ADHD, anxiety, etc. aren’t chemical malfunctions of the brain, nor spiritual malfunctions of the mind; rather, they are forms of legitimate rebellion against life structures that are unworthy of one’s full participation or attention. They are more symptoms of a social illness than of a personal deficiency.”

I wonder if these folks have ever considered the possibility of the outside world and all of its horrors altering our internal brain chemicals, causing “spiritual” malfunctions of the mind? My problem wasn’t ever that certain life structures weren’t worthy of my participation or attention, it’s that I pay too much attention. I feel too much, too deeply, too painfully. I know it’s not a personal deficiency. If anything, it is an excruciating blessing of awareness, but it’s kind of like trying to take your morning shower in Niagara Falls, sure it’s water, but it will destroy you. That’s why nature and man have created systems to mitigate the flow.

A Mind of Your Own offers the equivalent by going beyond critique to offer a multi-dimensional holistic protocol for treating depression, involving diet, body ecology, exercise, and other practices. Clearly these subvert the dominant pharmoneurochemical paradigm, but it may not be immediately clear that they are part of a broader radicalism. After all, whether you “fix the patient” with chemicals or with other methods, aren’t you still helping her adjust to a “profoundly sick society”? That is a criticism frequently levied at so-called holistic treatments for depression. I asked Dr. Brogan to respond. She said:

My whole premise is that depression is an opportunity for transformation and that this transformation is best engaged, for many of us, through sending the body signals of safety; i.e. diet, movement, sleep, meditation/relaxation response. This isn’t a symptom management program. It’s a root-cause-resolution endeavor that seeks to illuminate connections between different bodily systems heretofore conceived of as separate. Acknowledging and accepting this invitation also begets a level of consciousness around bodily integrity that extends to engagement with the medical system, consumerism, and fear around adversity.

Now, as someone who lives with depression and anxiety, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say neither the author of the article or the author of the book have spent most of their life cycling through periods of profound hopelessness looking at the world around you, feeling helpless to change anything and the intense rage of needing to change the world because you are ferociously aware of the ills of humanity, but being paralyzed by the weight and magnitude of problems that need to be solved.

“Just exercise, get lots of sleep, eat well, meditate, and most of all, buy my book! It’s way cheaper than pills and doctors!”

I won’t tell people they should trust the pharmaceutical industry, the medications, or the doctors just because at this moment in my life I am a functional human being that feels as though she has the strength to truly affect change in the world thanks to a Zoloft and Klonopin cocktail. Just like I will no longer tell people that exercise, diet, and yoga will bring you inner peace and enlightenment and that if you love yourself enough everything in the world will fall into place.

I will say do whatever you need to do to feel well enough to help you do what you need to do to survive in a world we know is crumbling around us, whether you want to turn the world on its head or you just want to be able to get out of bed and take a shower on a daily basis.

It is completely plausible that depression, anxiety, ADHD, and a litany of other “mental illnesses” are the physiological responses to a profoundly ill society. It’s also quite possible that our society is changing much faster than our limbic systems can evolve.

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Depression is a Dick

This morning I woke up from insane dreams about giant spiders, dead spiders, bloodletting, and blackmail. My brain is obviously an interesting place at night. I’ve had a few spider dreams lately, but this morning I woke up, took my medicine as usual, made coffee, and waited for that moment of life to kick in.

But it didn’t happen.

Usually, the caffeine and the drugs kick in around the time I’m finishing my first cup. By the end of the second cup, I’m ready to face the world and do real life things.

This morning I finished my second cup and texted my bad-ass lady group text, “I don’t know why, but I feel sort of overwhelmed with depression this morning. I want to crawl back in bed and ignore the holiday all together.” The general consensus was that depression is a dick and we were all in pretty much of a funk.

Mine has been more of a “I want to curl up in the fetal position under the covers and just cry about nothing and everything” mixed with “I wish I could crawl out of my skin.”

I’m accustomed to the tides of seasonal depression. I know the times of year I’m more likely to be depressed and the times I’m more likely to feel more like a real person. In the autumn, it begins, becomes progressively worse until after Christmas, begins declining in early spring, is a little spotty in June, then I’m good again until October.

The only time I don’t have major issues with depression in the autumn and winter months is around Thanksgiving, since it’s my favorite holiday, which made today especially unnerving.

I love Thanksgiving because it is about sharing food and family and love. There is no gift giving or feelings of inadequacy, it is just a day to share love and food. I just couldn’t today.

I can’t bring myself to call the people I love, because I don’t want them to hear my lack of enthusiasm for life on a day I adore celebrating living. I don’t want my voice to crack and my words to sound disingenuous. I don’t want to be overwhelmed by the love of others while I feel like I’m playing triage in my own head. I don’t want to break down into heaving sobs because I feel I can’t completely reciprocate their love in this very moment.

Depression makes me feel like a failure at loving those closest to me. It makes me feel broken and incapable of anything greater than apathy. When despair creeps into the edges and begins to blot out the joys of my life, I feel helpless…like watching ink bleed all over the pages of your favorite book and knowing there’s no such thing as another copy of your first edition.

