Holidaze

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 9.31.31 PMWe are firmly entrenched in the holiday season.  How are you doing?  I mean, really, how are YOU doing?  Amid all the holly and jolly, this can be a tough time of year – its chaotic, expensive, and tiring even under good circumstances, right?  Add depression (and/or anxiety) and it can be  unbearable — I get it.  I was there. And there are times when I’m still there.  It’s not like you take a pill and depression disappears – it’s something we live with and some days are better than others.  I remember not too long ago, being curled up in bed and not going out other than going to work – I literally HID in bed and I was living away from friends and family in NJ so it was an easier thing to do.

The expectations of happiness at this time of year are a tough thing to face – yet some, heroically, try to manage through the holidays while in the grips of a depression.  I say heroically because it is heroic.  Going to a holiday party when depressed can be so BRUTAL!  This time of year, people are fueled by happiness – they are so focused on gift giving, and celebrating and family gatherings and parties and the New Year, and all the shiny, sparkly things….it can just be so overwhelming.  They don’t want to hear how you’re barely vertical, how you struggled to find something to wear and make yourself presentable – to put on that mask that you’re hiding behind, how you’re counting the minutes til you’ve been at the party long enough that its okay to make your goodbyes (or use the excuse that you have another party to go to and escape…)

I get it.

If you’ve made it out – I’m applauding you because it really is the best thing for us. To be out among our friends – the people who know us and like/love us.  And we may even enjoy ourselves a little, putting all the negatives behind us for a little while.  We laugh and smile and mean it!  I know how hard it is to do this and how much harder it is to do this OFTEN during this time of year.  How we selectively choose where we will go (attempt to go) because its all we think we can handle.

If you’ve made it out, were you able to enjoy yourself?  Were you able to connect? I hope so – I genuinely do.  Because even when I struggle being in a group of people, I know its a good thing for me to be doing. The people we choose to surround ourselves with are so important.  Are you able to reach out – even to one or two people to try to make an effort or a plan to get together? It’s only been the past year that I feel like I can genuinely do this and its with select people for sure.  I still can be so anxious when I’m faced with a party or event where there will be a lot of people I don’t know, or where I will feel uncomfortable.

If this feels a little preachy, and that’s not my intent.  I just want those who read this to know that feeling all the feels during this time of year is normal, because its hard.  It can be hard without the depression – missing family and friends, just being melancholic.  And if you’re trying then that is awesome because it is hard.  Even if you’re not able to make yourself get out there, it is ok – just try to recognize that there are so many people who get it, who care and who want you to make it to the party or event.  It’s about the little things that make us connect  – and whatever those are for you, I hope you find them in abundance during the holidays and beyond.  Becuase we all deserve to find some joy, no matter how small it may seem, this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Falling into place

It’s been a while since I’ve sat down to write, time slips by I guess.  All in all, Fall has been a good season for me.  I helped plan and survived my 30th high school reunion (aside from drinking too much the night of …).  I’m still finding it so hard to deal with everything that is going on in the political landscape – I feel like the call to action that was ushered in immediately after the election continues to be tried on such an every day basis that its exhausting at times.  I feel so saturated with all the negative news, but at the same time, can’t be away from it for very long either (fomo – is that a thing for the news?).  Regardless, the battles are tiring and trying and the feeling of hopeless ness never seem to be too far away – you too?  How are you dealing with it???

On another note, I FINALLY saw my psychiatrist 10 days ago….this was the rescheduled appointment after she cancelled on me (having to wait 2 months after waiting 3 months for an appointment isn’t exactly my idea of access, but hey…). I talked to her about my sleep issues and the subsequent need/want to nap in the afternoons.  She thinks that it may be time to lower my afternoon dosages to help with this.  I’m waiting for her to review some lab results and to call me, so I’m in a holding pattern for the next little while .  I had been taking Aleeve PM at night to sleep which she told me to stop doing – she offered to write me a script for a sleep med which I declined (I don’t want something ELSE!) – but I am taking melatonin and trying to meditate before sleep each night which is also helping.  There really isn’t ever just one thing that works with depression, is there?  Because there are so many ways that D can manifest itself, I guess it makes sense that there are also multiple tools to use to help manage it.  I’m just glad that things are continuing to be good – not perfect – but good with my life.  I’m staying tuned into the little things, trying to be more “present” and focusing on what is good for and in my life.  And making decisions that will reinforce the good.

