Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas at my house

I felt I needed to share how Christmas turned out. I will forget if I don't.

I couldn't do this Christmas by myself, so all of my big kids helped while I directed traffic.

Those who know me, know that I reaaaaaalllly don't like holidays. With the anxiety, it's even worse. BUT, I've discovered that if I turn Christmas into a game, it's not about the presents, it's about the fun with family. This year, though, I really wasn't sure how to do that. But we had a theme: Monsters.


On Christmas Eve, we had some surprise visits. Santa Claus showed up at our door and delivered presents to the kids. My husband and I about had heart attacks. Completely unexpected. And then another secret santa came and left several bags of presents on our door step. I have no idea how to express what a blessing that was. It was wonderful, and I am extremely grateful for it.

Ok, so here's what happened Christmas Eve night:

I put Daughter A's husband in charge of sorting presents into piles. One pile for each person, family presents to be put in mom or dad's pile.


I put Daughter B's boyfriend in charge of finding most of her small presents and taping them to the ceiling and walls throughout the house.

Daughter A, B, and C sat at the table and made monster footprints, eyes, and teeth. And a misspelled sign that said "Monsters in Trayning Came and Played with your Presents. Go Find Mom and DAD!!!"  - it was more misspelled, and quite cute, but I can't remember now exactly how it worked.

We had all the little kids sleep in the main room in the basement so the monsters could hide presents in their closets.

There were eyes and teeth on the dishwasher, laundry washer, and dryer. There were footprints on the walls, floors, and even ceilings.

Son-in-law separated gifts for the various closets and locations chosen for the monsters to have dropped or played with the presents. Boyfriend took extra presents that didn't fit evenly into the hiding places and taped them randomly around the house on walls. Daughter A helped sort presents and hide some in the tree.

Daughter B and C  helped formulate the scavenger hunt and game.

Here's how it went:

* Kids came in to mom and dad's room to wake us up. There was a note that said, "Go wake up Sister A and her hubster in Brother's room. While you're in there, grab one of the matchbox cars, then come right back to mom and dad's room."

* Instructions there said to read the Christmas story from the Bible, sing a song, and then have family prayer. After that, the dragon on the container of presents would allow them to open the gifts. At the bottom of the container was another note. "All monsters must race their cars down the hall to the little brother's room."

* Once in the room, they had to ... I don't remember now... do something crazy? Like dance? before opening the presents hidden in the closet. And from there, they had to go brush their monster teeth to get rid of their monster morning breath.

* Oh my goodness, there were presents in the tub. And a note that said they needed to do a rain-dance down the hall to sister D's bedroom. In that room, they had to work as teams to build the biggest tower out of blocks before they could access the toys hidden in that closet.

* From there, the monsters were led to the front room where Daughter A's hubster, the Monster Wrangler, had them play a game to not only find the presents, but play a matching game to figure out the clues to the next set of instructions.

* Which led them to the kitchen where monsters needed to make breakfast and eat it. Because monsters need to feed their bellies, right? Then they had to load their dishes in the dishwasher. When they opened the dishwasher and the teeth appeared, they squealed in delight. Oh the giggles when they found presents on the washing racks.

* then they had to follow the footprints to the basement. Oh no, the washer and dryer had tried to eat some of the presents. The dryer had managed to close his mouth around them, but the washing machine had thrown some up onto the floor.

* they were then directed to the family room where they had to dance the Charleston. Which Sister A taught them. Someone had to win at Just Dance before they could get the next clue and move in to Sister C's bedroom, where the presents were hiding under the bed.

* Then in sister E's bedroom, there was a pile of presents hiding in her closet under the stairs. (I can't remember what goofy activity we had to do there.)

* And finally we ended up back upstairs in the living room with stockings and hunting for the presents hidden in the tree.

-- I couldn't have done it by myself. No way. But it was FUN. It involved the entire family, we all had to play and do the activities together. It made the morning about much more than presents, AND it made the morning last longer than the ten second flurry of wrapping paper flying everywhere.

This is the third year I've planned out a complicated Christmas morning. And in spite of all the anxiety and overwhelm and emotional issues I have before the big day, I have never regretted it. This is the first year that my big kids have actively asked to participate. A holiday I've hated for 32+ years has finally become fun for me. On the plus side, my kids love it, too.

So while it's a purely selfish motive for me to plan Christmases like this, my kids love it enough to help me pull it off. In fact, the little kids were begging to have the Grinch come steal Christmas again. Now I just have to figure out what I'm going to do next year :)

Monday, December 15, 2014

December

It's been a while since I've written here. It's been a while since I've felt like doing much.

This addition of anxiety to everything has not helped my mindset at all. Things I have done my whole life now seem monumentally hard.

* going to church
* going to a restaurant
* going to my husband's work parties
* family gatherings
* letting my children be loud when they play

I have turned down several opportunities for graphic design work because just the thought of a deadline or working and failing to meet someone's expectations made it hard to breathe. Sometimes it's not even the thought of failure, it's simply the idea of being creative that makes me feel completely overwhelmed.

I am barely able to be a human mommy. I am tired and annoyed at being an animal mommy. That makes me so sad. I have raised these cats since we found them abandoned at 4 weeks old. And now having to care for them and clean up and vacuum after them is too much. I just can't do it anymore.

This whole last few weeks has felt like that. Like 'I just can't do it.'

I *have* done laundry. I *have* made myself go to church except the last two weeks. I *have* attended my daughter's school play, although it terrified me and I was shaking so bad by the time I got home. I *have* gone to my husband's work Christmas party, although he had to hold my hand a LOT while we were there, and by the time it was over, I was sure he owed me big time for making the effort and surviving.

So, obviously I *can* do it, I just have to force myself to try. And it is so hard.

And this year my three oldest daughters have volunteered to help me do Christmas. We came up with a theme and a way to make it full of games, and planned it out... and it feels overwhelming and hard now. Not fun. The idea of having to get out of bed, tolerate the sounds of the laughter and squeals hitting my eardrums and reverberating through my head, and deal with the mess of wrapping paper and packaging... See, those are all things that usually make Christmas worth it. The smiles, the laughter, the silly games and things we do to find presents. The ability to play.

And the especially sad thing right now, is that the idea of playing is hard. Once I get into it, it's fun and I enjoy myself, but it's work. And I'm so tired afterwards.

I often wonder if the phrase, "I never said it would be easy, I said it would be worth it" was coined just for me.

Because I *know* what I do is worth it. I know my friendships and family relationships are worth the extra effort it takes to keep at them. I know it's worth the effort of reading and doing homework with my kids. I know that time and effort pays off.

I just wish it wasn't so exhausting. I wish my brain worked. I miss it. I miss being able to do things that shouldn't be hard.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Choices

I made the mistake of reading comments on a cartoon about "if people treated regular illness like they treat mental illness."

Oh boy. People really believe that "You should just change your outlook" is a valid option for people suffering from depression.

Let me say this:

CHOOSING HOW I FEEL IS **NOT** AN OPTION

When I turned 40 and my brain chemistry altered so I am now Bi-Polar Depressive, I lost the option to choose the emotions that roll over me. I know the difference. I remember being able to say, "I don't want to be sad, I'm going to do something happy and think positive." And it fixed it.

That is no longer how my brain works.

When the dark oppressive weight of depression sits on me, I CANNOT say, "I'll just think positive and it will go away." That is not how it works.

Because I can look for and be grateful for all the things going right in my life. It still doesn't affect how I FEEL. In fact, when the depression is really bad, I can't feel anything but heavy and exhausted.

I DO have the choice to tell someone that it's a bad day.
I DO have the choice to go for a walk with my husband if he wants to get me out of the house.
I DO have the choice to use coping skills to try to relieve as much of the weight as possible. Or interrupting that negative tape that plays over and over and over. That tape that says I'm not good enough, why bother, my family would be better off without me.

Believe it or not, it's true. I am so tired of people who have never had real, true, clinical depression telling me to just think positive.

