2.11.2014

Save the Date

Some habits are born without thought. Being thoughtless is of course a defining characteristic of 'habit', but not all habits begin in thoughtlessness. Some begin in over-thinking.

I have developed a habit of not thinking about my future. Now, you know, depression blah blah blah...but there's a loooooooooong history there. Therapy from the ripe old age of twelve. Anti-depressants on & off since my early twenties. And this lovely blog for going on six (yeah, holy shit) years. And a lot - I mean really just if you could measure it it would be mind-boggling - a lot of thought. Thoughts about how to think, mostly. Whole years spent trying to learn both how not to think, and how to not think. (read it twice, it makes sense I swear) Long story short I have thought a lot about thinking. And in thinking about thinking, somewhere along the line I thought that the future was something I would be well-served to avoid thinking about. And that became a habit.

The reasoning, in a nutshell, is that a lot of "actively managing" depression (which is something I do, you know) has to do with managing expectations. One doesn't wish to be bleak, but at the same time one must keep constant guard against the kind of hope that can be detrimental, that can lead to unrealistic expectations and thus disappointment (which, in depressed folk, spirals out of control easily). This is well-traveled ground on this blog, I know. Bear with me.

So this constant, ever-present, ever-conscious search for the happy medium, this quest for balance, this vigilance...its exhausting. Have you ever been punished (or just challenged - boy, use of the word 'punished' here sure is telling!) by kneeling on your knees and holding your arms outstretched with books in your hands? (I have - camp, 1989, pretty sure it's illegal now). Anyway, its that kind of exhausting. And so, at some point, like, mile 6 1/2 on the treadmill when you're hungover, you just decide you can't do it anymore. Thus - i don't really think about the future much.

If you look for it, by the way, you'll see this approach everywhere. In self-help books, in proverbs, in Facebook memes, in cliches all the world around. "One day at a time." "Babysteps." "Don't bite off more than you can chew." That whole God-closing-doors-but-leaving-windows-open-because-he-doesn't-give-you-more-than-you-can-handle thing I never quite figured out.

This approach has probably served me well in more ways than not. Perhaps not professionally, and definitely not financially, but in relationships, friendships, parenting. Sometimes its becomes 'one hour at a time' and sometimes, frankly, 'one minute at a time' and I can say for sure that there have been days that it was the only way.

But what happens when all of the sudden you have something to look forward to? Something you should look forward to? What if, say, someone proposes?

People keep asking. "Have you set a date?" Given all I've stated above, you can imagine how insanely debilitating this question is.

I'm striving to sit with this feeling without judgement. My first wedding - I was really into planning it. The photographer, the florist, the venue...it was fun. (Who knew I should have been planning my marriage?) I focused on the event; perhaps it was a needed distraction.

This time around I'm ecstatic and comfortable (at the same time! Its a crazy-great feeling) about the marriage, but the wedding? The planning for that? That requires...dreaming. And dreaming, I have learned/internalized/completely woven into every aspect of my being...is perilous.

What next?

Aaaahhhhhh...the mix of dread, adrenaline, and preemptive disappointment that is contained in Blogger's little orange "New Post" button...where to start? We'll skip the obligatory "sorry I haven't blogged as if you care" thing, and instead begin with a heavily edited list of the many things that have made me think "That should be a blog post" these last months:

