March 3, 2019

A Perfect Day


There was a day some years ago when everything felt perfect.  The perfect blue sky was a friendly, perfect dome over a beautiful, perfect hilltop.  There were thousands of perfectly puffed white dandelion-heads, just begging to be perfectly picked, the seeds longing to blow in the perfect, northeasterly breeze and fly up to join the perfect, gentle, fluffy clouds that blew lazily and perfectly across the land.  And my tiny, precious, beyond perfect niece held my imperfect, scarred hand as we walked across that perfect world.  And the perfect dandelion puffs were the perfect height for her pudgy, perfect fists to grab, so we walked perfectly along, making perfect, fanciful wishes as we blew through the field.

And I know.  I know it wasn't actually perfect, but it was pretty damn close.  And tonight, I find myself longing for that perfect, simple day.




January 29, 2019

I was dying.

At the beginning of last September, I almost died.  I'm not being dramatic; I almost lost my life.  My mental health had been in a decline for almost two years, and I think my brain and body just gave up.  For reasons I'll explain a little later, I don't remember a lot of the details of what happened, but between my memories and what my husband has told me, I do know a few key things, and I want you to know them, too, so you can better understand psychiatric hospitalization.

For one, I decided it was no longer safe to have my guns in our apartment.  That has never happened to me before.  I grew up with guns; they've always been a part of my life.  They've always been in my house.  I used to keep my home-defense shotgun hidden behind my old prom dresses.  But for the first time, I was afraid of what might happen if I let the guns stick around.  I called my grandpa, who lives a couple of towns over, and I asked if my husband and I could stop by.  When we got there, I wish I could remember better what happened.  I'd imagine he was pretty alarmed.  He has already lost one grandchild to suicide.  I remember him locking the guns in one of his gun safes, I remember we didn't talk much, and then I know we left.

It's important to note that I didn't have a suicide plan.  I didn't have a specific reason to get rid of the guns; I just felt like it was a bad idea to keep them around.

A few days later, things were even worse.  Every hour dragged on and on and on and on and on and on and on.  I remember feeling like every hour felt like an entire day.  I knew I didn't really want to die, but all I could think, over and over, was, "I can't live like this any more."  My mental pain was seeping out my pores.  My will to live was growing dimmer and dimmer, like a firefly glowing its last as the winter frost sets in.  Nothing could distract me from the pain and exhaustion of just existing - not Netflix, not knitting, nothing.  I used every tool I had the energy to try, but nothing alleviated my suffering.  And I couldn't accomplish anything - not even brushing my hair. 

I had my husband come with me to therapy that evening.  We were only there for a few minutes before my therapist told us that if ever there was a time for hospitalization, this was it.  I thought he meant at the end of the session, but he didn't.  He meant now.  And he told us which area hospital was the best.  Since it was an hour away, we headed home to pack a bag for me before driving up there.  We didn't know how long it would be before my husband would be able to visit and bring the things I would need.  Clothes, books, a hairbrush, and the lightsaber travel toothbrush he got me on our honeymoon.  And with that, we were off to the ER.

This post is long enough as it is, and I don't have the energy at the moment to write the rest of the story.  But I will.  Soon.

January 25, 2019

The Loonies in the Bin

Usually when I write, the idea gestates for a while until it feels like it is fully formed.  Only then do I get out my laptop and push the thing out.  It's not something I can control; the ideas won't come from my fingertips until they're fully formed.  Well, I've been promising posts on my hospitalization and ECT experience for months, but they just won't come.  They don't feel ready.  I've tried to force them, and the snippets I've written were laughable.  So I'm going to try a different tack today.  I'm going to try to write around the topic.  Maybe if I can get out some of the less important details, the water will break and the real posts can be born.  Please bear with me; this is not my best writing.  It can't even really be called good writing, but I have to get it out.

One thing that kind of surprised me about my hospitalizations is how normal all of my fellow inmates were.  Every single person in Four North, the ward I spent most of my time in, was someone you would meet on the street and never suspect.  You'd never know we were all nuts.