I firmly and will always believe that God sent me here to let me experience agency. I get to choose lots of things in my life. But now the choice of anger, grumpy, happy, sad, overwhelmed, discouraged, numb - my emotions are no longer in my control. I never know how I'm going to feel from one day to the next. All I can do is be prepared for any outcome, have coping methods in place, and trust that I will make it through the day.

I know I am blessed. I have good friends, good family, an awesome support system, and a nice safe bedroom where I can hide when I need to. I have great doctors and therapists. I have a good balance between medications and alternative supplements. I am doing the best that I can do. That still doesn't change the fact that my emotions are out of my control.

I really, truly, am glad for those who don't know depression, who don't understand it, who have never experienced it. I don't wish it on anyone. What I do ask, though, is for them to TRY to understand and not to attempt to tell me how to fix it. Just be there. I know I'm hard to live with. I know it requires a lot of patience, a lot of hugs, and a lot of tolerance of my mood swings. I get that. But for the love of all that's holy, STOP telling me to change my outlook.

My outlook is this: I will survive. I will do what I have to in order to survive. I will fight this battle for as long as I live, and dammit, I will win. My kids need me. I am stubborn, I am persistent, and I am resourceful. I have a condition. I am learning how to live with it and still experience life in a good and productive way.

That is the best I can do.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I Like Your Shirt

If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

I took a note from John Cleaver and came up with something nice to say:

I like your shirt.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Some blunt honesty

I'm not big on following the happenings of stars and reality shows, so I'm really out of the loop when it comes to the big "ohmygoshcanyoubelievewhatso-n-sodid?"

A good friend linked this article to me, and said they thought of me when they read it. I mean, it's no secret that I have a mental illness. I talk about it all the time. But here is another perspective, and I think it's a great one.

If anyone checks out this post, I highly, highly, highly recommend reading this article.

(I don't know how to link it in such a way that you can see the blurb, so please forgive my lack of internet programming skills. Just click here and GO.)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Trigger Issues

Ok. Yesterday's stress about food and all that? That was a massive trigger for me and ended up in a massively huge anxiety attack that has so far lasted 24 hours. I need to talk about it.

Let me bare my soul a little bit here.

When I was really little, my dad had a job driving big rigs for Dowell. (Currently known as Dow Chemical? I think?) He loved his job. He drove a motorcycle around town and would take my brother and I for rides now and then. He played the guitar and banjo, and we sang songs a lot. We'd go fishing at Flaming Gorge and spend weekends there as a family. I remember my brother learning the difference between a Peterbuilt and a Mac truck, and him identifying them on the freeway, proudly. I remember the sun. I remember laughter. I remember music.

Then one day he was laid off.

Life after that become complicated. It took him a long while to find another job. And when he did, from that point on, life at home was... well... not easy. Because one job turned into waiting for another job, which turned into mom hunting for a job, being shuffled to various babysitters - and boy do I have some really interesting memories about that, too - and, well... it seemed a downward spiral after that.

The wonderful things I remember: Dad loved to tinker, build, and play with electronics, engines, computers, etc. He had a soldering iron and was constantly fusing things. He read all the time and dreamed the biggest dreams. I was certain he could fix or build anything on the planet.  Mom loved music. I remember tchaikovsky, bed-time stories, imagination time, mud-pies, swing sets, piano lessons, and her drawing pictures and putting them up all over the kitchen to teach us songs and to try to keep us happy.

The not so wonderful things that creep up on me when I'm not looking: Not having food to eat. Going to school even when I was sick because that was the one place I could get a meal. Mom not eating at all so us kids could have what was available. Thinking powdered milk was the best thing on the planet. Eating cracked wheat cereal (that mom ground herself in a grinder) for what felt like months on end, because my grandfather was a farmer and would send barrels of it to my mom. My mom cooking a cow heart that someone had brought down, and us kids thinking it was food from the gods because we hadn't had meat at home in so long. My parents did the best they could under the circumstances they found themselves in. It wasn't easy for any of us.

There were other things, too, (birthdays and holidays being the next big trigger button for me) but the food thing... that's something that stuck with me in a huge way. That starvation thing has never, ever, ever been an issue as an adult. I have always been provided for since I was a teenager. Or I've provided for myself.

I guess this is the main reason that I've never paid attention to diets, counting calories, or anything like that. I've never allowed myself to worry about food. Not since those days of hunger and everything else. When I eat, I enjoy it and am grateful that I can. Sometimes I over eat. Sometimes I don't eat enough. Sometimes I eat lots of sugary garbage. Sometimes I just want fresh fruits and vegetables. I pretty much eat what I'm craving, but I try to pay attention enough to make sure I get enough fiber and whatnot to keep my insides running regular.

Yesterday's attempt at counting calories and actually thinking about what I ate? I've been shaking and spiraling down since then. I couldn't sleep at all last night. Shook and shook. Realized at 4 a.m. that I should probably take a xanex, but at that point was worried I wouldn't be able to help my kids get ready for school or be able to drive them back/forth to school. By six a.m. I realized there was no way I was going to be able to drive at all.

My husband took over all the parenting today, while I pretty much stayed in bed and either slept from sheer exhaustion or sat here and shook. My sister-in-law made sure my son got to kindergarten. By this afternoon I realized what had triggered the anxiety. I sat in the shower and cried and cried, just trying to let go of the emotions, the terror, these feelings that I don't even have names for. I took a xanex and decided that while I feel how I feel, I don't want to face it right now. I can't. I just.. no. It's something I went through as a kid, it's not how my life is now, and enough is enough. I have food in the house. If I want to eat, I can. If I don't want to, that's ok, too. I can choose.

My husband, bless his heart, made reservations at a movie grille and took me out of the house. We watched Guardians of the Galaxy again, sat there while a waitress brought us our meals and drinks while the movie played. Laughed. I enjoyed the food because I could. Thought about the movie and the wonderful tastes and sensations of the feta cheese, tomatoes and stuffed mushrooms. Because food is good and should be enjoyed.

I still haven't stopped shaking entirely. I still feel traumatized. I recognize that eventually I am going to have to figure out how to let go of my childhood ghosts. For now that makes it feel like I can't breathe. so I'm going to do what I can do, and concentrate on the now.

For now, I have kids I love dearly. I have a husband who cares and stands by me when I lose it. He has absolutely no idea what it's like to have a childhood like mine, but he tries to be aware and help me through it when I can't get myself to get through a day. I am very blessed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Prescriptions for More Than Meds


My eldest daughter got married in September. As weddings are, it was stressful, beautiful, wonderful, and stressful. My in-laws were wonderful, my daughter's in-laws were wonderful, and my family was wonderful. Now, I *knew* from previous discussions with my psychiatrist, that there would probably be an emotional crash after the big day. So I put things in place to act as a cushion so I wouldn't crash so badly. Well, as much as is possible.

And I crashed. I expected it to last about a week. That's what happened after my girls left for college.

Three weeks later I still couldn't bring myself to care much about anything. I wasn't so low that I was suicidal, but things like caring about homework, cleaning the house, basic stuff like eating... meh. who cared? It was either apathy or complete anxiety over how I would handle it. "How can I be expected to help my kids do homework?? I can't think." Just hooking up my laptop to the printer felt like too much. They couldn't really expect me to do that, could they? Did they know how hard that was?

Ok. So that was ridiculous and stupid. But it was how I felt. So when I saw my psychiatrist again, he made some adjustments. I have 'prescriptions' for four areas:

* Chemical: 1.5 pills of Lamictal/day, 1 pill of Lexipro/day

* Emotional: 1/2 or 1 pill of an anti-anxiety pill as needed. Or Deep breathing exercises. Or oils. Or whatever works to calm my self down.

* Physical: 30 mins cardio/day AND yoga or meditation a min of 3 times/wk. (Since I can't afford the yoga places around here, I compromise with doing stretching and meditation after my workouts.) I have the most energy between 11pm and 2a.m., so I do my workouts around midnight. Sometimes earlier, sometimes later, but always at night. No kids to watch or interrupt, the house is quiet, and I can meditate afterwards with peace.