  • 734th post about meds, this one focused on how fucking ADORABLE it was that I used to worry about whether or not meds were a personal failure instead of worrying about how I cannot afford meds.
  • post about a recently perceived addiction to outrage, in myself and in the general public. Have you noticed how much people enjoy getting pissed off these days? We are some controversy-loving mother fuckers, sucking on the snark teat like there's no tomorrow. (This included a grand scheme to have the word 'teat' appear in my blog, perhaps with some consideration to page view stats)
  • annual post about New Year's Resolutions, and how they're still a good thing even when you don't keep them, and baby steps, and "find your gray", and lots of other things you've already read my take on.
  • post about money, because money is more or less what is stressing me out these days. It will cost $2.75/view to read this post. Pony up. (Fun fact - if everyone who reads my blog pays for this, I can afford a $12 bottle of wine!)
  • post about other things I could be doing for money. (read: new jobby job is no dreamy dream)
  • post about getting engaged, which has no place on a blog about depression as it is super happy fun time for real, but which is important to me and feels weird to not write about.
  • post concentrating on the anxiety aspect of depression, in which i recount my least favorite cub scouts meeting every year, where kids take turns using TABLE SAWS to cut pinewood derby cars while other kids PLAY BASKETBALL in the same room (gym) while I try really hard not to lose my shit imagining a finger-severing bloodbath.
  • post about hating snow, trying not to hate snow, and being disappointed in myself for failing at not hating snow.
So...those are the front-runners. Stay tuned. I got a box o'wine and am riding a serious snark spiral, so...the need to purge is strong!

P.S. - "Need to purge" reminded me, also maybe a post issuing sardonic response to super-crappy "Yay I'm celebrating how healthy i am" post from back when I was doing the gym rat thing three hours a day.




10.08.2013

meds?

Do I have any previous posts named "meds?"  I'm guessing there's a good possibility I do. This one-word question is my albatross, my great white whale, and, apparently, the battle I wage when I grow weary of all other battles.

It started, as it always does, with an inkling. An itch somewhere inside I can't quite scratch. Maybe. Maybe things have spiraled a bit out of control. Maybe not quite out of control, maybe just leaning towards out of control and maybe the responsible thing to do is to nip it in the bud before it spirals out of control. Maybe its already out of control and I'm lying to myself. Maybe I can trust my gut. Maybe I can trust my feelings, my perspective on this. Maybe I can't. ... Maybe.

Like any good "oh I sort of worked in Marketing" professional, we go...(insert old batman sound effect)...to the data!

And data we have, good reader, for I am a recorder of raw, unadulterated data (which is filtered through my psyche and shifting moods and is thus less than trustworthy but hey - say it with me now - WE START WHERE WE ARE). I have documented like a mother fucker. Documented my days, my moods, my highs and lows and in-betweens and sorta-feel-alrights and kinda-wanna-sleep-forevers. Written down every last one of those bastards, sobriety allowing of course, like a good little mental patient. And the deal I made with myself - because those are always the easiest deals to keep, right? - was that when the bad days outnumber the good we will call our nice doctor and hit up the CVS drive-thru. Because we cannot fail our children again. We cannot fail our mother, our father, our love and most of all - because those are always the easiest deals to keep, right? - we cannot fail ourselves. Again.

So let us parse the numbers. I have not had more bad days than good. I've dutifully recorded every mood shift for two years - the last one and a half of them med-free (she says with an unhealthy pride) and I can report this: My spirals have decreased in both frequency and duration. (For the uninitiated, this means fewer pajama days on the sofa ignoring my phone) This progress has, admittedly, flat-lined of late...but remains slightly above where it was a few short years ago. My spirals have, however, increased in intensity. And decreased in predictability. (For the uninitiated, this means my moods are erratic and more severe)

These are actually much scarier than the days of "oh I feel not quite myself" followed by "uh-oh I think I feel a bad time coming on" followed by "who needs to get dressed?" followed by "okay I think I can take a walk today." Those days...I miss them. I look back on them fondly. Now its more like "what a beautiful sunrise" followed by "I hate every last mother fucker in the world" followed by "I wonder if anyone wants to go to karaoke tomorrow night?" Predictability...well, let's say I have come to appreciate it.

So why consider meds if, on balance, I have more good days than bad? Well, I feel...incapable. Overwhelmed. Some of this is life - getting laid off left me very bitter, looking for a job left me fairly hopeless. There is no routine to my days, and things seem to be spiraling wildly out of control. I am not entirely certain how I'll pay November's rent, and to spite that fact, I really don't have it in me to look at another job board this week, and it's only Wednesday. My friends who have battled Depression will know what I mean when I say "I really don't have it in me," my friends who have not, probably will not. And frankly I really don't have it in me to explain. Suffice it to say if you have any trust in me at all you will believe when I say I am quite incapable of typing www.indeed.com into the URL board, and then further typing "any fucking thing outside of stripping - 17331" into the search field. I. Really. Don't. Have. It. In. Me.

