The Well is Poisoned

There are wells within all of us that our thoughts and actions spring forth from. It is a source of our identity; the internal place where who we are and what we do intertwine and originate to manifest who we are in our external lives.

I didn’t realize until recently the well I have been drawing from, for what seems like my entire life, has slowly been poisoned by depression and anxiety. It wasn’t until I went to draw from that well for motivation and found the snake at the bottom telling me it was easier to give up than to continue living that I realized how truly poisoned the well had become.

It feels like the meds have covered the well, which is good because it’s where the darkness resides. It’s difficult because it’s the place I’ve seemingly always drawn my thoughts and feelings and actions from, and now I have to find other ways to express my identity. This is frustrating in the way breaking a habit by finding a new, healthier habit to replace it is and I’m having to consciously remind myself to seek out other avenues to explore and communicate

I am excited and terrified about this. I’m worried I will settle on a single well and the process will repeat, or worse– I will never find a depth of identity I am comfortable with, but I also feel like I have the opportunity to rediscover who I am and what I am meant to be and find new ways to express myself…and I think if I can remind myself trust that positive vibe of rediscovery, I will continue to get better.

 

 

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Cautiously Optimistic

I’ve been making a lot of “crazy meds” jokes with people who are aware of my situation. I don’t think they find it as funny as I do. I can’t tell if it’s awkward like making a joke at a funeral and no one knows it’s okay to laugh, or a “this is a serious thing, why are you joking?”

Honestly, I don’t know that I care. I see a returning sense of humor as an improvement. It feels good to laugh again.

Sorry, not sorry.

Sorry, not sorry.

It’s been five days on the Zoloft now, and I don’t want to jump to conclusions or anything, but this stuff is pretty great. The first day I was a little loopy, but in a good way. My husband even mentioned how nice it was to see me smiling. Mostly, it’s been feeling like I’m hovering just above the abyss of depression, which is pretty amazing after feeling like I’ve been drowning in that abyss for so long.

It really does feel like I’ve been thrown a life raft.

The only downside I’m seeing is I’m kind of indifferent to some things. Which isn’t bad in some cases–like seeing the articles about the giant earthquake predicted to hit the pacific north west or the mini-ice age prediction for 2030–which normally would have sent me into a tailspin of despair and hopelessness. I do worry the zoloft might inhibit my capacity for deeply feeling the things I want to feel or are accustomed to feeling, but if that does happen, I don’t think it will happen for long.

I’m more focused though. I’m less anxious about incomplete tasks. I’m more forgiving of myself. I’m better at positive self-talk. I feel like I can breathe again. I have a desire to move and do things and be a real person.

It’s pretty great so far. It’s a little up and down in some places, but it’s much easier to get back up.

It’s supposed to take about two weeks to even out and my dosage goes up the day after tomorrow, so we will see what happens.

 

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The Results Are In

Last night my husband and I had a long talk about the depths of my most recent issues. It was the first time I have really come completely clean with everything going on inside my head. I didn’t want to go into the full depth of my depression with him because I was afraid he would worry too much about me or feel some sort of responsibility for my mental state, or worse, he would treat me differently–like a toxic and fragile thing to be handled with the utmost care and a healthy dose of fear.

I’m still not positive he won’t treat me differently, but he did remind me that we are a team and that as married people that is pretty much the entirety of our responsibility to one another. To be teammates, to listen, to understand, and to work through it. I love that guy, he gets me. Even though this is all new territory, he is kind and gentle and cautious and understanding.

Today my blood test results came in. I apparently have a slightly elevated MCV level. They want to do another blood test just to see for certain if it’s a folate or B12 deficiency or if maybe the blood just sat too long before they tested it.

The MCV level was the only abnormal aspect of my blood test, and those levels weren’t enough to be the cause of the depression and anxiety issues. So the doctor has prescribed Zoloft.

After reading all of the literature on it, I decided it would be better if I started it on Saturday since it can cause dizziness and sleepiness and things like driving aren’t recommended. Also, no drinking on it.

No drinking is going to be tough, but I’ve been working on the toning down the drinking for a little while now, so hopefully it won’t be bad. And if I have to trade my wine for some sanity, I’m willing to make that trade. Anyone who knows me, knows that means my desperation to feel better has reached a monumental level.