* Mental: Say NO to any new projects, and instead try to clean some stuff from my plate and simply life. This means no volunteering at the schools --which is not sad for me, since kids right now REALLY cause anxiety --  it means no new art projects, no trying to finish old projects unless it's something that relaxes me instead of stresses me. And find things to not do anymore that I'm already doing. (I have not figured out how to do this yet, but I'm working on it.)

These are things I *have* to do to try to keep my brain from being overwhelmed by stress and to regulate mood swings.

The exercise is NOT about weight loss. It's about stress relief. I get kind of defensive about that because yes, I am overweight. By, oh, fifty pounds? Ish? I dunno. I don't think it matters, really. I am struggling with enough other crap, that really, how much I weigh is waaaaay down on the list of priorities. A friend suggested I look at the other benefits of working out, and I jumped all over her case about it not being about weight loss. And that wasn't what she meant at all. So, obviously somewhere in my subconscious I must be worried about weight but don't want to be. I'll just own that right now. On a conscious level, however, I'm doing this because I want to feel good. I want to be able to think. I want the stresses of the day to evaporate with my sweat.

Food is obviously part of this. Depression affects the diet: currently I don't want to eat a lot except maybe once a day around 3 or 4. My therapist explained that depressive brains crave sugar. This is normal, the brain wants to feel right, so it craves sugar for the 'high'. Except eating simple sugars not only gets it a high, but then it crashes super fast. To account for this, if I'm going to eat some chocolate, I have to balance it with protein so I don't crash into an emotional low. If that makes sense.

(I kind of think of it as mental diabetes. Which ... well... it isn't, but the imagery of blood glucose ups and downs works for me in this instance. Wish I had a serotonin tester like my friend has a glucose monitor. Or, even better, a pump!!)

I've been discussing exercise with a friend. She's been doing a You Are Your Own Gym series of workouts and thought I might like it. As I like variety, I was more than willing to try it out. Because of the nature of the workouts they suggest 30% protein, 30% fats, 30% carbs. Which makes sense to me based on what my therapist explained about my brain chemistry. So I followed the link to a calorie counter to make sure my carbs and fats are balancing with my proteins.

Note: I HATE counting calories. I've never never never been a fan of fad diets or watching what I eat, because dangit, I'm going to enjoy my food! Sure, most of this attitude about food is because I'm inherently lazy. But a lot of it stems from my childhood and the fact that we went without food a lot. I remember being hungry more often than not, except at holidays. So if I have food to eat, I'm darn well going to be grateful for it and enjoy it. Anyway, I digress.

This counting calories stuff is for my mental health, so I get over myself and plug in all the numbers. I tell it how much I weigh, how tall I am, how much exercise I am doing, and it wants to set a weight goal, so I let it... whatever, right?

I get a target calorie intake per day of approximately 1863. From what I remember of my nutrition classes, that doesn't sound so bad. I then try to remember everything I ate that day and plug it in.

I figured with what I eat, my calorie intake would be laughably high.

Nope.

It was only around 1100. That is not good. That is bad. That is way bad. I already have brain issues, no *wonder* I want to sleep all the time. No wonder my stamina sucks. This is like some awful cycle. Brain issues breed appetite issues which breed more brain issues.

 You know what this means, right? It means I have to make myself cook during the day for more than just my kids. I hate cooking almost as much as I hate counting calories. That's why I have a husband, dammit!! I married the man because he cooks!

I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Confession

It's 3 a.m. and I can't sleep. I've tossed and turned for two hours with thoughts and words running through my head. So I decided to turn my computer on and write them down.

I have a confession to make:

I'm not ok.

I don't know if it's the meds I'm on. I don't know if its the normal low cycle of my bi-polar depression. I don't know if maybe it's because I am emotionally drained from my daughter's wedding. Or if maybe it's because the hot flashes have started and maybe there's more hormonal crap interfering with my already addled brain because menopause is starting.

What I do know is that I am not ok.

I am afraid to answer my phone or answer texts. People are hard to be around. Getting out of bed and getting my kids to school on time feels impossible. Printing off my son's kindergarten homework seems like a monumentally difficult task, not to mention having the patience to help him with it, no matter how bright and quick to learn he is.

I told my husband earlier that I hoped tomorrow would be a good day. And he said, "then make it good."

Let me try to explain why that is frustrating to hear.

I have no control over how I feel about the day, about life in general, or about getting up. I cannot control my ability to be happy and feel - bone deep - the joy that comes from feeling the sunshine or hearing fun music. I cannot fix the gloom that hangs over my head.

I can fight the fight. I can do what I can to interrupt the negative tape that plays in my head, or the grumpy and irrationally angry thoughts that appear out of nowhere. But I cannot control thinking those thoughts to begin with.

And how I'm feeling right now is that fighting that internal battle is taking up all of my energy. The school wants me to volunteer time in my kids classes. Help the kindergarten with reading. Help the 2nd graders with math. Help the 5th graders with anything and everything. And now that I have no little ones at home, I have the time in the afternoons to help.

I know I have the time. And plenty of guilt to go with it that I have no desire to do it. Not because I don't love my kids or appreciate their teachers. No, but because I already feel I am at my breaking point, and I just can't. I can't. I can't drive to the school extra times during the day. I can't leave my room and deal with people I don't know.

I know that sounds ridiculous and selfish, but it's simply the truth. Currently, I am honestly, truly, NOT ok. I don't have the flu or a cold or a broken leg. I had surgery way back in April, so it's not anything physically visible. It is simply the fact that my brain and my feels are messed up.

I don't feel comfortable doing more than making myself step outside and go for a short walk. Or to visit a friend who lives close and is a good enough friend they don't feel like 'people'. I just... I don't know. I don't feel like I can face life right now.

Now, I KNOW that sometimes I have to get out of my comfort zone to function. But here's the thing: When I got out of the psyche ward in April, I felt alive. I was excited. It wasn't easy, not by any stretch of the imagination. The meds made life crazy, along with my uterine issues and the hysterectomy. But I was drawing. I was photoshopping. I was painting and creating with my hands. I hoped I'd be back to writing when my brain calmed down and the dizzies and the other side effects from the drugs were worked out.

Here I am, it's the end of September. Five months after April and I dread picking up a pencil or opening photoshop. When I force myself to create, because I have to learn to adapt to my new brain, nothing comes out the way I want. Or even recognizable as what I want. I can see it in my head. I know and have the tools to make that a reality, but it doesn't work. Nothing works.

What changed? Hell if I know. Between then and now, something broke.

I care enough to be frustrated by it, but not enough to try to fix it. Which doesn't make sense to me, because I usually work at a puzzle until I can figure it out. But right now I see the problem, and it's a big enough problem I've thrown my hands up and curl up in a ball in my room and hide from it. Because I don't know how to fix it or how to even begin.

I know that I don't feel like I can function. Some days I wonder why I bother trying. Which could be a bad sign, but I promise, this low isn't nearly as bad as the low in April. It's a low, and I recognize it for what it is, but I can't for the life of me see the remedy. All I can do is fight to stay *here*. In the present, in the now, and where I'm available for my family and kids.

I can put on a face, smile at people. Joke and laugh. I can attempt to be responsible and involved. But it takes so much energy that I am drained afterwards to the point where I collapse and sleep. Then wake up at midnight and can't get back to sleep for the worry and guilt over all the things I should have done. Could have done.

Right now what I feel like I *CAN* do is find things I am honestly truly grateful for. I can be happy that good things are happening to people I love. I can hug and support and cry with those who are having their own struggles and lows in life. I can try to have a good attitude --even toward those who think I have control over how much sunshine I feel in my soul.

But I can't be fine just because I want to be. I can't change the battle. I can't change the fact that I have to fight. I can't not dread tomorrow and the not knowing how I'll feel come morning or how much energy I will have.

I can't change the fact that I'm not ok.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Realizations

I have spent the last year+ seeing doctors, being treated, hoping that the doctors would just fix me already.

