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.


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.