But I need to. Because, you know, rent and shit. And solitude. And feelings of worthlessness.

It isn't JUST unemployment - I won't kid you or myself by pretending that external factors aren't AS if not MORE to blame than, say, neuro-transmitters - but it is only one part. (please - I NEED that whole neuro-transmitter thing because SCIENCE)

This is very frustrating because my whole goal here is to be able to give voice to this feeling and I am failing even at that.

Its not that I'm unemployed, its that I feel incapable of handling being unemployed. Its not that I'm alone all day with no routine, its that I feel incapable of managing being alone all day with no routine. Its not that there aren't emotional & spiritual rewards attached to how I spend my time, its that I feel incapable of experiencing those rewards emotionally & spiritually.

I've been ALL about the controversy lately, as I am anytime otherwise-uninterested Americans pick up politics. Controversy, in the conversations around Depression, tend to circle around meds and here's my dirty little secret - this feels like a failure. I would never presume under any circumstances that anyone ELSE depending on medication to get them through Depression has anything to feel bad about...but...one and a half years, man! Med-free! I know it shouldn't, but this feels like a white flag of surrender. This feels like defeat.

Am I someone with a broken hip who has every right to use the electric cart to get her shopping done? Or am I just that fat guy we all judge for using the cart, assuming he's lazy? (Don't do that, its horrible)

I think, at the end of the day, it comes down to our ability to cope. I am not coping, not effectively anyway. I know that exercise, routine, time outdoors and avoiding alcohol will help. I have known this all along, reminded myself of it every morning and beat myself up for eschewing it every night. Feel free to pile on with suggestions about yoga - this is not new ground for me. And I know, from decades of experience (I am old and not exaggerating there) that Welbutrin will kick my ambivalence in the ass, and a sidecar of Zoloft will dull the anxiety that Welbutrin invites along for the ride. Objectively, I'm pretty damn sure that if I reunite with this lovely cocktail, a year from now I'll look back on this as lost time that could've been avoided if I'd just stayed on my meds to begin with.

I also know that Matty, and Sam, and Anna, and yes me - because those are always the easiest deals to keep, right? - deserve a woman who is not seeking distraction from every single fucking experience life and family bring her way. And I guess there you have it, really.

7.02.2013

My Sam

I’m sitting on Sam’s bed, waiting while he’s in the bathroom doing the still-very-necessary-before-bed-pee and brushing his teeth. I’m looking at the Angry Bird sheets and thinking about how my entire life, for the past 9 years, can be measured not in coffee spoons (see: TS Elliot) but in heroes.  When I left my husband and tried to make another home for my children, I bought Iron Man sheets.  Kindergarten registration was the beginning of the end for Thomas the Train, and I miss Bear in the Big Blue House desperately. As desperately as I fear what comes next…

Disney Channel and Superheroes have given way to football players and other celebrities. The Avengers accessories in his room are still there but gathering dust, while the Eagles poster is clearly current. The endless toy boxes I cursed have given way to a single shelf of baskets – the action figures suffering from disuse. The bay blades haven’t come out from under the bed in months. The legos still get some traction and I suspect will for some time…but what is prevalent is a desk – a ‘How to Draw Dragons’ book next to balled up failures, Diary of a Wimpy Kid (isn't that about middle school?!), the Nintendo 3DS and iPad.
He enters the room and perhaps because of my mood I can’t help but notice that the baby belly is gone, the armpits hollowed out; he is almost lanky. I remember thighs that encroached over knees before doubling back on themselves; the toddler that couldn't have his adenoids out because he was too fat for them to find a vein. Now, we come home from flag football and I notice an odor and realize that deodorant is next.

“Do you want a story? We can take turns reading pages.” “Nah. Are we goin fishin tomorrow?” “Sure, if it doesn't rain.” “What’s the Weather Channel say?”

Why does my son know what the weather channel is?