Rebecca  (Don't worry, I'm changing everyone's name.  The only loony you need to be able to identify by name is me.) was a mom right around my age who had the most adorable little black baby with curly blond hair.  She never ate lunch with the rest of us because her family always came to eat with her.  It was fun to see the baby every day.

Annie was also doing ECT.  She seemed like a slightly more jaded, grown-up version of me.  She had awesome hair (how? I have no idea- it's not like they let us have curling irons) and a snarky sense of humor.

Adam had driven in from out of state to stay there with us.  He was there for the ECT, too.  I swear he was just like every other dude.  He was into cars and had great cowboy boots.  He also had a wicked sense of humor.

Adrian was my best friend in there.  He was a guy who made me feel valued and understood.  Whenever I was down, he would talk to me and make me laugh.  He had a quiet strength.  I accidentally misgendered him once, and I felt SO bad, but he was SO cool about it.  (If you read this, dude, just know I still feel bad, and I'm so grateful for your understanding!)  Making friends with Adrian was a new experience for me - I'd never met anyone trans before - and I'm so grateful we met!  My husband and I even got to go to his wedding a few weeks after I left the bin.  A very cool guy.

Were you hoping I'd be telling you stories of people who talked to themselves in imaginary languages or wore their underwear outside their straight jackets?  Sorry.  Everyone there was just like me - someone who needed a little help to get back on their feet, but who was otherwise normal.  ECT has stolen the memories of nearly everyone else from my mind, but I assure you: they were all normal.  Perhaps next I'll tell you the story of how little old normal me ended up there in the first place.  Thank you for your patience!

August 20, 2018

And still I was broken...

I'm nervous about writing this blog post for a few reasons.  For one thing, I don't want my family, especially the family mentioned in the story, to be hurt or to worry.  For another thing, I don't talk much about suicidality or self-injury urges.  There are a lot of reasons for that; one reason is that I manage both issues pretty well, and I don't want anyone to call the cops on me and have me committed.  It's a really scary thought, and once something like this is out there, it can't be taken back.  But the thought of this post has been rolling around in my brain for over a week.  I can't make it go away any other way than by putting it out there.  So here it is:  let me tell you about our fabulous SoCal vacation!  My husband's parents flew us down for a week for his brother's wedding.  The weather was hot, but we had so much fun!

The first night we were there, my husband played in a softball game and helped the team to a healthy victory.  I love watching him play, and he played well.  And I wished over and over that the game would end so I could go back to the house and go to bed.  I wasn't that sleepy, I just couldn't abide the thought of existing while conscious any more for that day.

The next day, we woke up early and went to the beach.  The waves were small and the water was warm.  And I needed a nap right away after only an hour at the beach.  It wasn't a bodily exhaustion as much as it was an exhaustion of the soul.  Next we went for pedicures and acai bowls.  And I needed another nap.  Then we went to the San Diego Zoo.  We saw baby animals and my favorite elephants, and there was a zebra braying like a donkey that had me laughing so hard I was almost in tears.  And I thought about ways I could die there.  It was an idle thought, not a plan, but that's not something normal for your brain to dwell on over and over and over when you're having fun.

The day of the wedding itself was long, but it was a super neat day!  The ceremony was incredible, and it happened to have been performed by someone I hadn't seen in years but who is very important to me.  We went from the ceremony to a delicious Chinese restaurant.  And I was so tired I could barely hold a conversation.  All I wanted to do was come home and nap before the reception.  We ended up having to leave the luncheon early so I could rest. The reception was one of the loveliest I've ever been to.  There was live music, a photo booth, crepes, and an entire table of different gourmet cakes!  And I had thoughts of harming myself over and over throughout the evening.  They came unbidden like robbers to steal the magic of the moment.