After talking last night with a friend who has struggled with diabetes for close to 20 years, I realized something. She said her energy levels never really went back to normal, even after she got her blood sugars under control. Now with her hormones going nuts, she said her body is better, but still not where it was a year and a half ago, and maybe never would be.

And I went, "huh."

And then a light went on.

There isn't a cure for bi-polar depression. At least nothing that the medical field knows about. Sure, there are miracles, and yes, I know there are all kinds of alternate treatments out there. But the fact of the matter is that this is something I am going to have to live with, be aware of, and self-monitor for the rest of my life.

I can spend a lot of time wishing I had the energy and mental capacity that I used to.--And I have-- Or I can try to retrain my brain for creativity and function in its current state of being. Sure, I will get frustrated because my capacities aren't the same.

But I can do this. I can take my meds. I can make sure I exercise and take time for myself to de-stress. And I can decide to attempt to be creative anyway.

Sure, I may always have to write with my internal editor turned on. Remembering to sign kids' homework and print off things for 'about me' posters and other school stuff is still something I'll have to work at. And sure, drawing and painting inspiration may be difficult to channel, but that doesn't mean I *can't* do it anymore. It just means I have to work harder at it. And maybe that's what I need.

Just because things aren't easy doesn't mean they aren't worth doing.

Just because life is hard doesn't mean it isn't worth living.

And I will tell myself this over and over and over, especially on bad days. Because of another eternal truth: Depression LIES.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The ABC's of Depression

It may not be the most cheerful of poems, but it is honest.
For those who live with, love, or are married to someone with depression:
I give you a look inside our heads.









    A is for Apathy, I can’t seem to care.
Asphyxiating Anxiety steals all my air.
Angry and Agitated, Annoyed to the brim,
And so Anti-social, I’ll never fit in.

B is BiPolar Bouncing my Brain
Up to the happy, then right down the drain.
A Black hole that sucks the light out of life,
With Brutal Blue Barriers that Bicker with strife.
My thoughts are Broken and filled with the Blahs
In my Brain this Blizzard-like storm never thaws.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Descent Into Madness

Sep 1, 2014

It's 9:30 a.m. I don't feel right. I can't be specific, but I don't feel right. I am looking for movies to send to my daughter in college. It's important to her, and I need to have them ready for her friend who is driving down to see her. But I can't find the other bags full of things she needed as well. I had them in my hands, but I can't find them.

I am going crazy. I am going crazy. I am going crazy.

"No mom, you're not crazy. You're fine. The bags might be upstairs, have you checked?" Her voice is soothing and calm over the phone. I take a deep breath and head upstairs. My hands start to shake.

The bags are on my bed. I don't remember putting them there, but there is relief to find them. I set everything in the front room and remember to grab the cookie sheet she needed. She loves to make cookies for others when they are sad, so the cookie sheet is important. I can't forget it.

My hands start to shake more. I feel wrong. I feel crazy. I feel like my soul is trying to jitter out of my body. I text my friend because I think I need help.

He steps out of the movie he is attending and calls me back. Tells me to do something comforting. I can't remember all of his instructions, but I head into my room and cuddle onto my husband, holding onto him in an attempt to hold onto myself. Maybe he can anchor me into my body.

My brain hurts. My thoughts and words stutter.

My husband calls my psychiatrists office. He puts it on speaker phone and I start speaking to the on-call psychiatrist. It's a holiday, so there is no way to reach MY doctor. She thinks I'm having anxiety. It could be, but I don't feel the oppressive weight on my chest. I feel... wrong. It could be a reaction to the change in dosage of my anti-depressant. It could be a reaction of an antibiotic I'm taking mixing with my normal meds. I pace madly back and forth, trying to hold the phone steady in my hand while she spouts theories without solving anything.

I was fine yesterday. Why am I not fine today? Why can't I be fine today and tomorrow and for all the tomorrows after that?

She thinks I need a benzodiazepine, but won't call it in because she doesn't have all of my vitals in case there is something else wrong. I should go to the E.R. to get one.

I hang up the phone and immediately hand it to my daughter, knowing if I hold it a moment longer I will throw it at the wall in frustration.

I refuse to pay a $250 E.R. co-pay for a tiny pill.

I am frustrated. They'll put me back in they psyche ward again. I probably need to be locked up. I want to hear the sound of breaking glass. I want to feel the bright shards of pain as my fist goes through and shatters. I can see myself picking up a shard and carving beautiful bloody images in my hand. My right hand. The hand that refuses to draw, to paint, to be creative. I long for the pain and the bright warmth of the blood that flows through these useless fingers. Fingers that fail.

No. That's wrong. That's wrong. I sit and grasp the loose part of my jeans near the knees, a small part of my mind using that as a lifeline. I mustn't let go. My hands will hurt things if I let go. But I look around, anyway, my traitorous eyes searching. What is near that is sharp? Something has to be.

I want to stab, stab, stab at the skin skin skin. Nothing. I grasp the jeans harder, feeling the pain of my fingernails digging into and pushing back into my fingertips. Safer, a small part of my mind says. Concentrate on that pain, it is safer. Hold on, just hold on. Fight it. Fight it. Fight it.

I shake, struggling with myself. Shivers run up and down my arms. My brain is a battle of alarms, steel will, and the urge to punch, fight, kick, and scream at the world.

I know this feeling. They'll lock me back up in the gray rooms of the psyche ward and the social worker will treat me like an addict again. It won't help, because I'm not on drugs. Something is wrong with my brain, I am crazy.

I am angry. Furious. Why don't they fix me???

I begin sobbing as I rock back and forth on the chair. I thought I was fine. Why can't I stay fine? Why can't the doctors fix me? Why do I want to lash out and hurt the ones I love the most? Why can't I control my thoughts? I've been following all the instruction, why am I losing the battle?

My oldest daughter begins to do the dishes. I hear her keeping herself busy, her fake happy voice keeping the younger children corralled safely away from mom. I know this hurts her. I wish I could stop, laugh, be normal, talk about wedding plans. I can't. I can't stop rocking and crying.

My husband begins to yell at me. He tells me to fight it. Don't let it win.

I don't want to hear him. I don't want to hear anything. I tune everything out and concentrate on the rocking. Squeak, squeak, squeak; back and forth, back and forth. The rhythm is something I can feel in every muscle, something safe.

I pray to God to just take me away. Just let me come home and sleep on the grass near Him, just let me rest. I am tired of this battle, it's exhausting. Can't He just please, please, please make this stop?

I rock, back and forth. The squeaking of the chair a hypnotic rhythm. My nose runs, but if I let go, if I unclench my fists, something bad will happen. I am afraid I won't be able to control my hands if I unclench them.

A voice commands, "Go to bed and sleep it off."

It could be my mother. It says it again, invading my bubble of silence, demanding, coercing. I rock, ignoring it. Back and forth, back and forth. The shaking in my arms finally begins to stop.

"CHRISTINE VAN SOOLEN, GET UP. GO TO BED AND SLEEP IT OFF!"

I get up and stagger, blindly obeying, shuffling my way dizzily to bed, keeping my hands clenched my sides.

My husband follows me, his footsteps light and careful, watching. I curl up, pulling my knees to my chest, burying my head under the pillows. The darkness is a comforting softness, my own cave of solitude. My fingers begin to relax, stretching out the pain, and I breathe out into sleep, feeling safe under the pillows.

When I wake, my husband is curled around me, holding me tightly. I feel warm and secure, but vulnerable and fragile. I cannot handle the wild crazy sounds of the children being children in the house. I hide from it, and he settles them down and makes arrangements for us to leave and go see a movie. Anything to get me out of the house, something that will help me feel normal again.

I don't feel normal, but I feel in control.

At 9:00 p.m., twelve hours after this all has started, the alarm sounds on my phone and my husband gently asks, "Have you taken your meds yet?" A soft reminder that I survived today, and taking my meds tonight means there's a good chance I'll be ok tomorrow.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

My Opinion


In the wake of Robin Williams' suicide, I have heard so many people say, "That's so selfish, didn't he know the hurt he was leaving his children and fans?"