I fear these next years. I’ve been around children all my life – nieces, nephews  - and it’s always the same. They’re great till about 8, and I totally get them from 13 on, but between the two? Little aliens. I don’t even understand what motivates them. I lose them. And Sam is 9.

“I’ll take a song though. ‘In My Life’.” Thank you, Universe, for small miracles. Wanting goodnight songs again all the sudden is regression, no doubt a sad sign about anxiety around the many changes in his life – but I’ll take it. I will close my eyes and do my all to provide a voice sweeter than any he can recall, opening them only to make eye contact with “In my life…I love you more.” And he will of course avoid eye contact. Because it’s weird now, somehow. But I will always offer it, and I will wait with a mother’s patient-as-can-be heart until he’s comfortable enough with himself to return it again.


It’s a crazy thing, sons. I’ve never stayed with a boy who broke my heart so many times, and I never will. Just my Sam.

5.31.2013

Chapter Two of Handy Dandy Field Guide to Dating Depressed Women

Dear M----,

I know how tired you must be of my constant apologies. To say 'I'm sorry' for that seems silly...yet here we are.

Because my Depression has a ridiculous share of self-loathing mixed in with it, sometimes being around other people - especially the people love the most - can feel worse.  I feel guilty about how it affects you but ultimately powerless to do anything about it. Knowing, cognitively, that this is bullshit is somehow more harmful than helpful.

But I want you to know that even when I feel or say that its hard to be around anyone - your presence is at the same time, always, comforting. I trust more and more that I can depend on it, something I've known all along in my head and in my heart but that Depression tries to steal from me. Even in my darkest places and my loneliest moments - you are winning that battle. You are winning that battle for me with your patient, persistent, omnipresent Love and I am so grateful.

I feel so much more for you than guilt and gratitude, but in my lowest lows these are the emotions that swell and take over. And I wish that weren't the case. But this morning you kissed me goodbye and I immediately thought of the time I apologized for being so hard to live with. You replied, simply and without having to give it any thought, "You're a much harder person to live without." I sat with that memory (okay, laid in bed with it) and right now I'm smiling, ready to tackle the day, looking forward to sharing all the love I have for you and our family. And you did that. And I sell you short when I say "This is MY battle." To spite what I've said in the past and will no doubt believe wholeheartedly again at some point in the future - this morning you loved me out of Depression.

I can't promise that this particular bout is over - it feels over but Depression is a sneaky bitch and an infamous liar. And I know that there will be more bouts in the future. Please know that even when it doesn't seem this way and I am unable to make you feel it - your mere presence makes all the difference in the world. Team Us, till the very end.

I love you so very much,

jp

5.30.2013

House-sitting


There can’t possibly be anything new to say about any of this.

I don’t want to be around or talk to people at all. They bring with them, unintentionally of course, a soft, fresh layer of guilt that falls gently like snow over everything. I picture it in the halo from a streetlight, moving impossibly slow. And, like snow, it is cold but somehow feels like its burning.

Loved ones are an unwelcome reminder that I am lucky, have nothing really to bitch about, and thus am merely a self-indulgent asshole. At this point I generally remind myself that negative self-talk will only make things worse. Following that, I beat myself up for indulging in negative self-talk when I clearly know better. Then, more guilt. Often, a hopelessness that is oddly welcoming – I am so very tired of hoping that this will lift someday and things like breathing, showering, dishes…will be relatively easy again.  The phrase “holding out hope” is perfect. It sounds very tiring.

Eventually I will turn and look at them, silently forgive them for my resentment, for making me feel more alone by virtue of their mere presence. I’ll lose myself, from time to time, in a bizarrely self-centered form of empathy. What are they doing here? What is going through their heads? Why can’t they see that I make everything worse? How awful this must be for all of them…

It doesn’t matter who. I’ve dodged phone calls and eye contact with everyone from friends to family to the guy at Turkey Hill who calls me “hon” and is always, annoyingly, smiling. I have recently taken to locking the cats out of the room, too, telling them “can’t you see I am incapable of love?”

