Coming Out of the Woods

I finally took the plunge and got medicated in December. I wasn’t really thrilled about the decision, but as I filled out the mental health questionnaire that most doctors offices make you fill out every yearly checkup, it became more and more clear to me that I wasn’t doing as well as I thought I was.

I brought it up to my doctor again and since the last medication we had tried last year was giving me so much stomach and sleep trouble, I had weaned myself off of it shamelessly. I admitted this to her, and she prescribed me Prozac.

Isn’t that for the people who are really bad? I thought to myself trying to push away the guilt and shame I felt for needing help. I had to give something a chance to at least discover if it works. I was desperate, though I hadn’t known it before. I was desperate to not feel so anxious and depressed that thoughts of suicide were frequent. I was desperate to find out if this was really myself or if there was something working against who I really was.

I realize medication doesn’t work for everyone. I had low expectations of this experience, because I had been so failed for so long before. I know pills are not cures, but treatments. I know that some people are very discouraged and emotionally effected by their depression to the point that they often give up on meds before they even have a chance to start working, or they stay on meds that are hurting them because they desperately want it to work and hope if they just wait longer it will. Medications are never cures. They are helpers as well as hurters in some cases, and by no means was I willing to give up on myself now. But, I struggled with this decision for the first week. Because nothing seemed to change, and I wanted a quick fix like so many others.

Still, I had to try.

The third week into my medication my manager came into the office and addressed me.

“You’ve been quiet today. You okay?”

“Me? Yeah, I’m just really plugging away at these package designs today.”

“I see that, you’re usually not this quiet though.”

“Oh…well nothings wrong just really focused I guess.”

Wait…what? I’m focused? 

I have never been an organized or focused person. Most days at work I’m a busy anxious  bee buzzing around the office unable to focus on anything…and I’m super chatty. I started realizing after that encounter I was able to sit still. I was able to work through the whole day without having to get up and pace. I wasn’t anxious, I just was working. That was the first time in a long time.

In the lunch room a few days later a few snacks were laying out for the employees. Cookies and doughnuts as usual. I was refilling my water bottle when my coworker came in and made a comment about the snacks.

“Hey Em, are these good?” he said pointing to the cookies.

“I don’t know I haven’t had one.”

“What? You never pass up snacks.”

“Just had lunch dude, I’m not hungry.”

When I sat at my desk and began working again I thought about the scenario. I wasn’t hungry. I had never once in my life had a moment where I couldn’t eat. I never really felt full, and even if I was full, I never didn’t at least nibble on something little by little. I could usually eat anything at any time. In fact I’d say I was a constant over eater. How was I not hungry ?

What really sealed the deal for me was last week when we had a terribly icy rainy snow mixture. Since my car accident last May, I’ve struggled with weather, and as I pulled into a parking space at work I realized that there hadn’t been a moment of panic while I was driving in this weather. I wasn’t afraid of the weather. I didn’t even think of it until I was at my destination.

I was feeling normal.

It was still hard to adjust to the medication, not because I was experiencing symptoms, but because I began identifying what was a personality trait, and what was a symptom of my depression. That was hard to swallow for a little while, but the more I began to identify the changes I saw in myself, the more I realized how dysfunctional I really had been. I hadn’t had a stress cry in several weeks. I hadn’t had a suicidal thought in as long. I hadn’t had a panic attack or moment of feeling panicky either. My brain could actually reach a state of quiet…something I never thought I’d be able to do. I could read better. My memory was improving. My blood sugars were lower because I was no longer as anxious as I used to be and I wasn’t over eating. I was remembering to shower more frequently. I was able to get up in the mornings and not feel like I was hit by a truck. Social interactions didn’t feel so jarring or depleting, though they still were tiresome and I still felt like a nap would be very nice.

I was realizing I was becoming myself.

As of right now, I feel really encouraged. I’m starting to value myself more, and I’m better at setting boundaries. Self care is improving and my health is taking a turn for the better. I’m really encouraged by all of these things, but for the most part, I’m just so excited. I didn’t realize how crazy I had felt until I had it all calm to quiet and got rid of all the terrible anxiety that paired with my depression so violently.

As I said before, I understand not everyone has this kind of experience, and for those of you who were like me, I realize lots of people will be discouraged themselves over reading a success story. I had a lot of inner conflict about writing this post, mostly because I used to be really discouraged by people who were successful. Now that I feel like I’m getting better, I have so much empathy for those who are struggling and ready to give up.