Before I had post-partum depression, I honestly had no clue what depression was like. Then I had two years of hell. Then I turned 40 and now, yay me, get to deal with bi-polar depression for the rest of my life. I haven't struggled my entire life like lots of people I know. The med changes I deal with are a teensy drop in the bucket compared to several folks.

It makes me angry, so very, very angry when those who have never had depression so badly that it hurts to breathe -- who have never faced the choice between living with the pain or finding release-- decide to judge and belittle that struggle, to call it selfish and cowardly when someone simply cannot face the darkness and pain one more minute and chooses release.

When the meds work, that place seems distant and far away, nothing I would ever consider. But when the meds don't work, you can't see beyond the darkness. Faith, loved ones, they help, but you can't feel the feels. I simply cannot explain it; there are no words.

Seen from the outside, it is incomprehensible. The loss and confusion are unbearable to the survivors because it's painful to lose someone you love. It's hard and it hurts and it can never be fixed.

But unless you've lived that struggle, walked in those shoes, do the rest of us a favor and keep your judgements to yourself. The energy spent condemning and judging others would be better spent mourning with those that mourn, loving those who hurt, and supporting those who survive and those who continue to find the strength to fight that battle against the oppressive weight of depression.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Life

I have been working on several art projects to get through this summer.

A few of them are top secret and I can't say anything about them other than I'm working on it.

A couple of them are things I work on when I can't keep my sanity any other way. These I wish to share when I get them cleaned up in the computer.

But to put it bluntly, it's been a long summer. It's been a long year. I have a great psychiatrist, but he's been adjusting my meds, and that messes with my brain, which makes coping with life very difficult for me, as I'm very sensitive to medication.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Artsy Fartsy

As I've been sitting in bed a lot recovering from surgery, I have been feeling arty!

I have filled up a sketchbook since my first stay in the hospital, and have recently been giving myself photoshop projects as if I were in school.

Here's the cool thing: I didn't care if I failed at these projects. Failure is how I learn.  So some of the following projects may make your eyes bleed, but I was working and stretching my art and design muscles that have sat dormant for toooooooo long.

I need practice with layer masking, so I played:

Raven and Bear in front of moon


I wanted to practice merging different pictures onto one background. So I played:


I need practice working on layouts. So I played:

 



I need practice with type. So I played:


just because you CAN use a filter, doesn't mean you SHOULD




I wanted to play with fire. So I did.


And I wanted to explore other options of creation, not just the Big Bang. More like the Big Ball Of Yarn theory.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Wait, weight?

You are telling me that I have to worry about weight gain now? Seriously??

I am not grossly overweight. Yet.

I am one of those people who landed in a 'larger than I used to be' soft spot after my son was born, and had to buy a few clothes to adjust, and have stayed there in a lumpy comfy plateau for the past five years.

I don't weigh myself every morning, I don't think about what I eat except with regard to getting enough fiber and greens so my body is regular. On occasion I look in the mirror and wish I wasn't so lumpy, then change my clothes and don't think about it again for a while.

When fighting depression there are so many other things to worry, stress, cry, fret, and agonize over, that weight was something I didn't add to the list. Trust me, that list was exhaustive, why worry about something that's not *really* an issue.

Except now it is.

I've been in and out of the hospital twice in the last month, I've been to doctor's offices more often than I can count. Every single time they make you stand on a scale. And when they don't, they ask you your weight and you have to say it OUT LOUD. I always want to whisper it, looking away like I should be ashamed.

In this environment, I can't NOT notice that I've gained seven pounds since I started the mood stabilizer.

seven pounds in two weeks? Three?

And oh, yeah, food. I want to eat ALL THE TIME.

I found this site here about weight gain and bi-polar meds that explains how/why it happens. And the author is right when they talk about Bi Polar 2 struggling with motivation and apathy when they cycle low, which makes constant exercise a challenge.

I love exercise, I really do. I like the way it makes me feel. But I just had surgery, so I'm doing good to get up and walk for five minutes around my kitchen three times a day.

My challenge, should I choose to take it, is to figure out how to make this weight thing about managing the medicine instead of about how I look and feel. Because if any of this weight stuff creeps into my brain and becomes yet another tool that depression can use to lie to me with, I will just cry. I cannot handle that.

I am loveable and acceptable no matter how I look. Right? RIGHT????  Right!!

So. That being said, here's to figuring out how to make exercise a habit, and an "i must do this for my health and to manage the bi-polar" and not about what clothes I can and want to fit into.

ugh. Challenge half-heartedly accepted for now. I'll drum up some enthusiasm when I can not be bitter about 'one more thing on the to-do pile.'

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Depression Lies

Depression says, "You suck, why bother trying?"
Life experience says, "What did you learn from that experience? Cool, now try again."

Depression says, "That feedback they just gave you? It means you failed."
Life experience says, "Hey, that was full of some great ideas to improve this."

Depressions says, "Look at this list of all the things you should be doing. And you aren't doing any of them."
Life experience says, "Do your best and do what you can. If your best is getting out of bed today, let's celebrate that. The list can wait."

Depression says, "You say you love me, but I can't feel it, so it must not be true."
Life experience says, "My feels are out of order and proportion. I know my family loves me. I cannot feel it, but I know it on some level. That will have to be good enough for now."

Depression says, "You can't feel anything because you're not worth anything"
Life experience says, "This is a lie that feels like truth. I can feel the bad, but not the good, so the bad must be true. What makes me worth it? The fact that I love color, I love laughter, I love. I can't feel the love right now, but I do love."

Depression says, "Why bother?"
Life experience says, "If I love my family so much that I would be willing to die for them, do I love them enough that I'm willing to live for them?"

Depression says, "They only love you because they have to."
Life experience says, "People are lazy, they don't love anything they don't want to.  Love certainly never happens when its forced. If someone says they love you, and their actions support that statement, then they do. If they say they love you, then make fun of you or ignore you or abuse you, the yep, it's a lie."

All the logic in the world doesn't stop the feels and lies of depression on a down day. But knowing that it is all lies helps cope with it and survive.

Being an artist, some days its easier to take critiques and feedback than others. No, people should not pull their punches or be less honest with their feedback. The onus is on me to shelf it until I'm in a place mentally where I can pull all the wonderful ideas out of what has been said and move forward with a project and continue working on it until I feel it's done. If working on something doesn't feel good, I need to change what I'm doing.

I may not be able to control how I feel, but I can control what I do about how I'm feeling.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sketches Off Crazy




trees and birds I wished were happy
Last week was hard.

Normal people read that as: Oh, something bad happened. What can I do? Want a hug?

Mentally ill folks read that and think: Oh, that fight. That's a craptastic fight. You're still here! **knuckle-bump/high five**

NOTE: I feel inclined to share my experience, but would like to offer a warning. The following account is told through my filter, and I was irritated, grumpy, and trying very hard to control the angry urges screaming through my head. You may find this offensive.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

On Being Broken

This is probably a TMI post, but I'm the kind of person who will tell you exactly how I'm feeling if you ask.

For almost a year now, I have not been feeling right. It started with being tired all the time. Then my monthly cycles started being extremely painful. Then the depression kicked in with a huge whammy.

About six months ago, my O.B. put me on antibiotics for a uterine infection. And that cleared up a lot of the abdominal pain and the tired. Didn't fix the depression. In fact, it kind of got worse after that got better.

I started seeing a General Practitioner about four months ago who sees mostly patients with depression. I wouldn't call him a specialist, but I love him. Mostly because he listens to me. He takes my opinions and thoughts into account when I have issues, and he doesn't go for the easy answer, nor does he just throw pills at me to fix things. We talk things through about anxiety and any other symptoms I have.

In January, I started seeing a therapist. I also had my first Manic day. I have experienced Mania consistently on the first day of my period every month since then. Except March, which was a full-blown panic attack (which was kind of the same physical reaction as the mania, but instead of feeling high or drunk, I was panicked.) I also have little moments of mania spattered throughout, that I recognize by the overly silly tendencies that happen. As yet, I haven't done anything stupid, but it's worrisome that it's happening more often.