Yet there Love is, because the exhausting weight of letting others down couldn’t survive without it. If I didn’t care…well then I wouldn’t care. It’s little solace that if we’re close, sometime at some point in our relationship I have told them to run, and for reasons beyond my comprehension they chose to ignore my good advice.

There exists within me, of course, the understanding that this is all bullshit. That I am worthy of love and people choose to have me in their lives with good reason.  It’s a notion I care for like house-sitting, keeping the plants at least alive until such a time that I might find myself able to care for them again.

Buried under all of this is the fear that they will realize I was right all along, and go on their merry way. Part of me would be so happy for them – being so very sick of me myself I couldn’t begrudge them their escape. I imagine the little party I would throw for them in my heart. Confetti and streamers and underpaid wait staff singing a catchy ‘congratulations on your recent emancipation’ tune…the other part, I suppose, would hold a wake.

*sigh* It will lift soon. I am too tired to try chasing it away again; I will just have to wait it out.  Do damage control as best I can. House-sit for Love.

5.03.2013

tightrope


I can’t decide if something is creeping in, stealthily, or if something is slowly seeping out, escaping unnoticed.  All I want to do – all that I feel compelled to do – is to write it down and lose myself in the careful choosing of each perfect word, each sentence, so that later I might read it as someone else’s wisdom and understand something that only they could show me.

I've been good, really very good for what feels like a very long time, though in the context of 37 years of course it isn't.  It’s been…what? Not quite two months since I was fired in a way that my employer was kind – or lawsuit averse – enough to call “laying off”.  And really not even very good in action, but oh I have prided myself on how well I’m “handling things”. “Finish this sentence,” I said to myself three days later (after sobering up), “I got laid off and _____.” And I decided first that I wanted to say “I got laid off and got healthy” but that was simply not motivating enough, and I soon discarded it in favor of “I got laid off and lost 20 pounds,” or “I got laid off and got hot,” or “I got laid off and now I look good naked.”  I was stunned by the discovery that vanity could motivate me so thoroughly, that that particular motivation – more so than “Be at peace” or “Set a good example” or “Take responsibility for your health” – could be sustained. I was impressed by my ability to set aside years of “Don’t try and you won’t fail” and go full throttle. I congratulated myself on how sensible, how thoroughly healthy, it was to recognize that 10 hours a day at home alone would exacerbate my depression, and that I should spend three of them at the gym. And then – that I actually did! I was astonished to discover that there resided in me the capacity for follow-through.  It seemed out of character, and I was surprised that no one else found this to be so, or deigned to mention their surprise to me at least. I should have fully expected a spiral, a complete meltdown, and I felt that those who know me well would have expected as much also. Maybe a return to anti-depressants; at best more therapy, at worst a few days to rest in an institution of some sort. The idea was warmly inviting, and I succeeded in eschewing it, and that is really something.

I lay in bed somewhere around day 4 – the shape of this memory leads me to believe I had not had any wine that evening – and looked at a dress I had hung on my wall for no real reason other than there was a hook there. I had bought it a week previous at the Goodwill in Thurmont with the dim hope that I may fit into it next Halloween (fully 8 months away at this point). It’s a 70’s go-go girl type dress; halter top, white and pink and red and orange with large flowers. It comes to my knees (or will, if and when I can get it on) and ends in a ruffle I’m determined to have my mother remove, and hem to a respectably sexy mini length before October. It’s labeled a size 8 but I have my doubts. I couldn't zip it in the fitting room, and it seemed like the perfect invitation: a 6 would have been dangerously optimistic, a 10 would not have been challenge enough. God help me if I find the knee-high white patent leather lace-up platform boots I’m envisioning.