 

I was texting with one of my best friends today and we were discussing how we rarely talk anymore and how much of it is due to my depression. I realized that back in February or March I was having a lot of really great days, then when I finally sat down and wrote everything out about the anxiety and depression and really thoroughly examined everything, things started to slip.

The funny thing is, I think even with as bad as things have felt lately, that first moment of detailing what it’s like to live inside of my head during my general anxiety, panic attacks, and depression, blew the doors off of the proverbial closet I was hiding all of my mental shit in. It’s like I’m an emotional hoarder and now the doors and windows are all open and I pulled everything out and now I have to sort through it all.

It sucks when depression cripples you. At first it only feels like a sprain, or maybe a fracture, you’re still functioning. Then, before you realize it you’re paralyzed.


 

I am fortunate that my brain claws at life with a beautiful rage. That rage is what has given me the strength to seek help, to fight for living.

I went to yoga on Tuesday night for the second time in a month. That is more than I’ve been in years. The entire day was difficult. Everything felt hopeless and exhausting, but I kept reminding myself that I had yoga to look forward to. Even if it would have been easier to skip yoga and go home and wallow, I had to look forward to it. I had to convince myself that my very survival depended on it.

Funny thing about rage and pain, it needs to be inflicted. I was in such misery and being propelled by rage and I wanted nothing more than to lash out at someone. I wanted to inflict intellectual and emotional torment on someone so they would be equally as tortured as I was.

I wanted the power of fear.

And on some level I think I attained it.

Working through the postures, I remembered:

I am powerful beyond measure, even in my weakest moments. 

I proved it to myself through two 90 minutes hot yoga classes in the last few weeks, stepping back on to my mat and making it through as if I hadn’t been gone more than a few weeks.

The first class nearly brought me to tears with gratitude and relief, waves of absolution rolling over me. I wondered if that’s what confession felt like to a sinner. It was the final lock on the final closet door. Everything was finally out.

The second class was about harnessing my power, no matter where it came from, to pull my shit together and clean it up and make room for healing, discipline, and compassion for myself.


I’m finally realizing I have more than one or two tools in my toolbox and that those tools can be used consecutively to really and truly help me through this mess. While I’m nervous about the zoloft, I am excited about getting back to yoga, working through talk therapy, and having maybe an extra boost from the meds to help me iron my shit out and get back to good.

I have hope of getting back to good. It’s so fucking exciting.

 

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Today Has Been Better

I went to the doctor and talked to him about anti-depressants. It went well. He wants me to have blood work done to make sure it’s not something like a thyroid issue or iron deficiency. I don’t have any of the symptoms of thyroid issues (at least according to WebMD and the Mayo Clinic’s website), but it could be an iron deficiency. Which I didn’t even realize iron deficiency could cause depression and anxiety, but apparently it’s possible.

I made the appointment for the blood work, which I was very proud of myself for because usually doing things like that just paralyze me. It’s ridiculous, I know, but it’s how I am and it’s why I’m doing what I’m doing. I go in Monday morning and the doctor says he usually gets the results in 24 hours. So maybe by Tuesday or Wednesday we will know if it’s really and truly my brain being a giant jerk or if I just need to take some vitamins. I am feeling a bit excited by the possibility of understanding what’s going on with me, but I’m also pretty scared that it could wind up being something so much worse. Again, I rationally know that’s silly and has more to do with me googling stuff than anything.


I’ve been talking to an online counselor to sort of work my way up to making an actual office appointment with a local counselor. I’m not sure how I feel about this one. We discussed rational emotional behavior therapy and using coping statements, and I don’t want to say I’m more advanced than a certified mental health practitioner, but I might be…at least in terms of understanding myself. I’m trying to stay open minded and remind myself that digital communication is different from face to face communication and it’s probably difficult for her to judge whether I’m using hyperbole or being literal. I love a good metaphor and will use them often, but when I’m talking about my feelings those metaphors are only to illustrate my literalism.

Here is an excerpt from our dialog.

Her: Change the word, terrified, to nervous. “I’m nervous and I can be nervous.” Notice the difference? I’ll be waiting to hear from you. Nervous is okay and can be managed.