Don’t give up, but please also don’t expect it to be immediate either. All you can do is be honest with your doctors and therapists as well as yourself and take life 5 min at a time if you have to. Celebrate small successes like actually eating breakfast or taking a shower and try hard not to be discouraged by all the things that feel like failures. If meds aren’t working, don’t settle for feeling like crap because you want it to work. If you can’t afford mediations, talk to your doctor about assistance programs. Do what you can and exhaust your options. It will suck. It will drain you. It will be a roller coaster. But there is a possibility of getting better, and it is worth trying for.

I know, it’s easy now that I feel like I’m getting to the other side of these problems to say things like that. I know that will make people who were like me before angry, and you know what? You’re so allowed to be angry. What is happening to you is not fair. Depression is mean. It’s violent. It’s so painful. It can turn on you in a moment. Even as I speak I know my body chemistry can change and suddenly these meds might not work. I could be back at square one. I just want to let people know that there is hope, and it’s allowed to be conflicting and complicated and make you upset because things feel so hopeless. Give yourself grace. Do what you can to keep trying.

 

 

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A Confession: Failing

I was supposed to be a friend’s plus one at a wedding this evening. “Supposed to be” being the key term. Tonight, during a bought of freezing rain, my car slid a little and threw me into a panic attack induced by a car accident I had a few months ago, where my husband and I hydroplaned into a cement divider on the interstate going 70 mph. I was driving at the time and totaled the car.

The panic attack I had this evening forced me to pull into a parking lot to calm down, and when I did, I had to call my friend and tell her I was struggling to make it the 45 min drive to her place, and told her I had to flake out on her. She understood and told me to go home and stay safe.

I was really disappointed when I got home. Disappointed at how much the anxiety from my car accident made me fearful and prevented me from living my life. Before the accident I didn’t have issues with minor things like sliding. I knew how to control slide. I was able to push through them. I wasn’t paralyzed by them. But since the accident, I’m afraid to even drive in rain during the summers.

So I flake out on my friends and fail myself and them. I wish I knew how to get over it. How to not be afraid.

Diabetes Awareness Month…is a joke.

So November has been diabetes awareness month, and I have to say I haven’t done much posting about it. Why? Because I fucking hate it.

I don’t want to be a diabetic. I hate this disease. I hate being obsessed with food and with counting carbs and needles and all the complications of everyday diabetic life.

I don’t want to make people aware of my disease…I want my disease gone. I want it eradicated like polio and small pox. I want it destroyed.

The problem is, I don’t think there will be a cure in my lifetime. Why? Because insulin is the sixth most expensive liquid in the world. The fifth most expensive is Chanel perfume. If that doesn’t tell you the priorities of common man, then I don’t know what does. Big Pharma makes money off my plight, and I for one am sick and tired of being sick and tired.

There. That’s the awareness I’m spreading. That diabetes awareness only educates people more on how to care for diabetics…care for….not cure. While I appreciate people being aware that I have a disease that causes me to need special attention…what I really would appreciate is a cure and making people aware of how much that probably isn’t going to happen.

Still I hope for it in my lifetime. Not for my sake, but the sake of so many others like me.

End rant.

I Voted

“My husband told me he doesn’t want me to get a job because we’ll lose our state health insurance.”

She poured out the sorrowful story I had once known all too well. People having to work a broken system to stay alive. In her case it was behavioral medications she and her family needed, with several members on the spectrum, and herself with severe mood disorders. All of them with suicidal tendencies, and the youngest of them 9 years-old.

It’s days like that that I feel so deeply we should have socialized healthcare, being chronically ill myself and knowing so many others who also are in situations like his, where woman can’t contribute to her own home an society by remaining unemployed to keep their public healthcare. It just breaks my heart.

I wouldn’t mind helping others stay alive and healthy given the opportunity. I pay for sidewalks I’ve never walked on, and parks I’ve never visited with my tax dollars, how much more important is the person who HAS walked on those sidewalks and visited those parks, clearly we give enough to help them enjoy those perks of our tax dollars, so why not help keep them alive and healthy?

It’s all I could think of when I voted yesterday.

While some have reason why they’d rather not have socialized healthcare, my heart only broke as I recalled listening to my friend talk on her situation. I too know that fear. I too hated the idea of having to abuse a system to stay medicated and alive with insulin costs only on the rise. I too was tired of paying high copays and deductibles, having more than half my paycheck going to keep me alive and very little else. I recall giving up food, internet, showers, and heat at different points in my life as I lived alone, just to make sure I could get my insulin. How much better would it have been if I could get more help and have reasonable payments on insulin? That would be nice.