All in all, there were no moments of drama, no moments where plans went wrong.  We did a lot of fun family activities and rested a lot, too.  There were a million awesome moments.  And still I was in pain.  Still I had moments where I longed for the pain to stop.  I almost couldn't wait to go home to where my boring reality more accurately matches the inner turmoil and pain and exhaustion.  But I had so much fun there!  I am so grateful for in-laws who are patient with my limitations and let me rest, but who also provide incredibly fun diversions to keep me out of my own head.  But it didn't fix me.  It didn't make me somehow whole.

The reason this post is important is that it's important to me that you know that getting out and having fun, being in the sun, doing things you love, none of that cures depression.  Depression requires treatment.  I'm not depressed because I'm not trying hard enough.  I'm not depressed because I'm not getting out enough.  I'm doing absolutely everything I can.  And still it seems like almost all I think about is dying or hurting myself or sleeping half the day away.  The world is so overwhelming that I can hardly stand it.  But still I fight.  I have another doctor's appointment tomorrow, and I head back to therapy next week.  And as soon as I get the insurance kinks worked out, I start ECT.  I think life is worth fighting for, even when I can barely do just that.  I hope you'll get the help you need or help someone else get the help they need, because this battle is EXHAUSTING.

August 4, 2018

Depression is...

Depression is sobbing to your husband because you have a toothache but no energy to make a dentist's appointment.

Depression is sitting at home watching Netflix all day, bored out of your mind, but knowing that you don't have the ability to focus on anything else.

Depression is showering once a week because the exhaustion brought on by the thought of all of the steps it takes to shower outweighs your disgust with yourself.

Depression is 71 unanswered texts and 20 unanswered voicemails.

Depression is overdrawing your bank account because you don't have the energy to make sure that your bills get paid.

Depression is not talking to your friends because you're sick of saying, "No, it's worse again, not better."

Depression is gaining tons of weight because you don't have the energy or motivation to exercise and cook healthy food.

Depression is only brushing your hair when you actually have to leave the house (and not always then) because you don't care what people think anymore.

Depression is not leaving your house unless you absolutely have to.

Depression is constantly checking the clock during an activity you should enjoy because you're out of energy and you wish it was over already.

Depression is eating uncooked macaroni out of the box because you know you need to eat something, but you don't have the energy to actually make anything.

Depression is dreading going to the zoo, an activity you've looked forward to for months, because you're afraid there won't be enough places to sit and rest.

Depression is all this and so much more, this is just how I've been feeling lately.

December 7, 2017

Medication Journey Update ~ Good News and Bad News

I got the results of my genetic tests, and unfortunately they were not particularly helpful.  The medications I was on were genetically compatible, as have been the two I've tried since.  Now let me stress that the genetic testing has been a God-send for a lot of people I know, so don't discount it.  It just happens not to have revealed any useful information in my case.  So here's the deal:

One of the medications I was on was causing the intense brain fog I was experiencing (complete inability to follow conversations, do basic math, etc.).  It is apparently a known side-effect, but my old doctor told me I probably just needed to sleep more.  Not cool, doc.  Moral #1:  Trust your instincts.  If what a doctor is telling you doesn't feel right, dig deeper.  Now that I'm off that medication, the brain fog is slowly dissipating.  

The other main medication I was on for my depression is known to cause anxiety and is a fairly wimpy antidepressant.  My new doctor said that she doesn't know why anyone prescribes it to people with anxiety.  Yes, this is anecdotal, but the same exact thing happened with the same exact drug to someone close to me, and her doctor told here the same thing.  Moral #2:  If you are taking Wellbutrin and experiencing a lot of anxiety, talk to your doctor (or maybe even find a new doctor).  I think I've had one anxiety attack in the 2+ months since I went off Wellbutrin, where I was experiencing 1-5 a WEEK on Wellbutrin.

All the medications I was going off and on two months ago in all their various doses

So there's the good news:  The challenging symptoms I was experiencing were caused by my medications, and now that I'm off those medications, those symptoms are largely subsiding.  (Now, I need to stress that these medications worked very well for me for several years.  They enabled me to finish my degree and do a lot of cool things.  But they eventually quit being effective.  Read here for more details.)