Me: My first reaction to your response was ‘It is really freaking hard for me not to be pedantic and say something snide like “I know my feelings and I know my words and I know the difference between terrified and nervous. I use terrified because I am feeling terror.”‘

I think I mentioned this before, but I am a writer. I became a writer because I love words and their meanings. I read the dictionary because there are never enough words to fully describe the depth of emotion I often feel.
There is a huge difference between nervousness and terror.
When I say I am terrified, I mean I am feeling the feeling of being on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Grand Canyon on a windy day with no guard rail and no safety equipment to keep me from falling a mile or more to the bottom.
When I say I am nervous I mean I am slightly uncomfortable. To continue the Grand Canyon metaphor…nervous is looking out over the canyon for the first time from 20 feet behind a well-bolted down fence with a 6 foot high guardrail.
The difference between terrified and nervous for me is the difference between “I might get a speeding ticket” and “I’m about to have a head on collision.”
In my last message I said I was excited, nervous, and terrified.
In this context, I am terrified that all of this will have been for nothing. That there is no hope for me and I will be perpetually stuck in this roller coaster for the rest of my life.
I am nervous my doctor might have a moment of judgment that is obvious to an intuitive person and that in that moment I will feel uncomfortable being vulnerable, but will ultimately recover.
I am excited because I have hope that there is a possibility of finding my way out of the giant, steaming, quicksand pit of shit I have felt like I am in inside my head.
She said words do have tremendous power and that I was an excellent writer and that she would be waiting to hear from me. Which felt a little patronizing, but I sort of chocked that up to me being in a general snit about word usage.
Today I told her about my doctor’s appointment and this was her response:

Sounds like you have a great doctor. The thyroid can certainly affect one’s emotional state.

I am going to add a few coping statements. Remember words have tremendous power.

COPING STATEMENTS FOR DEALING WITH ANXIETY ABOUT ANXIETY

  1. I don’t have to make myself anxious about anything, or put myself down if I stupidly and foolishly do make myself anxious.
  2. My anxiety is bad, but I m not bad.
  3. I don’t always have to feel comfortable, and it isn’t awful when I don’t.
  4. I can bear-and bear with-anxiety: it won’t kill me.
  5. It is not necessary to be in perfect control of my anxious moments. To demand that I be in control only multiplies my symptoms.

In spite of your terror, you kept your appointment spoke honestly and you survived. It is not HOPELESS.

I feel like this is a canned response.

1. If I am telling myself not to put myself down if “I stupidly and foolishly do make myself anxious” isn’t that putting myself down??? I might be crazy here, but it feels like I would be saying, “You did a stupid and foolish thing making yourself feel anxious.” I don’t put myself down about my anxiety. It happens. I get anxious. I accept that it happens and that part of it is my brain trying to figure out all of the possible outcomes of any situation.

2. Of course my anxiety is bad. I am definitely not bad. I constantly try to be the best person I can possibly be and I feel like most of the time I’m pretty great at being a good person. I love people, I don’t judge, I forgive myself when I do, I recognize I’m an imperfect being and I love myself. I just hold myself to incredibly high expectations and when I don’t meet those expectations, I feel guilty.

3. I don’t mind discomfort, I struggle with the anticipation of discomfort and then dissecting the discomfort afterwards. I would rather be hit hard immediately than wait to be hit moderately.

4. Yes, I can bear anxiety. I’ve been bearing it for consistently for 4 years and intermittently for my entire life. I know it won’t kill me. If it could kill me, I would be dead already.

5. This might be something I can work with. I am a control freak, at least when it comes to my own being. I usually have great control over my emotional state–at least publicly. Partly because I refuse to ever be seen as a drama queen and also because I come from a culture where you hide your crazy. Yes, I am aware that is a huge source of my issues. When you bottle it all in and box it all up, shit eventually piles too high and has to find other ways to exit the building and this comes in the form of anxiety, panic, depression.

Despite what inspirational internet memes might tell me, I know I may not always be able to control my body and brain’s reaction to certain situations. It is okay to feel what I feel in the moment. This means letting go of the fear that other people might notice, might judge, might try to coddle me in the midst of obvious anxiety or panic and the best thing I can do is be honest with them and myself in the moment, and know it will pass.