 

World Mental Health Day 2017

Today is World Mental Health Day – the 25th World Mental Health Day.  Do we say “Happy World Mental Health Day?”  hmmmm that doesn’t seem right, does it.

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I wish this was just another day and not one that we needed to call attention to the millions around the world who live with a mental health condition of some sort.  But it’s not just another day, and it is a day which is deserving of attention, if for no other reason to help raise awareness of how common depression, anxiety and the other conditions truly are.  It’s a day where people like myself can help to put a “face” to a disease by choosing to speak out if they choose to, in order to help humanize their conditions in some way.

For me, its also a day to be consciously thankful.  I’m thankful because, no matter how bad some days are, I know that I have it pretty good these days – I’m aware of others who are struggling and want them to find what works for them.  Because without the medications that I religiously take, I know what my life would be like – I’ve been there, I’ve seen it and it isn’t pretty.  Because my doctors and therapists have partnered with me to ensure I maintain where I am now – we’re in this together and will keep moving forward.  Because I have insurance and I’m able to get both care and these medications that enable me to be “normal” or at least to function on a day-to-day basis.  Because I have some of the most incredible people in my life who check-in and sincerely care about what is going on with me and my life – who listen and who ask the tough questions sometimes.  Because of this outlet, I’m able to put my thoughts to “paper” and share with the world – even if it’s really only beneficial to me.  Mostly I’m thankful for the path, the trek that I’m on and that I’m not the me who was in hiding a few years ago.

Having chronic major depression like I do really can suck – I hate that I have to take medications, that I’ve gained all this weight, that its harder to really laugh somedays.  But it has made me get in touch with who I am (sounds hippy dippy I know) but I’ve learned to listen to myself and to keep an eye on my energy levels, my sleep, my moods in ways that most people don’t ever pay attention to.  For that, I have to respect this condition and work on living with it day in and day out.

 

 

30 years

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 1.25.44 PMNext weekend is my 30th high school reunion, and of course this little event is stiring up a host of emotions.   I haven’t attended a a reunion yet and to say that I’m nervous is a minor understatement.  I have a love-hate relationship with my memories from high school.  I was on the fringe – I wasn’t athletic or super popular or super smart or a loaner, I just didn’t really fit in.  I remember just wanting to escape, escape from my home and from the tiny community that sprouted in the middle of nowhere.  I wanted to be on my own, starting my new life at college, and in fact, I chose my college partially because almost no-one from my home town was going there.  When I graduated from high school, I did just that – I escaped, only coming home for the mandatory holidays.  I lost touch with my friends and started anew.

As the years went by, if I’m being honest, I didn’t really think of  high school.  I made great friends at UCSD, and had a fantastic community of post-college friends in LA that filled any hole I may have had.  I through myself into work and when the 10 year came along, I was out of the country on business.  Same thing for my 20th, but by then I had also started my journey with depression too although at that time, it was pretty well managed (or at least that’s what I thought.). But something also happened that year, I ran into a friend from elementary school while shopping in San Diego and that little run-in has lead to reconnecting with a small group of high school friends and we see each other a several times a year.  I’m comfortable with these guys, but that has happened over time and wasn’t  immediate.

Enter the 30th – first, I guess there’s the Facebook situation.  I’ve connected with a lot of classmates over social media and I’m pretty real when it comes to what I post and share. But Facebook and real life are two completely different things.  But next week over 100 of these long lost classmates will all be together and I’m more than a little nervous.  I’m not dreading it, but I’m nervous since this will be the first time in literal decades that I’ll be seeing some of these people.  Will they be holding onto old memories or opinions from 1987? Will it be comfortable? Will I make a fool of myself?  I was voted “Most Confident” back then which I interpreted as a nice way of saying “Biggest Bitch” and I can’t seem to shake the concern that that is what people thought of me — that is the lingering fear that I’m holding on to.  I’ve also been helping to plan the event which brings up a whole different set of concerns – will people be happy with it? will they have a good time? I know these things are out of my control, but it still weighs heavy on me in these days leading up to the event.

I know the next week is going to be super busy with last minute prep work, and I’m glad for that.  I’m hoping that that will help to ease some of my nerves and concerns.  And there is a part of me (albeit, a smaller part) that is excited to see everyone and to really connect in real life vs. virtual land of social media.  I’m going to try to be in the moment, practicing some meditation to help ease my concerns and after that – just take it as it comes.  In the end, that’s really all I can do anyways, right?

I’m OK? I’m ok!