In February, my therapist began insisting that I see a psychiatrist, because I am getting worse, not better. But not just any psychiatrist, because she knows a lot of them and is picky. Not to mention the fact that just getting in to see someone takes MONTHS. But she has a working relationship with a couple, and once I'm in their system, I she can get them to move my appointment up. The doctor closest to me doesn't take my insurance. This is kind of a big issue for me. However, he has agreed he only needs to see me three times to get a feel for things, and then he will work directly with my GP to manage my meds and care.

Here's a description of my mental health:  Things that come out of the blue are harder for me to cope with without emotionally crashing. And things that normally wouldn't bother me now send me into panic attacks or anxiety. Good days I feel normal and can do things. Bad days, I don't even feel like I'm on meds. They are bad, bad, bad days. My GP and Therapist have diagnosed this as BiPolar 2.

One of my favorite things to do to relieve stress and feel good is to dance to happy music. Happy music to me is any song on the radio that makes me feel like moving. There's this rush that I feel from the inside out when there's good music on. Except now. I tried doing a Just Dance workout the end of Feb and instead of the emotional high, I crashed. And none of my normal coping skills to stop an emotional dive worked. 

March brought on more issues. Ended up in the E.R. because I thought I was hemorrhaging. I had never seen so much blood nor clots the size of my fist before. The e.r. docs said I looked fine except for a cervical polyp. Lots and lots of pain and blood, but I was assured this was normal for being 40 and that I was fine. I didn't believe them, but I went home anyway, convinced they just didn't care to listen to me.

The following Monday morning I was in my O.B.'s office again, and she removed the polyp and said she wanted to do a hysterectomy. I would have cheered if my body would have let me.

That afternoon I was in my GP's office and I asked if he would please check my hormone levels. We did a blood draw to measure adrenal, pancreatic, testosterone, estroven, estrogen, progesterone, and a bunch of other hormones that affect hormones. Because something is off in my body, and I am determined to figure it out, using everything possible. I want to be well, and I want to be a reliable mother, wife, and person.

Surgery is scheduled for the middle of April. My body is still bleeding, and the cramping after the polyp removal feels like I am in labor *almost* all the time. It's intermittent, but if I do anything like vacuum or sweep or lift a load of laundry, then I end up in a world of pain. I know that the removal of my uterus isn't going to fix ALL of my problems, but it will fix an immediate source of pain and stress. Seeing a psychiatrist will help fix the other problems.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it's not a train. I have hope that I'm going to stop crashing soon. Or, that even when I have bad days that they'll be more manageable.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Art of Love

I count my blessings every day that my mother is my mother.

She raised me to love people because they are people, not because they share the same religion or political beliefs as me.

I grew up in a mining town in Wyoming in a dusty, wind-blown, tumbleweed covered trailer court. And I loved it there because it was my home. I was the only kid in my neighborhood of my religion, which meant I got to go to church with my friends to see how and what they believed. I visited Baptist, Evangelical, Catholic, and I don't even remember all the others. If they wanted, they could come with me and see what we did at my church. It wasn't a missionary effort, it was a 'this is how you are a good friend' lesson.

According to my mother: It's how you understand the people you love.

When I was in fifth grade, after moving what felt like a thousand times, we ended up in a little forgotten corner on the outskirts of town. The only friend I had was the only other girl my age, who was Jehovah's Witness. Sometimes we'd talk about religion. Sometimes her mom would give me Spanish lessons, and when my accent was good enough I even got to read from their bible in spanish out loud at a couple of their meetings. (No, I didn't have a clue what I was saying, but I could pronounce stuff).

Most of the time, though, we played, we talked, we created stories and make-believe worlds. We did the things that 10 yr old friends do. I felt included, loved, and like my friend accepted me for who I was, just as I accepted her.

Now I live in a whole 'nother state where it feels like just about everyone is the same religion as me. And guess what? They still all have differing political and religious opinions. And I try to do the same thing for my kids that my mother did for me.

I am not perfect. And I AM very opinionated. But guess what? I don't expect everyone to agree with me. That guy who asked in Sunday School how to convince his kids to only be friends with same-religion kids? My opinion is that he's an idiot. He disagrees with me. I'm fine with that. (But I still think I'm right)

I want my children to love people because they are people they enjoy being around. I don't want them to pick from a specific gene pool, because eeeewwww, eventually everyone starts inter-breeding and you end up with cousins marrying cousins and people have too many thumbs and corrupted blood-lines and yuck.

People are awesome. There are some funny, fantastically great people out there who have completely different religious and political views than me. And I LOVE them! I am glad that they are there. I am glad that this world is filled with diversity and awesome. I expect people to respect that I live my life the way I do, and I *try* to give that same respect to everyone else. (Even when I think they're idiots)

/Sigh. My Facebook feed was FILLED this morning with religious and political meme's that were more hateful than helpful, and I was annoyed. Annoyed that in the comments people devolve into name-calling and hurt feelings, annoyed that "My Way Is the Right Way" is an accepted way of life for some. Life's a two-way street, and Karma is a very real thing.

In short: It is closed-minded and stupid, STUPID, I TELL YOU, to expect the whole world to change their minds and agree with you.  (So, hey, change your mind and agree with me already!)

The Golden Rule, people. Life is a lot easier for everyone if you live it. And you know what? I'm certain there are people who are going to disagree with me. Which is awesome.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I did this art thing this one time

I have this friend. And he's one of the reasons I'm seeing a therapist - haha, no, it's because he IS a therapist and recommended one to help me deal, but you can blame him, sure. He's also directing a play, and I volunteered to help him with artwork last year when I saw him in Pirates of Penzance. (spelled correctly, of course)

So here I am, a year later, and have needed much encouragement with art because that's the one thing I gave up on completely when the depression kicked in. Thank you Lee, for having me help you, for accepting my bad days, and understanding when I shut down.

Simply: Fear sucks.
More Simply: Working through it is awesome.

Here is the basic design for his "The Mikado." I think it looks like a flannel board, which is appropriate for a play, right? :)

I keep trying to redesign this:


into a facebook cover pic for his wall:


And see? They look FINE here. They look completely pixellated and awful on FB.

So... if you see them on facebook, apparently I've forgotten how to use photoshop, because I can't for the life of me make things look right.

This would be why I'm not in web design, yes?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Coping and a Rant

Everyone who has Depression deals with it differently.  Me, I take meds and supplement with other things.

Those other things being:

1: World of Warcraft. I log in and I can zone out of my head. It effectively shuts off the negative tape that is on constant loop in my brain. If my kids interrupt my gaming, it's no big deal; I get up and help them, and it works for me because I'm not convinced I'm a horrible waste of space while I'm playing. I tend to feel better after being immersed in pixels for a while. Besides, I love collecting all the super cute pets; they make me grin. I generally play the most on my worst days. Is it addictive? Yep. Is it helpful? Yep. Do I feel guilty for wasting my time and money on the game? Hell no.

2: Music. On really bad days, happy music doesn't do anything, even if I make myself sing along. But on mediocre days, it's awesome. The last few days have been especially bad, even with meds. My husband, bless him, brought home Just Dance 2014 for me, so I could have a game to play doing stuff I love to music I love. Music generally gets me up, moving, and if I can feel it inside my skin, it clears my thoughts. Even on bad days, getting up and moving and doing things with the kids is a good thing, even if I'm not feeling it.

3: Essential Oils and Vitamins. I have no scientific data to prove to you that they work but they do help. And when I'm in the midst of low lows, any little bit that helps is a good thing.

4: Friends. I text friends, call friends, talk to people. Or sometimes they just call me at the right time when I'm spiraling down. And the friends I have who also struggle with depression don't tell me I'm imagining things or using excuses. They understand that it's crippling, that the negative voices that make me cry over stupid things are real. And yeah, I might be crazy, but they love me anyway. This is huge. And it helps me smile. Anything that helps me smile is worth the time and energy.