I have so many people who love me in this life, and so many I love with all of my being in return. I hate that depression makes me feel as though my love is somehow diminished or dulled, because all I can feel is overwhelming grief. Grief that has no origin, no direction, no ebb and flow, just rising waters.

Tomorrow will be better. Today will get better.


 

**This post written in haste

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Impostor Syndrome

I haven’t written anything in nearly two months.

In my defense, it has been a really chaotic two months. I left my job of 13 years…not just a job, a second family. It was time to go, I knew it was, and an opportunity presented itself, so I jumped on it. I was mentally in a place where I had the confidence to make the leap, and I’m honestly happy I did.

But…

It’s almost one month in, and while I’ve received many compliments from the people I work with and clients about how happy they are to have me, how well I’m doing, how much customer communication has improved since I’ve been there, I feel like a complete fraud.

I’m terrified that at any second someone is going to realize that I’m all charisma and charm and little substance in terms of understanding the more technical aspects of my job.

It’s difficult, I’m in an industry I know nothing about and there is so much to learn it is completely overwhelming. I feel like I’ve done fairly well learning the software systems, but the product still eludes me. There’s just so much, so many different options and modifications, and no real way to understand those options without bugging the people around me to give me details over and over again.

And everyone is so busy, when I ask for details on products, I’m terrified that I’m bothering them. I know I’m bothering them, but I have had no real training in the product, only the software used to quote, sell, and track the product, which unfortunately gives very little detail about the product. I’ve had no actual training other than “This is how you look this up, this is how you run this report.”

I think I’m catching on well, but I feel like I’m just managing to cover up my lack of understanding with charm. In reality, I know it is impossible to be an expert, or even fairly well versed, in something you are completely unfamiliar with in less than a month, but the anxious perfectionist in the back of my head is starting to raise its voice.

My inner anxious perfectionist voice

I’m starting to feel as though I’m learning things slower as I get older. Then the paranoia kicks in and I think it’s because of too much drinking and mind altering drugs when I was younger, or that my anxiety and depression medicine is somehow inhibiting my learning process.

The last one sends me back to a period when I thought I could handle my anxiety and depression through shear force of will, because the idea of chemically altering my brain for more than a night or two at a time felt like I would be diminishing my mental capacity.

I don’t know that the zoloft and klonopin are keeping me from learning things as fast as I should, or if it’s just that I’m getting older. I’m not about to come off the meds to find out, but I do wonder if I’ve traded a quick intellect for emotional stability–and I’ve wondered a time or two which one I prefer.

I suppose I’ll take the not crying in an office bathroom and the inability to move from the couch for anything less than basic survival over feeling like an impostor because I’m not catching on to things as quickly as I feel I should.

Maybe I’m just being sensitive to the stress of those around me. Whatever it is, I wish it would stop.

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Follow Ups

Today I have the first follow up since the doctor increased my zoloft dosage and switched out my xanax with klonopin.

I feel like it’s done fairly well for me. I can still feel my full spectrum of emotions, but I don’t get pulled under and drowned by the despair or so wound up I can’t breathe because of the anxiety. There are still days I wish I could just not feel any of my feelings, because life would be so much easier if I didn’t have to feel gut punched every time something negative happened in my sphere of perception, but I’m recovering quicker when that happens. I’m hoping one day in the future I can start punching back at the world and be more pro-active for the sake of being pro-active rather than being pro-active for the sake of running from myself for as long as possible before the emotional tidal wave drowns me.

Huh. I wonder if that’s why I used to have so many tidal wave dreams.

I do seem to be tired often during the day though. I only take half a klonopin as needed in the mornings with coffee, but even when I don’t, it always feels like I need a nap around 11am and then again around 3pm, and I sleep for at least 7-8 hours a night. I wonder if I got more exercise if that would help.

This has been an update.

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Fighting the Panic

Maybe it’s because it’s Monday. Maybe it’s because work is slow. Maybe it’s the events of last week finally catching up with me. Maybe it’s paranoia that I drank too much on Friday night and made an ass of myself and everyone is so polite and wouldn’t tell me if I did. Maybe it’s guilt from binge watching two whole series of television shows over the weekend. Maybe it’s the anticipation of plans and the infinite possibilities that might happen. Maybe it’s the feeling that people are lying to me and since my intuition has been so off for the last few months, I’m worried I’m being paranoid.

Maybe I should have taken the whole pill instead of just a half.

But then I’m worried I would be fighting drowsiness. I don’t know which is worse, trying to ride the wave of anxiety that feels like it’s about to white cap into a full blown panic attack, or worrying that I might feel a little drowsy for an hour or two.

Maybe I just want to see if I can write this out as it happens.

Fighting the expanding pressure in my chest that rolls down through my arms scattering into rain droplets of needles on my skin, falling slowly at first and faster as the storm rolls closer to my fingertips.

My stomach is floating. I’m certain it’s trying to float to the top of my throat. I can feel the pressure on my vocal chords, like someone is holding my throat just enough to keep me from speaking, but still able to breathe.

The pins and needles are on the roof of my mouth.

