Archives for Depression
This Valentine's Day, I wanted to take a different approach to discussing love on this blog. A Redditor named Ryan from Canada made a post in /r/getmotivated several months back that has really, really stuck with me. I'm going to share (most of) it with you today, but first, I want to ask you a big question. Do you love yourself? (Cue the cheesy new-age music and self-help vibe here, right?) But seriously, that's not what I mean at all. Let's think about the word "self" for a minute. Right now, you are...you. You are reading this blog post and existing in the present moment, right? (Obviously.) But there are other versions of yourself, too -- versions of you who aren't reading this blog post right now -- who also deserve your love and caring. (And no, I'm not trying to get metaphysical here with any parallel-worlds stuff. Read on; you'll see what I mean.)
Years ago, before panic attacks became one of my defining characteristics, I decided I wanted to be one of those crunchy mothers-to-be who avoids all medication at all cost. I'd be growing a tiny human inside of me, after all. I vowed, early in my twenties, that even Tylenol wouldn't even be allowed. Oh, the naivete of my youth. It's been a long time since I've posted a med update, and that's sort of been an intentional choice. Months ago, I started a short series about withdrawing from Celexa, an SSRI drug used to treat depression -- but I'd been taking it off-label for panic disorder for about 2 years. I'm no stranger to SSRI withdrawal, so I was careful to perform a very slow taper. SLOWLY BUT NOT SURELY Things were looking sort of bright on about half my original dosage until I tried to go and pick up a crate a vegetables a mere 2 miles away from my home: It was Tuesday, and I was driving my car to pick up my CSA share — a box full of veggies from a local farmer — just across the bridge from where I live. Easy. Close. A simple task. Agoraphobically, I’ve never really had a problem with bridges before. (And, architecturally, I’m fascinated by them!) But on that day, in the middle of this unremarkable concrete bridge, I felt a small twinge of fear brewing in the basement of my stomach. Something felt wrong — indescribably and uncomfortably wrong."
Yesterday, I wrote this: a post about how it's okay to feel crummy sometimes. It's okay to feel crummy and to write about feeling crummy. In a way, I was responding to commenter Reader547 when s/he left this message on a recent post about how I was feeling the post-holiday blues: “While it is all too true that the lights come down and everything is put away in January, I feel the writer has no helpful perspective in her article on how people can think differently about it all! How about trying to view January as a “new start into the fresh and unknown future”? Now, I'm back -- to explain my rationale for refusing to tie a shiny bow around my woes.
I love my blog readers. (Hey, that's you!) I read each and every one of your comments -- even though I don't always reply to each one. Your comments are very meaningful to me -- I empathize with your stories of shared suffering and shared recovery. I truly love reading them -- they make me feel far less alone! One recent comment on my blog post called "The Post-Holiday Slump: The Presence Of An Absence", became a bit "stickier" than most -- and I found myself thinking about it quite a bit over the past 24 hours. The blog post was about how January and February basically suck and feel super dreary in comparison to the brightness and happiness of the Christmas season. Putting away the tree and the lights creates a weird void in not only my living room (where the tree stood), but also in my gut. The commenter pointed out my lack of positivity.
Some people find the holidays to be depressing. And I can easily see why -- there's plenty of "family" this, "family" that, and if you've lost a loved one recently, the holidays can sting. I, on the other hand, fall into the post-holiday slump. I mean, let's face it: the Christmas season is the most exciting part of winter, no? There are decorations and family and trees, and ornaments and lights and cookies -- and it's early enough in the winter that people are still excited about snow. Snow! Snow. It's like this novel thing in December. All the kids are collectively hopeful for a white Christmas, and I don't think most adults would mind (too) much. You put up the tree, you put up the lights. You get single lines of Christmas songs stuck in your head for days ("...from Atlantic to Pacific; gee, the traffic is terrific...") You wrap the presents, perhaps in a single marathon-style sitting, bitching about the stupid Scotch tape getting stuck to the carpet or about how the paper is so damn thin that you can practically see the title of the book you've just wrapped right through the paper. But still, you don't mind. Something about life feels warm even though the world outdoors is bitter and cold. Then, the 25th rolls around. And in the wink of Santa's eye, it's suddenly December 26th -- just another day.
