The Middle

I like the idea of there being a middle. I know there is a beginning...oh how I see it coming and recognize it at the Arrivals gate. So if there's also a middle and there's a beginning then clearly there must be an end. Which is a nice warm fuzzy to curl up with at night.

I'm being dramatic. Of course there's AN end. But is there ever a The End? An end not followed by a uspecified period of "okay" and then, inevitably, another beginning? Another middle...another end?

I actually kind of like The Middle, though I'll have to backtrack to explain why. After an end (yes, its fucked up. There is stuff after an end, always). After an end there is a process. Sometimes - not always - a small moment of triumph. If it was short-lived, or not so...sharp, as usual. There are hours (usually days) of introspection. I had a customer service job once, where after every fuck up the team would sit down and have "an autopsy". What went wrong? How, in hindsight, could we have avoided it? Fucking process improvements, that's what I need. A workflow chart for my interpersonal relationships. So that's how I think of these hours/days of introspection...an autopsy. My team leader used to call them, "Come to Jesus meetings."

Was I exercising? Were there changes in my sleep pattern I could've identified earlier, and if I had could I have cut it off at the pass? What were the external factors - added stress at work, children having difficulties, some conflict with my family or partner? If so, how could I have utilized my self care practices to get through them without a spiral? (This process usually ends with something like "I should do more yoga" or "Why aren't I drinking the recommended 8 glasses per day of water?") Sometimes I think this autopsy is helpful, and sometimes I think it's an ingenious torture device, and sometimes - okay usually - I vacillate wildly between these two options for a time that, at the time, feels endless. The line between introspection and rumination is razor thin.

After THAT fun fest I generally convince myself I've learned my lesson and comfort myself with the knowledge that climbing back on the wagon - any wagon - burns a lot of calories. But then...well, then the doubt creeps in. I start thinking about Icarus or some crazy shit from a 101 - any 101 - Mythology, Literature, Religion, Science. Neural pathways and whatnot. Peer-reviewed studies. Centuries-old meditation practices. The best knowledge our world has to offer on easing the suffering of Depression. Now this is where the crazy comes in. Because these thoughts seem on the surface to be completely reasonable, and the time and effort it takes to eek out just how much is reasonable and how much is crazy...eventually I say 'fuck it' and go about my life. Every time. But now there is doubt. Now that I've had my end...it simply becomes time to await my next beginning. My next spiral. The Triumphant Return of the Tally Marks. Hours slept. Drinks imbibed. Voices Raised. The never ending search for Red Flags. The endless, exhausting self-care that is little more than Keeping Score.

The beginning can sneak up. The end is generally easily recognized & quantifiable, but fraught with anxiety about the next beginning. But the middle...

The middle I know like the back of my hand. I can recite it like poetry. Sometimes it recites me; we're that close. I don't enjoy the middle - that's the wrong word - but it is in a strange way very comforting. Because the middle is where the work is. The middle is "If I exercise every morning I'll feel better" and managing to half-ass it a couple times a week. The middle is no coffee after 3:00pm, even if that means I'm frantically pouring a mug at 2:59. The middle is a yoga DVD before bed more than 50% of the times I made that a goal. The middle is committing to only one glass of wine, having three, but feeling pretty good about not having five. The middle is progress. (Incidentally, the middle is usually blog posts)

I'm learning that I have some small measure of control over the middle. The beginning and the end seem arbitrary...I wait for them. In the middle there's really no waiting.


From Float to Flight

It seems counterintuitive, waking up to the same beep-beep-beep alarm on your phone while on vacation. The first few days I simply allowed the sunlight to stream in to my room at 6:00AM, and it did battle in my mind with the lulling pound of the waves until the light won out and slumber was lifted. And it was lovely.

But, for fear of future regrets and mindful of the dwindling days here in the Outer Banks, set my alarm I did so I could be waiting for the sun on the beach. In my mind of course this took place with me sitting Lotus, blissful and unthinking and unaware of flies, wind, or the discomfort of sand on sunburn.