5: Books. Specifically fluffy happy books that make me laugh and have happy endings. So generally romance novels. I don't care if they're paranormal, thriller, contemporary, historical, sci-fi, or whatever. I'm after the happy feels.

This is also where I get ranty, though. I have probably read two or three hundred romance novels in the past six months, and let me tell you, those freebies on Amazon? ugh. I follow several publishers and editors on twitter, so I jump on the freebies when they announce them. But not all of the freebies on Amazon are from publishers, nor are they worth my time. I'm a big girl, so I can skip a page if a story gets too coarse or detailed. I generally don't care, unless the language offends my delicate sensibilities and then I just skim, but whatever. My point being I'm not terribly picky about romance novels.

Except for this one teensy tiny little thing:

HEY YOU ROMANCE AUTHORS ALL PROUD OF YOURSELF FOR FINISHING A BOOK AND HITTING THE PUBLISH BUTTON:  I know who you are, and I have a list with your book title and your name so I know never, ever, ever to download one of your books again, ever.

No, I'm not a published author, but I know what I like to read. I will happily read a freebie and then buy more from an author if:

  • Dialogue is believable and fun. Not stilted, boring, stupid, or repetitive. You know who does awesome dialogue? Shannon Stacey and Molly Harper.  You know why I think this? Because when I read it, I can hear it as if my brothers or friends were saying it. Now, however, I have a long list of books where people sit at a table and have the most mundane boring conversations EVER. "Oh, you like this? I like this too." "Oh how cool, I've liked that since I was a kid." "Oh neat, I liked it when I was twelve, what else do we have in common?"   It's a sad thing, really, but apparently I like making lists.

  • Characters feel real.  I don't care how silly or off the wall or neurotic a character is as long as they're believable. They can be in space, middle-earth, fairy land, or a zombie, but I need to believe their actions are more than because you the author said so. I want to feel like I know them, that they are different from each other. And seriously, while I'm ranting about characters, if I find one more male hero named Rafe, I am going to insist all of the Romance Writers of America meetings have a character naming class that all y'all must attend before you get to publish another book. Or maybe just have Word and InDesign -- and whatever other diy magical publishing thingies are out there-- delete your manuscript if that name is found anywhere in the text.
  • Story is fun. You know what, I KNOW there's going to be a happy ending, that's why I read these books. I know they're gonna hate each other at the beginning, or not understand their attraction, or fall in love and then some misunderstanding is going to happen. Ok, I'm good with that. I want to feel the attraction, the tension, the worry, the joy. However, I'm not good with you telling me over and over and over and over why they have a hangup. Or putting guy and girl together in implausible circumstances. I need logic, people. I might be craving the happies, but you're for real going to try to convince me that Girl A  falls madly in love with Guy B who is always mad and grouchy at her?  uh... no. What the heck is fun about that?? WHERE IS YOUR LOGIC???  Or maybe you need someone to EDIT YOUR BOOK????  AAARGH
  • Magic/Strange/Weird stuff. I don't mind a good billionaire sweeps girl next door off her feet. But I love magic and other stuff even more. Time travel, wizards, fairies, you name it, that stuff is even more fun than just a guy/gal get together. Although to be honest, I'm about done with the vampire thing. I will always, always, always love vampires, but I think I'm done reading about them for a while. Patricia Briggs and Carrie Vaughn are pretty awesome at writing the werewolves, but I kinda hope a new fad comes along soon.
  • Proofed. Ok, I will admit I'm not nearly the grammar nazi that some of my friends are. I'm willing to overlook a great many typos, because hey, typos happen. What irritates me is the blatant publishing of something that has poor grammar, period. The sentences make no sense, the people speak like uneducated teenagers when they're supposed to be professional businesspeople, etc. Oh, and then the emails from amazon stating that hey, such n such book has been updated with edits and proofs. You know what those emails do? They make me LOSE respect for the author, because if they'd had any business sense at all, they'd have had someone, or a bunch of someones, read their book first,  made the edits, had it read through again by a different set of people, edited and revised some more, and THEN published the thing so that I don't have to be subjected to their first draft.

    Amazon isn't a writing group, people. It's a place where I go to find new authors that I might like.  As a consumer, if you're trying to feed me a rough draft, I'm gonna get pissy and never, ever, ever buy your books again.


    I guess that means that maybe I rant about things as part of my self-medication, too. That's what blogs are for? Ah well.
     


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Depression, Bluntly



The other day a relative who I love and adore and respect gave me a big long lecture about how I could cure my depression by eating every three hours instead of taking those evil, awful, anti-depressants.

The sad thing is that she's not the only person out there who feels this way. They think if you're on medication, you're somehow weak, or less-than you could be, and if you just tried this one thing, it would fix all of it, right now.

Yes, the side-effects of meds are wonky and screw things up. And yeah, getting the dosage right is a bit of a trial and error thing. But I'll tell you what: NOT having the meds is waaaay worse.

Some background:

* My mother and grandmother believe anything and everything can be fixed with a positive attitude and the right diet. If something is wrong with you, there's an herb, a food, a vitamin, or something that you can take that will fix it.  I was raised with this, so I believe this, too.

* I am certified in Foot Zoning, I've read everything about essential oils, and only take my kids to the doctor if they specifically request it or I feel it's necessary. I took nutrition and anatomy classes in college alongside my illustration and graphic design classes so I wouldn't have to rely on others for the health and well-being of my family.

* I'm religious, too. I do believe God can fix anything, but I also believe sometimes we have to go through what we go through for a reason. One day I plan on confronting Him about some things and asking for an explanation or two. I'm sure he'll grin at me and show me, but for now, I try not to feel too put out. (What that translates to is that I feel I have a good relationship with God, even though I don't always understand things.)

So here's the thing: I struggle with Depression.

Some days it wins and I can't get out of bed. Some days I win, and I can get up and be productive. It doesn't ever go away, but some days it's less intrusive than others.

This means that in spite of all the essential oils, foods, vitamins, and any other hoo-doo I can think of, my brain is broken. There is a chemical imbalance that I cannot fix, and some days it wins. I have a doctor and a therapist and a circle of friends and family that are working to help me through this.

A lot of the women in my family struggle with depression and the answer for each of us has been very different. We don't even react to the same drugs the same way. I am still trying to find my answers.

Bluntly: This means that yes, there are times I feel that ending things would be an immense relief and that everyone would be better off without me.

Bluntly: Depression lies. But it lies so well, it's hard to see the truth.

I have kids and I love them, and I refuse to abandon them to this scary, scary world. So I'm not giving up, but that doesn't mean the thought doesn't cross my mind. It just means I have to find ways of not thinking about it.

Depression doesn't LOOK like an illness, and people who have never had it have zero clue how it feels. I know, I was one of them for many years. 

  • Depression looks like a messy house because cleaning it feels overwhelming and you don't even have the energy to care that it's messy.
  • Depression looks like a clean house because you can't stand being judged, or because you can't stand the mess one more day.
  • Depression looks like a happy face, excited and enjoying the moment.
  • Depression looks like a tired body incapable of getting out of bed because just breathing is hard.
  • Depression looks like a fun-loving, caring neighbor who helps do laundry and clean houses.
  • Depression looks like someone incapable of basic hygiene.
  • Depression doesn't feel anything, because feeling something is beyond its capabilities
  • Depression feels everything
  • Depression loves deeply
  • Depression points out every single inadequacy and says 'why bother trying'
  • Depression hides
  • Depression walks amongst you, camoflaged as a normal person being brave enough to venture out of the house.
 
Telling me to pray more is not going to fix it.
Telling me to read my scriptures more is not going to fix it.
Telling me to change my attitude and think positive is not going to fix it.
Telling me to stop and smell the roses and just appreciate what I have is good advice, but it's not going to FIX the CHEMICAL IMBALANCE in my brain.
Those things right there? That is more ammunition on the 'guilt' pile of all the 'shoulds' that tend to make the bad days worse.