I want comfort and consolation, but my brain reminds me that the pins and needles will swarm to any part of my skin touched by other skin.

The air I can breathe in feels like freezing oxygen, forming ice crystals in my lungs that are instantly melted by my body heat. It feels like drowning in the desert.

Swallowing reminds me of the pressure around my neck. My mouth is dry and I can’t seem to drink enough water. I yawn trying to fill my lungs with enough air to catch my breath. My stomach grumbles, I can’t tell if it’s hunger or too much water or it’s just grumbling because it can’t float away.

The words come because I can focus on simple feelings and they keep me in front of the curtain of full blown panic. I know that if I peek behind me, if I take a moment to think about what could be causing this, I will be faced with a tidal wave of possibilities that any attempt to sort through will exponentially increase the madness.

I have to take the medicine, otherwise the tidal wave will blow through the curtain and I’ll feel mostly catatonic and unable to put my brain back in my body.

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Disappointment, Discomfort, and Vulnerability

The last 72 hours have been a bit of a roller coaster for me. I went to a second interview on Monday afternoon with a job I was really excited to possibly take, received a written offer for a salary higher than I had requested, and then, not five minutes before I was planning on talking to the boss about my resignation, I received an email stating they must rescind the offer due to “a business scenario that prevents them from hiring for a few months.” They assured me they were very interested in hiring me and when the time came, would like to call me if I was available.

I was gut punched. I had all this hope and as quickly as it was there, it was gone. Not just gone, ripped away from me.

 

“Don’t take it personally,” friends said.

I do take it personally though. I take everything personally, I just do a really great job of hiding it.

I was ready to make a leap I’ve only talked about making for years. The net was there. The safety gear was left behind. Then it went up in flames, the brakes slammed, and I felt like I skidded right to the edge of the cliff.

I know this is dramatic sounding. It’s dramatic feeling.

It’s disappointing and I’m trying really hard not to be disappointed in myself for not seeing things coming. I’m always so good at using my intuition to guide my decisions and caution me when something might go wrong. I missed it almost completely in this instance.

That made me uncomfortable. It made me question myself, my abilities, my powers of observation.

I surrendered completely to the commitment of change. I was vulnerable and I wound up feeling foolish for being excited without caution. The little voice in my head I battle with constantly repeats “I told you so, I told you this would happen, you tried to drown me out, but here I am. I told you not to get too excited about anything; it always ends in disappointment.”

Normally, this voice would paralyze me. I wouldn’t be able to even think about putting myself back out there, venturing into places unknown, facing the reality that there will be disappointment over and over and over again, allowing myself to be vulnerable enough to feel all of that disappointment and frustration and discomfort.

But I can. I can feel all of those feelings and not be crippled by them. I can feel what they are actually supposed to feel like. It’s scary, but exhilarating in that way that reminds you you’re alive and capable and strong.

 

 

 

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Adjustments

I started getting lost in my head again. My body wasn’t cooperating with my brain. I was slipping back to the before. The weight of days were becoming heavier and heavier. 

The doctor told me it would take about two weeks for the zoloft to even out in my system. The first few days went really well, the second week continued the upswing, the third week began to plateau exactly as expected.

Then I started feeling anxiety like I’d felt four years ago when I was first diagnosed. It wasn’t a full blow panic, but it was a persistent and rising hum of being unable to catch my breath, dizziness, chest pressure, and racing thoughts. I took half of my xanax after two days of researching whether or not it was okay to take the xanax with the zoloft (of course it is, the doctor even mentioned that in the initial appointment). I found relief from the anxiety, and the next day I spent the entire day on the couch watching netflix and barely speaking a word. I looked around at everything that needed to be done and said “Fuck it. I don’t care.” I figured I was just having an off day since things had been going mostly okay.

A few days later the anxiety was back with a vengeance, threatening a crescendo into a full blown panic. I took another half of my xanax before bed. The next day felt like I hadn’t even been on zoloft for almost a month. I waited another day to see if things would even out. I felt a little more buoyant, but still as if I was trudging through quicksand.

Time to call the doctor.

I went in yesterday with all my nervous anxiety that had returned–which was probably the only thing keeping me from sinking in the metaphorical mud, and left with a klonopin prescription and double the zoloft dose.

“How do you feel about that?” my friend Alicia asked.

“I think it makes for great ‘crazy meds’ jokes…”

I don’t know why but klonopin sounds way scarier than xanax, and I can just see the look on someone’s face when the topic of mental health comes up and I casually and self-deprecatingly toss out “Oh yeah, I’m on zoloft and klonopin.” There’s something uncomfortable and hilarious about catching someone trying to hide their immediate expression of shock that I’m on something so scary sounding or that flash of judgment, disgust, and fear…at least to me, but that could be the meds. 

Today is the first day of the double dose zoloft. It’s been a pretty good day. I feel like maybe this is what real life is supposed to feel like. Maybe I’m actually supposed to laugh at stuff and not have one single thing ruin my entire mood or send me into a giant spiral of hopelessness and frustration. I dunno, but I’m hopeful…dare I say even cheerful! Fingers crossed this is how it’s supposed to be!

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