I'm on the verge of panic as I write this. My anxiety level is off the charts at the current moment. I am ready to snap. And why? Stress. Just the plain ol' everyday stressors that most other people can deal with just fine: prepping to host a brunch tomorrow morning, making last-minute Halloween costumes for a Saturday night party, and tidying up the house. Agoraphobic ol' me spent 7 hours outside of the house today -- no small feat, obviously -- running errands of all sorts. "Seven hours?" my husband said, quizzically, a few minutes ago. "How? I don't get it." I don't either, really. And instead of patting myself on the back in self-congratulations, I'm just gritting my teeth and feeling exhausted. That relentlessly critical voice inside of my head is dishing out the word "should" like it's going out of style: I shouldn't feel exhausted. I should be able to do shit like this. I should be able to get excited about friends visiting. My heart shouldn't be racing. My stomach shouldn't be nervous. I shouldn't feel woozy. I shouldn't feel scared that I'm woozy. I shouldn't have to do things at the last minute. I shouldn't be a procrastinator. I should be having fun putting costumes together. But I'm not.
Since Apple's release of Siri, the personal digital assistant tucked into the latest versions of the iPhone and other "iProducts", people have been asking her all sorts of questions from serious to silly. (And, this guy even tried to get Siri to talk to herself. And it sort of worked.) Although iPhone users are definitely having some fun with her Easter eggs, she's designed to handle more routine inquiries, like how to find Eddie's Diner or a list of chiropractors are in your town. She can also set reminders for you, add items to your grocery list, or send text messages on your behalf. She's a device, but she's also a personality: sometimes clever, sometimes caustic. "I COULDN'T FIND ANY SUICIDE PREVENTION CENTERS" My husband brought home his new iPhone last year, I decided to put Siri to the test by asking her something more serious -- if I should kill myself. I pretended that I was suicidal, and I asked for help. But she was less than helpful:
Here's something fun for a Sunday afternoon. I stumbled across this song yesterday, and now I can't stop listening to it. I've heard REM's "Losing My Religion" about a million times before, and personally, I don't have any particularly strong feelings for it. I don't love it; I don't hate it. Enter Major Scaled TV, an artist who digitally alters music to convert minor-scale songs into major-scale songs. For the non-musically inclined, here's a translation: he makes sad songs sound happier. Dark songs become lighter. Somber notes turn cheery. It's like dipping your iPod into a vat of liquid Prozac. See for yourself:
(This is the sixteenth post in a series called “Anxiety Society”, in which I interview everyday anxiety sufferers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.) Meet Sveta. She loves music, listening to bird calls, and reading. Although she's just in her early twenties, she's already been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and dysthymia. Her diagnoses follow a difficult and abusive childhood. What makes Sveta's story a bit different from most stories of PTSD and abuse is this: she's also blind. Although she can perceive colors and shapes, and distinguish between light and dark, that's the extent of her visual ability. The blindness affects everything from her ability to escape triggering situations to her anxiety coping strategies. Her parents still largely control the minutae of her everyday life, so Sveta finds herself struggling to carve out her own strategies for controlling her environment. Summer: Have you always been blind, or were you able to see at some point in your life? Sveta: I was born 3 months and 2 weeks early. I was put on oxygen because I couldn't breathe. The result was that not only could I breathe, but the blood vessels in my eyes grew too fast, forcing the retina and the eye apart. SB: And you suffer from an anxiety disorder, correct? Do you mind sharing your diagnoses? S: I have been diagnosed with dysthymia, also known as chronic depression and complex PTSD, which is like BPD but to a lesser degree. SB: Do you feel the dysthymia was always present, or did it develop at some point in your life? S: The dysthymia was always there for as long as I can remember. My parents used to make fun of my love for minor keys saying, "You only like songs where someone dies". This, of course, isn't true. I like the minor key, not the death. It happens, sometimes, that songs where someone dies are in minor keys. It also happens that in songs in minor keys, sometimes, someone dies.
"But you don't look sick." Yeah. I've heard that one before. Have you? There's migraine. Fibromyalgia. Lupus. The pain and autoimmune problems aren't immediately visible. Within the mental health spectrum, there's panic disorder. There's depression. There's bipolar disorder, PTSD, and OCD. It's not easy for others to visually see our suffering. But just because an illness isn't showing doesn't mean it's not legitimate! THIS STUFF IS FOR REAL When I have a bad migraine, the only overt evidence of my suffering is the pair of sunglasses I'm probably wearing indoors. Also, I tend to walk very lightly on my tiptoes in a futile attempt to suppress the gnawing, throbbing, and stabbing pain on the right side of my skull. But a big pair of sunglasses coupled with a delicate walk? I look more like some cross between a drunk ballerina and a celebrity-in-hiding. I don't look like I'm suffering. It's the same thing with panic: if I have an attack in the middle of the grocery store, there's no good visual indicator that I'm suffering. Sure, I'll probably abandon my cart and walk quickly toward the exit -- but how does that make me different than any other woman who has forgotten her wallet in the car?