So I get fired in just the awful way sales reps do (“Surprise! You’re position has been eliminated. Give us your laptop and phone, sign this paper, no you may not forward family pics – the phone and thus the data are ours. This security guard will escort you to your car”) about 4 days previous (I should not have been surprised but I was) and had commenced quite the bender, which everyone assured me was completely acceptable and appropriate given the circumstances. And lying in bed sobering up day 4 I am looking at this dress. Thinking how some of the flower petals appear to be fingers splaying out from a fist, and how could flowers be so violent? Thinking how I secretly would've liked to wear it elsewhere but knew I only had the balls to don it on Halloween. Thinking how I had probably squandered $5 because all the Spanx in the world wouldn't get that zipper up. And something lights up in me – I catch myself as if I’m….other than me (outside of me); I think “Why? Why is your assumption failure? I know. I know why. Because then you don’t really have to try. Then you can give it a half-hearted week and throw in the towel, knowing you were never really going to pull it off anyway. You can say ‘It’s only $5.’” These doubts, this overly cautious approach, have been with me as long as I can remember.  Had the dress cost $10, I probably wouldn't have even bothered.

I thought or felt that something had changed, a barely perceptible internal shift. I am fond of believing, or at least of attesting to believe, that the moment one becomes aware of an irrational or detrimental mental habit, one becomes instantly responsible for changing one’s thinking. And I felt like I had that moment. And I promised myself – this is something I’ll do, I’ll succeed at, and when I do I will have proven to myself that I am capable, that I have beaten my age-old, sorry habit of embracing failure as a way to dodge challenge. And I’ll take that proof and I’ll extend it to all facets of my life – to my career, to my parenting, to my quest to be the perfect and deserving girlfriend, daughter, sister, friend.  I was in desperate need of quest, a purpose, and I had found one.

Immediately following this internal pep talk I dialed back. “One thing at a time,” I told myself, “not so much pressure. Do this first, and then sit with it and see if and how it can bleed into your life.” That seemed healthy, reasonable. Depression has taught me much about dialing back expectations, some of it no doubt helpful, some of it no doubt ‘Excuses 101’. Walking the tightrope between the two appears to me to be the source of…well, everything. My entire existence, really. It’s difficult to explain.

So I've embraced the gym with varying degrees of enthusiasm for two to three hours a day, five to six days a week, for the last six weeks. This routine has conceived all sorts of physical, mental and emotional benefits –I eat better because I don’t want to squander my hard work, I play more actively with the kids because I have more energy, I feel awkwardly superior about the fact that I don’t require matching neon shoelaces and spandex tank tops  to work out. Valuing the routine over the results has been helpful, which isn't to say I haven’t stood on a scale in anguish, cursing the unmovable slide weight; I have.  But inches – whole inches of my body have disappeared (somehow I don’t feel diminished, but suspect in some way I should). Better than that, new inches have made themselves at home, hard inches on my arms and my ass that astonish me. My stomach vexes me; it doesn't look at all like the motivational posters of strong women on Pinterest or hanging on the walls of my gym – it looks stretched and squishy like it’s housed two babies (it has). But my arms and my ass are banging, and that’s something. And my stomach, while squishy, is shrinking.

Most alarming and satisfying are the things my body is capable of that it wasn't previously. I am quite thoroughly in love with this part of the journey. Adding ten pounds to the bar, pedaling half a mile further than I could before – it’s new. It’s new, what my body is capable of, and I long to take credit for it – deserve to take credit for it – but I can’t because it’s too new. I don’t know this body yet, it doesn't feel like mine, which is unnerving and exciting because who knows what it will do next?

Old mental habits die hard, and it feels threateningly temporary. The last week or two I've slipped. Spent less time, allowed myself excuses for not pushing harder, pushing through. I’m “being gentle with myself”, sometimes.  I have other good reasons – I didn't get enough sleep; I dieted too much and am low on protein, or I fell from grace and stopped at Sonic for a cheeseburger and now I’m sluggish. So in spin class, I tell myself the fact I’m sweating bullets is enough, never mind that I went faster or longer or with more resistance last week. I never wanted to become obsessed, it’s not healthy. ‘Everything in moderation’, a phrase previously reserved for bad habits, now extends to good ones as well.

I’m nervous. I fear the beginning of an end, the return of excuses. All the while I have friends and family saying “take it easy – we’re worried about you. You’re taking this too far.” It’s so inviting, so tempting. And having already assigned such importance to my victory over mediocrity, the stakes seems impossibly high.
Once again I find myself wishing I could give myself an inch without taking a mile, but afraid to try. I am trying to balance balance against itself.