I did keep my appointment; I even went to an earlier one. Once I had committed to the appointment, I had to go. Being called in earlier was actually a relief since I could just go and get things done and over with. Again, the anticipation is the hardest part for me. It gives me too much time to think.

I am not hopeless in my anxiety or in dealing with my anxiety. I am hopeless in my depression when I feel overwhelmed by the problems in the world I can see solutions for that are too seemingly insurmountable to overcome.


Maybe I should try that face to face therapy sooner rather than later. I feel bad being so incredibly nit-picky about words and phrases, but I really want this to work and I know how my brain works. I also know that even the people who know me the best sometimes have a difficult time understanding me when I talk in depth about my emotional state.
 

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Thursday 3:15

I made the phone call yesterday to set up an appointment to talk to my doctor about if anti-depressants might be helpful.

Then I texted my husband and closest friends so that I would have someone that could hold me accountable when I tried to back out of the appointment.

This morning I’m wishing I would have made the appointment sooner, but I’m relived that It’s only a day away.


 

I need to be really honest about this and I don’t know where to start. So I will start where I am.

This morning I spent a good portion of my mental energy fighting off the overwhelming urge to crawl back under the covers and beg for death to come take me because facing and accepting the reality of death seems easier than living and working for a glimmer of hope and happiness that from this distance seems both ephemeral and intangible.

I went to work almost 45 minutes early because I knew if I stayed in my house one moment longer, I would call out of work and crawl back into bed and I couldn’t be certain of what would happen next.

I have never been more terrified of myself in my life. So I rushed to get to work as a matter of what feels like survival. Reminding myself that it’s my brain that’s behaving badly and these aren’t true indicators of how I really feel or who I am and that I have already made the first step towards finding my way out of this desperation.

Lately, I have more than a few days where I think “Everything is hopeless, I need to start planning my escape route.”

My mind starts going over various apocalyptic scenarios and how long I would be willing to survive and how I would kill myself when the tipping point of hopelessness came. Then I realize a lot of those possible apocalyptic scenarios could be applied to my current every day life. This realization, coupled with the last few months of writing about my issues and cleaning out my emotional closet was what finally made me decide to make the call.


When all you see is darkness, even a pinpoint of light can be excruciatingly bright, but if we turn towards that light instead of away, our eyes will eventually adjust.

This is where I am right now. I can no longer allow darkness to consume me.

 

 

 

 

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Because I’m Terrified of Judgment

I’ve moved all of my anxiety and depression posts from my personal blog to this new blog that doesn’t exactly have my real name attached to it. At least not obviously.

I know this seems disingenuous in attempting to remove the stigma and shame of identifying yourself and being open about struggling with mental illness, and I am a little ashamed of doing so, but there are a lot of things in flux at the moment, and I’m not exactly comfortable with someone googling my name and finding posting after posting about my battles with mental illness.

Because there is still a huge stigma.

And I know I’m not helping to cure that stigma, but sometimes it’s a better personal decision to not live quite as out loud as I normally do.

Once things settle down, perhaps I will go back to more public postings. For now though, this is just better for me.


 

I started a free trial of online counseling through betterhelp.com recently. I’m skeptical, but hopeful. I’ve had a few times during the course of correspondence where I feel as though I might be better at figuring out what’s wrong with me than the counselor I’m working with, but she seems helpful so far. She offered to research atypical antidepressants for me since my biggest fear about antidepressant use is the sexual side effects, so that is cool.

I have to be honest here. While I’ve been on meds for my anxiety for nearly four years, and I’ve advocated for many people to talk to their doctors about medications for their own mental issues, I am still scared to death of being on actual antidepressants.

More than anything I’m scared of the sexual side effects.

I was on depo provera for 5 years as a form of birth control and they don’t exactly tell you beforehand that depo is used as a form of chemical castration as well as a form of birth control, which means I spent a lot of time in a state of high anxiety in regards to sex.

Honestly, the lack of desire and general disdain for sex caused by the depo was the biggest issue my relationship has had in the entirety of its 15 years. And a LOT of issues can come up in that amount of time…but that is the one, looking back, that was probably the most difficult to overcome.