Alas, while only time will tell, there is so much resistance to fight.

Therapy

“My first therapy appointment is Nov. 6th.”

“I’m so proud of you!”

I was too. I was so proud of her for finally taking a step towards dealing with her issues and setting goals. It was about time she started seeking more professional help in her situations, instead of coming to me for advice all the time.

My thoughts turned to myself then, and wondering why I don’t just buck up and go? I’ve been wanting to for a long time, and since getting married and navigating my relationship, I began feeling the depression worsen slightly, but not enough to alarm me.

Overall, my real issue is I’m too depressed to go.

Building another professional relationship with a therapist feels overwhelming. Becoming a better person takes a lot of time and investment, and I’ve invested a lot of my time in other things, like my friendships, hobbies, and work. You know, those things every human needs to survive and feel functional.

Most days I hardly feel functional at all, but that doesn’t mean I don’t look it.

I find any free time I do have is spent wishing for other things. I used to be such a content person, but since getting married I find I spend more time wishing things in my life could be different. Wishing that I had better things, prettier things, better health, better home, better everything. I’ve spent most days having the “I wants” instead of focusing on the “I needs” in my life. Really, I’d rather put my money to retailer than to my own health, because I’m sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, and the fewer specialists I have to see, the better. I’d rather have my money go to things I want instead of my needs. Thus, I retail therapy. A lot.

I feel terribly guilty after making purchases though, which makes me wonder why I enjoy buying things so much. Heaven knows how it got his way. The things I buy don’t make me a better person. They don’t make me feel better. They don’t really do much for me when it comes to self gratification.

Still the cycle continues, and I wonder why I don’t just do the right thing and go to therapy?

Because, I guess I really don’t want to.

Cluttered Brain

As I stared at the papers strewn on my desk, carelessly threatening to thrust themselves violently to the office floor, I began to realize how bad I was getting again. Lost in my own sad thoughts as I felt the coffee go cold in my hands, I listened to the hum of quiet voices. My manager, and one of our newest IT employees attempting to figure out why I had been constantly kicked out of the server over the last year and a half with no solid connection.

Their language was their own as my thoughts were mine.

The depression had worsened again, and I hadn’t realized the true nature of the beast until I observed my spaces. My desk was more untidy than it had ever been, strewn with printouts of projects long since over, pens found homelessness in the wide open of that rough and cluttered cityscape of papers, or found themselves makeshift homes between curls of white. They seemed oddly arranged, as if you could follow the trail of my indecision and anxiety. Each pen had been lost between thoughts and revisions, and in my unfocused stupor, replaced only to be displaced. My own basket stood empty, naked, and ironic amidst the battlefield of fallen soldiers. A lonely survivor of a brainstorm gone wrong and wild.

Wrong and wild. Like all my thoughts and actions had become.

When I arrived home and collapsed into bed, I noticed a similar scene on my dresser. Copious amounts of makeup was strewn across the black surface of my dresser. Vitamin and pill bottles accompanied it. All stood motionless and telling. The story of a young woman, struggling to wake up in the mornings, take her pills and vitamins, and look presentable at work with only five minutes left to spare. Eye shadows and glitters piled and overlapped like bodies in trenches after a melee between my face and my brain. Diet pills littered between the brushes told the rest of the tale. The war was tiresome between my perception of self and societies perception of beauty. It was never ending. Hopeless.

Never enough.

The clutter was only the physical sign of my depression. The sleepless nights and tired days were more of a silent and unseen / unnoticed battle. I would often lay awake watching my husband sleep and wonder if he would even care or notice if I went into another room for the rest of the night and tried harder to rest without distraction.

If only my brain wouldn’t betray me.

Lost

No one warned me that I would become less. Less creative, less beautiful, less emotive. Somehow in the hustle and bustle of life I felt like I started losing myself, but I couldn’t even begin to tell you when or how.

Beach Bummer

My husband didn’t come on this Sunday evening car ride. He had to work. So when my parents stopped in, I felt free to accompany them to the beach to just sit and watch the water move.

“We need you to come up with some different words.”

“Why?”

“Because you always resort to saying, I’m good, just tired.”