Yes, writing down things I'm grateful for IS therapeutic and good for me. I'm well aware that a positive attitude can conquer many obstacles. Yes, it helps me remember the truth, and see the little blessings that are in my life, so I can remember that Depression LIES. But it doesn't FIX the depression.

Yes, praying and reading scriptures ARE good (for me). And yes, they are exercises in feeling the spirit, and yes, that extra hug and knowledge that I'm not fighting this alone is good for me, too. But, again, so far God hasn't seen fit to fix me. So telling me I'm not doing ENOUGH of that isn't helpful, it's harmful.

Depression compounds everything that goes wrong and makes me think it's all my fault and if I were only a better mother, my kids would be angels and perfect and never fight.

So, here it is, bluntly:

I am fighting to be happy. I am fighting to stay sane and not drown in the sorrows and overwhelming 'shoulds' of the the world and its expectations. I try so very hard to find the happy, the silver linings, the positive. And for the most part, people I know are awesome cheerleaders.

I am fighting to remember how to create. How to write. How to string words together into sentences that make sense. How to draw, how to paint, how to be creative and fun. I struggle with just being able to breathe in and out some days, as that in itself is the act of creation as my cells multiply, divide, and reproduce to keep this body living.

To quote a metaphor I used on facebook:  Those of us battling depression are in the WWI trenches of No Man's Land. Behind us: the land we're defending is home, life, happy, that stuff we're trying to get back to. In front of us, attacking, is the storm trying to beat us down and take over. Some days we spend all day battling the storm. Other days we get a break and can retreat to the happy. Doesn't mean the storm is gone, the battle is still going on, but we get to go on leave once in a while. So some days I don't feel like I'm down in the trenches and covered with mud. But I can feel the battle there, it's not going away.

Depression is not fun. It's not an excuse. It's real. It's a never-ending battle.

One person's answer, one person's med, oil, vitamin, sunshine regimen, or whatever is not going to work for everyone. I'm willing to try things to see if they help, but please remember, folks: this life is not One Size Fits All.

I'm very lucky to have good friends who have been there to catch me on days when I'm falling. I have an awesome safety net of people who remind me of the fun, the silly, and laugh-worthy, and the greatness that is life.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Play Lists



Having leftover happy from yesterday's manic episode means I got my dishes done! Including the pots! (super fantastically awesomeness right there) And my floors vacuumed and mopped. And I've even started sorting laundry (gasp!!)

Figured I'd share my playlist, because my kids and I have to stop and dance to the music a lot during this. In fact, I'm still dancing. And its not often that I can drag myself out of the depressive fog to not only want to clean, but enjoy it.

This may not be up your alley music-wise, but it is my happy list today :)

The 1975 - Chocolate
The Fray - Love Don't Die
Pitbull & Ke$sha - Timber  - because get up and MOVE, yo!Gavin Degraw - Sweeter
Parachute - Can't Help
Lawson - Juliet
Daughtry - Waiting for Superman
Lifehouse - Halfway Gone
Parachute - Drive You Home
Sensefield - I Refuse
Fall Out Boy - Alone Together
Innerparty System - Not Getting Any Better
Neon Trees - Lessons In Love
Florence + The Machine - No Light No Light
Olly Murs - Army of Two
Olly Murs - Troublemaker  - because my son LOVES this song -
U2 - Elevation
Matchbox 20 - Disease

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Why Girl Scout Cookies?

A box of cookies from a Girl Scout is so much more than delicious goodness. It is a box of wonder and possibilities that gives girls the opportunity to see their potential and chase after their dreams.




Because of cookie sales, my daughters have been able to go to summer camps where they learned to ride horses, face their fear of heights, learn new songs, make friends, and live in a tent for a week.

Camp Trefoil 2013

Camp Trefoil High Ropes course 2013

Because of cookie sales, my girls have learned to shoot bows & arrows. They've attended the UofU Architecture and Engineering days and learned to extract DNA, design cabins, and learn about ergonomic and efficient designs (among lots of other things). They've had a sleepover with the Lady Ute basketball team.



Because of cookie sales, my girls have had their horizons widened. They've been to Yellowstone, Moab, rafted the Colorado river, and explored caves. They've learned to budget for trips, how to plan trips, and how to get along with other girls in a car for long periods of drive time.

Minnetonka Cave 2012

Because of cookie sales, they've explored bookmaking, ad design, air quality, animal care, public speaking, astronomy, weather, and countless other subjects.

Bookmaking Badge 2011, U of U BookArts program


Because of cookie sales, my girls have learned to serve their community by growing a garden and donating the food to a local shelter, doing food drives, coat drives, book drives, and are now spearheading a project to decorate rooms and collect needed items for Safe Harbor.

And so yes, every year starting in January we start our cookie pre-sales. And then in March we start delivery and booth sales, hawking cookies for all we are worth. It is overwhelmingly busy, but we do it with enthusiasm every year, in the cold, wind, snow and rain.

Black Island Farms Scarecrow design contest 2013.
The girls designed our girl scout as being terrified of the crow :)
Cookies are worth it. You can't put a price on the experiences and opportunities that Girl Scouts has given my daughters that they would not have been able to afford or been able to participate in otherwise.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ahhh, Therapy

Today was my first day of therapy. According to my doctor, the best way to treat depression is with the Holy Trifecta of DOOM. Er. Ok, maybe not Doom, since this is supposed to be a positive thing. Something uber powerful that consists of me, my doctor, and my therapist that is an awesome word that I can't think of at the moment. Insert that there. *cough* anyway...

Since I didn't know I needed a therapist, I now have one. Let the Holy Trifecta-ing begin!

Since it was mostly a get-to-know-you session, I am not going to pretend great strides were made on my psyche or anything. She noted what drugs I'm on, what the dosage is, and how I'm currently feeling. Then she told me her style of therapy, what to expect from her, and how we're going to proceed.

Ok, that's all good, right?

For the record, I started on Zoloft in November. Felt like my skin didn't fit and I looked like a junky in need of a hit. Not a drug that works well for me. Nope. Didn't like Zoloft AT ALL. Doc put me on Lexipro in December and I am starting to feel human-ish. Some pretty big life whammies have hit that have made me crash the last week, but I'm hanging on and I'm fairly sure that the meds have a big part to play in that.

I still miss my motivation, but it's better some days than others. Still a rollercoaster, but the ups and downs don't seem quite so extreme anymore.

THINGS I LEARNED OR HAD REAFFIRMED TODAY:
* Anger/Irritation is the body's way of self medicating. Feeling anger or irritation gives you energy, which helps the body combat the apathy. While unhealthy for relationships around you, it's a step up from not caring at all.

* Craving sugar is also the bodies way of self-medicating. The craving of quick-burn sugars is a way of getting the needed/wanted energy. The downfall is that with the quick rush is the dive into the lows. So, if craving carbs, eat them with a protein so there's a longer burn. In other words: Think When You Eat. So if I'm going to eat chocolate, eat it with peanut butter. Or maybe choose cheese and honey-roasted ham.

* Highly intellectual and creative people are pre-disposed to mental illness. The fact that many of the women in my family also struggle with depression, AND I'm an artist, AND I'm smart, pretty much stacked the deck, and the fact that it started at 35 is textbook. So, no feeling guilty that I've been hit by the black cloud, now to learn how to deal with and control it.

* There is hope. I'm not alone. I have lots of people who love me and who help support me through the bad days.

Would be cool if my therapist had a working magic wand and could just fling it at my brain and fix it. Which she described as being turned to pudding. (And which, amazingly enough, is exactly how it feels: Like I'm swimming through pudding when trying to think or cope or feel.)

My tool for this week: the food thing. Think about what I'm eating and go for the long burn instead of the short one. Hey, the fact that I had the energy AND the words to write a blog post is amazingly amazing, right? Huge big deal. I can totally do this. One day at a time, one breath at a time. Just gotta keep breathing in and out, in and out.

k, and when I'm done with that, I'll go wrangle that washing machine that decided to die. again. Wish me luck.