Since I came off the the depo and my hormones went back to normal and my husband had a vasectomy, our sex life (and ultimately our marriage) has improved considerably.

I never want to go back to a place where sex is a major cause of my anxiety.

It has been a fragile process– overcoming the societal standards of acceptable female sexuality and truly embracing my desires, as well as exploring those desires with my lover.

The thought of possibly disrupting that process sends me into a tailspin. 

Unfortunately, SSRIs have a tendency to have serious sexual side effects, so I struggle with the battle of known sexual satisfaction and the unknown variable of maybe not being depressed.

Though I’m starting to think if I can find the strength to accept happiness, it doesn’t matter what is going on chemically in my brain…the happiness won’t inhibit sexual satisfaction.


 

I’m scared.

Really scared.

I’m great at giving advice. I’m great at advocating for others. I am not great at following my own advice or being my own advocate.

I want to be, though.

I want to be great. I want to feel great…or at least not bad.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll make that call.

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Battling Demons

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Today was the first time in almost a year I’ve had a full blown waking panic attack.

It was a benign Facebook message. “Are you going to the Young Professionals Group mixer event next week?”

I received this message from a woman whom I had hoped to meet up with at the first mixer a few months ago and who I am genuinely excited to meet.

“I hadn’t really decided. I hear the venue is awesome though.”

If there wasn’t a written record of the rest of the conversation, I probably wouldn’t remember the discussion.

I was at work and had to hold my shit together.

It felt like my lungs were filled with dry ice. I could breathe with conscious effort, but I didn’t feel like I was actually getting any oxygen. My fingers were going numb. My vision was starting to blur around the edges. I could feel the pulse of every single heart beat pushing blood further through my body. Time was simultaneously flying and standing still. Everything was in both fast forward and slow motion. I tried to focus on ever tiny fiber of my being, but I just wanted to run screaming into the afternoon.


After dinner and a few glasses of wine, I was talking to a friend about our personal demons (we decided to name them–her’s is Orville, mine is Beauregard),  she asked me what caused the attack.

“The pressure of being on the spot in front of someone who adored the site and secretly not having any current motivation or love for the site. Thinking of the fall back profession of my day job, which if anyone took a cursory look at the website would see my company doesn’t understand the 21st century, which makes me look like an idiot. I’m terrified of looking foolish. I’ve struggled my whole life to be more than white trash from the trailer parks and I feel like I’m barely a step out of them and everyone knows it and is laughing at me behind my back and if they don’t know it yet, they will soon.”

I was almost in tears. I’m not ashamed of where I come from, because it made me who I am. But honestly, I’m afraid of judgment. I’m afraid of being seen as an impostor or above my station in life. (Classism is real, y’all.)

“You’re an amazing writer and editor and built a strong community of women online. No one’s laughing at you love. And anyone who does, I have a can of kerosene and a lighter for.” she said. (That is a real, true friend, right there)

“I mostly know all of that. I have zero business acumen though, I don’t know how to monetize my passions and every time I look around me I feel like the only way to make money is to be a smarmy fuck that is all ‘blah blah marketing synergy buzzwords blah blah.’ And that just isn’t me. Ever. If someone could just come and say ‘hey this is a cool thing, let me pay you to do it.’ I would maybe feel successful. But I dunno. I felt a mess today. Reminding myself constantly that success isn’t dependent upon dollars.”

That’s (one of the many reasons) why I panic.

I don’t know what success is. I don’t know what it looks like. Every time I’ve ever achieved anything slightly resembling it, Beauregard is in my head screaming “YOU ARE A FAILURE. YOU DIDN’T DO IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME. YOU FAIL. JUST GIVE UP. ”

Then I fall into a deep depression because I’m not living up to my potential or I am not where I should be at this point in my life.

“When the demons come text me what they’re saying and I will fuck them up. It’s easier to fight yours than mine.” Her text is received with a photo of a shot glass of liquor.

“Samesies. I will cut those mofos.” I text back.

Battling demons is a little less daunting when you know you have bad-ass awesome women you adore ready to take up arms.

 

 

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