But that's where the good news ends.  I spent six weeks going off two medications and on a different one, but it didn't work.  Like I said, the problems I had been having subsided, but they were replaced by a deep apathy, one that made it hard to stay alive.  If breathing weren't autonomic, I swear I would have died because I just couldn't make myself do what I needed to.  It took me 45 minutes to eat a pancake because it just felt like too much work.  Obviously that was not the medication for me.

When I went back in to the doctor, it was honestly kind of discouraging to see her reaction.  She was expecting me to be doing better, but I had just made a sideways slide into a new awful, and she was kind of scrambling to find something else to try.  Well, I spent four more weeks going off one medication and onto another, and honestly?  I'm not doing any better.  I'm a little less apathetic, but it's a real struggle to perform basic functions because I just don't care.  I showered today and truly it had probably been over a week.  I racked my brain and couldn't figure out the last time I had showered.  And I only did it today because I told a friend it was my goal for the day.

Basically, I need to go back to the doctor.  But I don't have a lot of hope right now.  I don't know what the next step is.  I'm kind of afraid there isn't one, at least not a medication-related option.  But I'm going to call tomorrow (technically today since it's almost 5:00 am, but I haven't slept yet) and make an appointment.  Wish me luck.

September 17, 2017

Keeping Track...


Recently I decided to make a list.  It's a list of all the little things I might accomplish on any given day, and each task is worth one point.  This list doesn't include to-do's that need to get done, it's more like this:

  • Take a shower
  • Brush teeth
  • Brush hair
  • Work 1 hour
  • Leave the house
  • Return a text
  • Make a phone call
  • Trim fingernails
  • Trim toenails
  • You get the idea...
Simple things, you know?  And each day I tally up how many things I've done.  It's not to see if I've done enough- that's important to note.  It's to give myself an idea of how I'm doing mentally and emotionally.  I don't usually count every day, but since I'm seeing a brand new doctor on Wednesday (FINALLY), I've been trying to keep notes on how I've been doing for the last couple of weeks so I can more accurately describe my situation to her.  In the last two weeks, I've averaged a score of six points per day (low of four, high of nine).  That means I've accomplished around six things a day.  For instance, last Monday this was my list of accomplishments:
  • Worked one hour
  • Dried a batch of apples (with help, 20 minutes' work)
  • Went to pharmacy
  • Emailed doctor
That's it.  That's all I could do.  Four points.  And it exhausted me.  That's all I had in me.  The average Joe's list probably looks more like:
  • Shower
  • Brush teeth
  • Brush hair
  • Style hair
  • Do makeup (ok, this is more of an average Jill than an average Joe usually)
  • Leave house for work
  • Work 8 hours (8 points)
  • Text multiple friends
  • Cook dinner 
  • Clean kitchen
  • etc.
That fairly minimal list there is worth at least 17 points.  And many people also exercise and go out with friends and have kids and run errands.  But just writing that list tired me out.  I'm not using hyperbole, I legitimately couldn't write for a minute or two because concentrating is hard lately.  That fairly 'minimal' list is literally three days' worth of points for me.  

I guess the reason I'm saying all this is that I want you to know that it's been good for me to keep track.  It's been good for me to think about what I'm accomplishing and to think about whether or not I can accomplish more.  The answer is, I can't.  It's good to really know where I am in terms of my health.  Once I tally up my points each day, I realize that I really am doing my best.  I really can't do more.

What about you?  How many points are you averaging?  Remember, don't compare yourself to me, compare yourself to you.  Are you doing ok?  Is your 'score' consistently under ten?  Do you need help?  I know I do.  That's why I spent a lot of points last week calling and emailing doctors and trying to get an appointment to get some help.  That's why I'm going to the doctor Wednesday.  I need help.  I need to get better.  I want my life back.  Do you?

Do you know someone who needs encouragement?  Ideas for recovery?  Just to know they're not alone?  Please share.  It's hard feeling alone.  It's better to know you're not!
Thank you for coming. I hope you get something out of this. I hope you learn about yourself. I hope you get help if you need it or give it if you can.