Yesterday, I had a follow up therapy appointment.  Therapy is new to me, and honestly, I’m not sure what I expect to be getting out of it.  During my first appointment, 6 weeks ago, my therapist got an overview of my background, reported that I wasn’t in crisis (which I’m not), and asked what I expected to get out of this – was there a goal I wanted to try to accomplish?  We talked some more and arrived at the conclusion that I tend to ‘beat myself up’ and that I needed to work on ways to help address this unhealthy habit.  She recommended a book, which is quite good, Radical Acceptance, and has helped me to  live more in the moment (so cliché).

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Yesterday’s appointment has left me even more confused about the value of therapy – for me.  We connected again, and I told her about what I’ve been trying to do in these past 6 weeks – I’ve recommitted to exercise and eating better as a way to help address my depression but also hopefully, to get rid of some of the Abilify weight.  I’ve been sporadically using a few apps to help me with meditation and mindfulness.  I’ve been keeping lists of tasks and this has helped me to see that I have accomplished things throughout the day.  I let her know I’m still very anxious about work (or lack there of) and how I need to take a more direct, pro-active approach at bringing in more projects.  To each of these things she was really pleased and said I was definitely taking the right steps – you’re ok.  I’m ok?  But I’m still having issues (lots of issues) sleeping and some significant mid-afternoon tiredness.  I’m not sure if this is my medications or the depression or a result of not sleeping or all of the above.  She recommended I try a guided meditation to do specifically before going to sleep and to see if that would help.

But then she surprised me by asking, “Do you think you’re getting anything from coming to me?”

Well, I’m not sure.

The book was definitely helpful and I’m excited to try this meditation to see if it helps me with sleeping – these tools have definitely been helpful.  But, honestly, I’m not sure what to talk about when I’m here.  As we’ve already discussed,  I’m not living with an acute issue at this point (and we talked some more about my dark days of the past and how I never want to go back there again.). And she followed up with, “let’s schedule a follow up, and see – I’m not sure I can do that much more for you because you’re not in an acute crisis and you’re aware of your situation, you’re staying medicated and you’re not a danger to yourself or others.”  I’m ok?!

I’m still not sure what to make of all of this – have any of you had similar situations?  Could it be because resources are limited at Kaiser that unless one is in ‘crisis’ they perceive that a regular therapy regimen isn’t necessary?  Do I have the wrong perception of what therapy is intended to do? How it’s supposed to work? (do I know how it is supposed to work?). I do feel as if medication management is the most important aspect of my journey and that when it is right, I AM OK.  …. I guess I’ll see in 6 weeks.

Moving forward

Most of the time, I write about what’s going on with me and depression.  I’m going to try and talk about something I really do not know much about – suicide.  Last year, two people in my life lost their sons.  One was a young adult, the other a tween.  Both of these guys had their entire lives ahead of them, but for their own reasons, felt that ending their life was the answer.  Neither of their moms, both equally incredible women, are in my inner circle.  One is a respected colleague and researcher and the other an equally dynamic and successful attorney and friend from college.  Somehow, that I wasn’t super close to them didn’t matter – the gut punch that accompanies news like this isn’t figurative, it was literal.  Immediately my thoughts were about the families – how do they move forward, what do they need, what can I do?  What has surprised me are the ongoing thoughts about the families that still happen more frequently than I would have thought they would.  My lingering questions of why? and how could this be the only answer for these two young men to chose? still stop me more frequently than I thought they would – and I’m on the outside, not living the day-to-day.  How their families and friends and  loved ones don’t stay rolled in a ball is beyond me. I’m amazed by what can only be defined as extreme strength that I see coming from these truly wonder(ful) women.

Just like depression, coping, survival and recovery manifest differently, it’s personal and non-linear in nature.  What works for one person may be the opposite of how another deals and moves forward.  There is no playbook, only suggestions of what might be helpful, I’m guessing.  Thinking ahead and about how this tragedy can be used to benefit others cannot be an easy decision and one, I would assume, that comes through careful, thoughtful consideration and only if/when they feel they are able to do so.

One of the families has decided this is the path they feel they want to embark upon.  They have created a foundation in their son’s/brother’s name to further support adolescent mental and behavioral health. It is a family and community affair.  Their first event is a 5k run/walk being held Saturday, October 7th in Southern California at Oso Park in Mission Viejo. Personally, I’m both impressed and excited that they’ve chosen an activity like this as their event, as exercise makes a big difference in my approach to managing my depression.   All proceeds raised during the 5k and pasta dinner fundraiser will benefit the Mission Hospital Foundation and will help to fund research and treatments related to adolescent mental health.  If you’re local to Southern California, please consider registering and attending.  Or if you’re not local or would just prefer to support financially there are direct links for donations in the two links I’ve shared above.