Beep-beep-beep, and I briefly consider turning the alarm off and snuggling in closer to my man (who is 3 leagues away in the ocean that is this King bed). But future-regret-avoidance pulls me up three flights of stairs to the kitchen, where I start the coffee. I make half-hearted attempts to awaken my children, "Do you want to watch the sunrise with Mama, or keep sleeping?" Yesterday they were very excited about this idea, this morning they have chosen the proverbial 'snooze' button. But getting to smell them all sleepy and sunny with remaining hints of sunscreen and new freckles growing was...sacred.

I am impatient and pour my first cup of coffee before it's halfway done brewing, making for a stronger start to the day than usual. I head back down the many stairs - these houses are beautiful and long and skinny and full of steps - and out the sliding glass door, grabbing a beach chair on the deck and heading to the sea.

Things are rarely as I picture them ahead of time, which is probably why I've tried to stop picturing things ahead of time. The sand is too abrasive on my red skin for Lotus, so I assume the Low Beach Chair Position instead. The winds insist my hair fly itchily about my face, and I think, "tomorrow I'll remember a hair tie" but almost simultaneously acknowledge that I probably won't. I curse my racing mind and attempt to focus on my breath, but my cigarette of course makes this difficult. I see myself clearly - not the zen princess sitting Lotus being one with the world, but the harried mom, clutching coffee & cigarette and cursing the wind as I try to grab a few child-free moments before a day of corralling sun screens and sand toys and swim rings and bickering siblings. I'm more than a little bitter about it, and desperate to leave this image behind, always, always aware that there is only three days left...only two days left...only one. I feel like Peace is something I came here to achieve, and time is running out. I feel desperate.

But still I sit. It's cloudy, and the clouds have mercifully given me extra time before the grandeur. I sit. and I sit. and I sit. I have internal dialogues about dolphins playing and pelicans dive-bombing for breakfast, at the same time wishing for silence in my head.

The pelicans though - they've stuck with me. They seem to have two modes - coasting effortlessly across the water, skimming the waves with the tips of their wings - and diving for fish. When they come up, they cock their gullets back and swallow whole. Then they take off - but here is where the effort comes in. Going from float to flight looks like an awful lot of work. Not like the coasting at all. Like lugging beach chairs, not like sitting Lotus. And I think maybe the float prepares them for the flight, and the flight prepares them for the float. And I am smiling when the sun comes up. Effortlessly.


It's a Trap!!

Avoiding a serious (read: sober) talk with a loved one about criticism. Because, really, who am I to criticize someone for being critical? I'm not exactly on solid ground, here, because the go-to answer for the long-suffering loved ones of The Depressed is "You're so depressed & fragile that there's never an okay time or way to offer criticism without being insensitive." And that's, ya know, a little bit of bullshit - but if I'm perfectly honest it's probably a currency I've traded in.

Here's the best time to offer me criticism: A decent day - not the Best Day Ever because then you've ruined it, and the Worst Day Ever When Everything In The World Is Stressful because, yeah, then I'm likely to blow a gasket. (Okay, I'm likely to stomp off silently and go to bed, but that's to avoid blowing a gasket which I assure you is less pleasant.)

Now, this seems like a reasonable request on the surface, but (secretly) I know that it is not. It is a trap wrapped in an excuse. Because for me & my ilk, "decent days" are few & far between. Most days are either Zen Goddess Euphoria Winning At Everything And In The Present Moment or Jesus Life Sucks Make It Stop Now. So, clearly, my expectations include some eggshells to trod on.

And I am, cognitively at least (and always in hindsight) aware that this isn't fair. If there is no appropriate time to criticize me, than providing appropriate methods of criticism is pretty irrelevant, and there's a good possibility I push people to spew my many disappointing habits spontaneously for lack of a better outlet. Which, of course, makes Everything My Fault, or feel that way, making me defensive and incapable of responding to perfectly legitimate criticism in a constructive way.

See? It's a trap. BUT - here's what most people forget:

I didn't set this trap, and I am just as stuck in its jaws as you are.


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.



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.


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.