Because I’m always fucking tired, mom. I thought as loudly as I could in her general direction. But then I finally blurted out:

“Well would you rather me tell people the truth when they ask me how I’m doing? Would you like me to tell them that the existential crisis is crushing me and my depression is exhausting?”

She said nothing. Her most direct way of mentioning her discomfort was silence. I was used to it by now. So I leaned back in the seat as the breeze met my lips and kissed them and my breath mingled with the summer air. I pretended that my breath alone was the reason the air was becoming more humid. That summer came directly from my mouth. I mouthed the word summer, just to feel a sense of power over nature.

My eyes closed, all I heard were the seagulls on the water honking their loud songs, and my mother shifting in the front passenger seat. Dad was outside the car, talking to an acquaintance of his, who had greeted us only moments before, and to whom I responded when I was asked how I was doing with I’m fine, just tired. Like I did with everyone, including my mother and father.

I had no motivation to get out of the car, neither did my mother. So my father ventured alone into the waves after wishing said acquaintance farewell. As I watched him walk further into the lake, I wondered how long it would take me to drowned if I went out to far and quit trying to swim. I wondered if I would be able to quit swimming if I tried hard enough, or if instinct and discomfort would save me.

On days like this…it felt as if nothing could save me.

Not Ready for Monday

A week long struggle with depression and stress at work ended with a coworker being fired Friday mid shift. Stunned by the sudden unexpected event and at least two weeks behind on just about everything, my coworker and I (the only two in for that day after other coworker was fired) ended up having to just call it a day. Both of us had plans afterward and the former coworker was supposed to be the one to stay late. Not that we planned on getting any work done if we stayed because with the shock we just had no idea what to do with ourselves.

Since leaving work Friday afternoon when my shift was over, I’ve had nothing but anxiety about the whole situation. Another coworker of ours has been gone because his father-in-law passed away. His two weeks of absence has probably been stressful enough , and now coming back to work, he’s going to be met with a workload a mile high and a coworker no longer with us that has been there since the beginning with him. None of this is going to go over well with him. He’s moody enough having not had losses in his life. I have a feeling this week is not going to be his week, and I’m afraid of the backlash me and my other coworker will be met with when he finds out.

So this weekend has been tainted with my anxiety in every moment. At the State Fair with friends, I had little to nothing to say, because my heart kept dropping every time I considered how quickly Monday morning was coming. In church this morning I found comfort in the sermon, about how God is with us in everything like he was with Esther, but still my anxiety was so high I couldn’t help but know the impending doom is coming. Yes, God is with us in all things, but that doesn’t mean it’s all easy, it just means God is there to show you what is next if you trust and obey, and for me…what was next is emotionally preparing for things to go badly, because it’s always better to assume that it will go badly, and to hope that there was some kind of pleasant surprise if it doesn’t.

After church I cleaned the whole house, made dinner (even though my husband is not home for dinner because he works the closing shift), and I called my mother to see how she was and try to get outside my own head, but even after all that….I feel so unprepared for Monday morning. I don’t want it to come, and at the same time I want it to have already been so I can say it was gotten over with and I survived it.

Sage Leaves and Dirt

When was the last time my feet had touched the ground? Like, the real ground? Dirt? It had been two weeks at least. Maybe three. So I wandered out to the garden, barefooted and spirit trapped within its own internal war, but he moment my feet hit the grass I felt all that stress and anxiety release. There was sage for picking in the garden. I would start there.

I did not start at the sage, but rather in a desperate moment of anxiety I laid on the grass and stared at the sky for a while. Why? Because I wanted to be reminded that I was so small in so vast of a world. That problems of mine were just as fleeting as my own life, and would soon drift away as time passed. That feelings were just feelings, no matter how strong they are, and that they too could fail me just as my own body could.

I needed to be reminded that I was finite. That a hundred years from now it is unlikely that I will continue to exists in the physical world, and all my emotions and problems would too.

I found comfort in this. As I laid on the ground staring into the sky, watching the clouds change from gold, to pink and purple hues, I found comfort in knowing the sun would also set on my stress, my sorrows, my anxieties, and my whole life. Maybe not today, but one day. I let that comfort wrap around me as the sky deepened in its blue.

I picked my sage and smelled it as I walked back to the stone steps of my tiny porch. Putting a soft leaf in my mouth to chew, I took my last deep breath of fresh air before entering and closing the door. Who knew I could feel so much better with just sage leaves and dirt?