My heart is with these two families.  They are both exquisite examples of persistence and of character as they continue to move forward on their journeys.

 

 

 

Function(ing)

Lately, I’ve been reading about high-functioning depression, as this is the condition or experience I most relate to living with.  For me, I was ‘highly functioning” until I wasn’t.  It didn’t happen over night.  It took losing a job for me to recognize that many of my “signs” had taken root and were controlling me.

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Image is from the USC student health website. https://engemannshc.usc.edu/what-is-high-functioning-depression/

As I’ve read these blogs and articles about high-functioning depression (HFD for short), I see many similarities as I read along –  depression manifests differently in each of us who lives with it and that many of us live in silence, too embarrassed to show a perceived weakness, too ashamed due to mental illness stigmas or even too afraid to share or confide with co-workers.  I’ve seen these words before, in just about every non-scientific article that I’ve read, and I can totally relate.  Even when I would share with a co-worker, I would only go so far and I was always putting a positive spin on it (Hey, I’ve got it under control, thankfully) – even when I didn’t.

My depression almost always shows itself first with being tired or exhausted – the familiar I just cannot get out of bed, or get into bed soon enough and sleep is usually not restful.  This leads to being late or missing work completely.  And as you can imagine, this only goes unnoticed for so long before repercussions are seen.  When you combine this with my inability to complete tasks (focus is lost, I’m easily distracted, or I focus on the minutia instead of seeing the big picture) it’s sort of the perfect negative storm – I’m frankly surprised I wasn’t let go sooner.  Everyday, I wish I would have taken the first steps towards getting help sooner – the company I worked for had amazing resources for their employees.  But I didn’t.

The medications I’m sure are doing the lion share of the work in trying to keep me balanced, but I find that having a few close friends and family that I’ve let into my inner circle helps me more than I ever would have thought it would.  Having people who ask  how I’m doing and aren’t satisfied with a superficial response has been and is really special. I know how lucky I am.

But I also know that I’m not unique – I know that for those who are like in living with HFD, there are just as many people on your side, in your corner, on your team who will be there.  It’s so frigging hard to take that first step in reaching out – I was so nervous about being judged and seen as weak.  But it is so worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That one time, on Facebook…

“Facebook is a place of facades where you try to make your life appear better than it is, so you definitely don’t post pictures like this…I wish I could post them on Facebook to show people what mental illness really looks like.” a post from The Mighty (which is a great resource if you’re in need of one.)

This struck me, in a number of ways.

While I agree that a lot of the time, what we see on social media is the “better version” of life, I’ve come to truly appreciate those who do ‘put it out there’ for all to see.  I have friends who are on their own journeys – with weight loss, with other medical/health conditions or who are simply dealing with the ups and downs of life who have chosen to share authentic pieces of their crazy, dirty, messy, difficult puzzles.  I appreciate those glimpses because it makes me think about my life and what I’m dealing with on a daily basis.  This is not to say that I don’t love to see the celebrations and joyous occasions or the sharing of talented images or other talent – I do, they are just easier to digest and are more of a normal than the other.

The post also made me stop and examine what I put out there, am I being authentic or am I hiding behind my feed?  I don’t think twice about putting a controversial political post out for the world to see, but I get nervous about putting a post out there that says, “Damn, tired today – is this a sign that my meds aren’t working anymore?” or “I’m so freaking tired of having to take 3 pills every single day in order to function.”  I’ve accepted that mental health is no different than physical health, that it needs to be cared for and nurtured as our physical health does, but why don’t I act like it?  The truth, if it needs to be told, is because I’m still afraid of what ‘putting it out there’ would look like, and more truthfully, how others would react if one of those posts magically made it into my feed.  Would that be oversharing, TMI? Why is it ok for someone to post a picture of a sprained ankle or nasty scrape/bruise without thinking a second thought?  Would my authentic post be seen as not ok?

Maybe it’s also because I don’t dwell on my mental health – it doesn’t permeate every move I make or thought I have – at least it doesn’t anymore.  When I was in 2015/2016 it did.  Now they are more of a rarity – which I think is a good thing.  I’m able to be frustrated with my medication routine and be worried that a day of being abnormally tired is a signal, and instead of dwelling on them, for the most part these are passing thoughts.  Is this my ‘new normal’.  It might be.

As open as I try to be about this part of my life, I guess there are still things I’m not strong enough to share.  I think that’s ok, and maybe someday I will be able to write about this someplace other than here.  For now, this is it, but who knows, maybe tomorrow will be different.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Somedays

Somedays, I feel as if things are really coming together.  That I’m back to functioning “normally” (I really dislike that word), that all the chemicals are working together inside of me to keep things moving forward.  I wish I could predict these days, or that these were almost every day.  Lately, they really haven’t been and I’m not sure what’s going on.  I’m trying to be introspective and see what, if anything, may have changed to trigger some “old patterns” peaking through.  Are the meds already starting to change their affect? Does this mean another round of being a guinea pig?  I don’t know.

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I do know that I just returned from an annual event that I usually look forward to and that I usually enjoy so much.  But this year, I feel as if I missed almost the whole thing and felt as if I mostly went through the motions.  There were some great moments, some great interactions but I didn’t make the same connections as usual and that upsets me.  Was it my fault? Did I hide? Was I wearing a mask and hiding myself from others even when I was among them?  What stopped me from joining in? From not fitting in in a place where everyone is open and welcoming?

I saw a therapist this week.  First time in more than a decade of sitting down really one on one.  Was it a great connection, no? Was it good enough? I’m not sure.  It was a start.  Should I try to find another one in the complicated Kaiser network?  She recommended we try to set a goal for me to try to reach.  I decided on trying to stop blaming myself for so much – to stop the “I could do more”, “I could do better” conversation that goes on too often.  She recommended I look into some apps to help with meditation and/or mindfulness.  She recommended a book to read.  I will try.

I started back walking again too and I’m hoping that that will help – perhaps a good sweat everyday really will help me like everyone says it does.  I hope it does – I hope all of this helps.  Maybe it’s as simple as trying Abilify again maybe there’s something else that can stop the desire to eat all the time…maybe.  I’m not willing to give up, I’m NOT!  I just wish it was easier, or less fleeting or more constant.  Hell, if I’m wishing for stuff I wish there was a way to cure this stupid illness.  I’m willing to work for it, but god, I hope there’s something that gives me a sustained version of me I’m happy with.

November 9th – Groundhog Day

I remember crawling out of bed at some point on November 9th, slowly emerging from my bedroom. Shook to my core.  What now?  No, really, what now? There were lots of reasons why I was thinking this, but the real one, the main one was healthcare.  What Now?

Stop over reacting, people said.  That was campaign rhetoric, people said.  They can’t do everything they said they’d do, people said.  They won’t be that bad, they said.  They’re humans too.

They Said!

So I marched.  I called.  I emailed.  I tweeted.  I showed up.  But they did it.  It is really that bad.  First the House, and my traitorous, letch of a Representative signing a Yea in support of the HRCA.  Now its the gang of 13 and the anti-woman, anti-anyone who’s not party of the 1% bill that is far worse than I could have imagined.  Oh, I guess I imagined that it would be bad, but somehow, I had hoped that the Senators, under the traitor McConnell, would be more humane.  More understanding.  Have more empathy.  But no, it is not just as bad as HRCA, it’s worse.  The spiffy new name, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, doesn’t hide that it’s a  toxic piece of legislation that is designed to hurt far more than the glow the extreme tax credits provide to the millionaires and billionaires who pump $ into their campaign funds.

What Now?

I keep calling.  I keep tweeting.  I keep emailing and showing up.  Each minute feeling a little more defeated knowing that there are “leaders” who think this bill is actually good for the US, or even worse, that it doesn’t go far enough to strip back Medicaid’s growth.  Feeling that the extreme inequities that exist are only going to continue while insurance company CEOs cash paychecks with golden handcuff provisions that are so heavy Rocky Balboa himself couldn’t lift them.

What Now?

This IS about the 20+Million who will be directly impacted by these Bills becoming law.  This IS also about me – my own personal microcosm of healthcare.  And this N of 1 is fuming. And is petrified about what now.  About what next.  How will my 48 year old self afford the ballooning premiums and deductibles and copayments and prescriptions that are inevitable if these bills become law.  “They” say it won’t be that bad, but it was this bad before the ACA and these Bills give insurance companies a green light to do everything they were doing before, and more.  I’m feeling helpless. I’m feeling more than a little nervous.  More than a little scared.

What Now?

I’ll figure it all out – somehow.  But NOW – I write.  I CALL!  I TWEET!  I EMAIL!  I SHOW UP!