WATCH THIS SPACE!

I am crawling out the abyss of depression and I am going to be writing here again, but I have no idea when or about what. Just putting you on notice. I’m still out here, skulking about, endless conundrums on my mind, trying to nail down some clarity. During a recent panic attack in my therapist’s office, while I was crying hard and she was coaching me to breathe and think of a peaceful happy place, I protested, “I can’t, I can’t.” But I took a deep, cleansing breath and exhaled and imagined….the color turquoise… the color I have always associated with clarity, and then turquoise waters on white sandy beaches, and I began to calm down. It’s obvious, I thought, I only need to go to the Carribean. Then she told me to go to my happy place and my mind immediately switched gears and put me in a beautiful castle in the north of Britain: Hogwarts. I breathed a few deeper breaths and felt the panic recede. If reality was unbearable, there was always the world of Harry Potter and his friends Ron and Hermione. Especially, Hermione, whom I identified with strongly.  Maybe I need a vacation in the Carribean…or Hawaii…(yes, please). Maybe I need to reread the Harry Potter books. Not just watch the movies or listen to the audiobooks. ACTUALLY READ THE BOOKS. I don’t like the narrator’s voice on the audiobooks. If only Alan Rickman had read them! *sigh*

Anyway, it was clear that I had finally hit bottom and needed to find my way back up and out. I had stopped listening to the news. I didn’t care about Trump or anything that was going on. (I know, shocking!!!!). I got sick of Facebook and started purging friends in alphabetical order causing a slight panic among people who don’t even know me. I would post my “memories”, posts from other years, but I hardly looked at my friends’ posts anymore. I deactivated my Facebook and left it completely for 5 days and loved it, but it called me back. There is a love/hate relationship there. But I just stopped thinking creatively. I had abandoned all writing projects. (Simple rule of writing: Writers WRITE.) I watched the same movies over and over, listened to the same books over and over, too lazy to sit up and read from my Kindle or a REAL BOOK. I listened to the same music over and over…..Prince, mostly,(still haven’t accepted he’s gone) and John Mayer. Thankfully, Mayer introduced some new music that I have been positively giddy over. Just the change I needed. His music is always right on time.

So there I was, feeling “meh”. I changed my profile pic on Facebook to Grumpy Cat and made grumpy statements. People were amused. I was deadly serious. And then a friend posted a video that was an incredibly lame attempt at humor at the expense of anyone intelligent enough not to buy into stereotypes. It was a black man, a “gangsta” (their word, not mine) who promised to explain George Orwell’s 1984 from his point of view. So I pressed play, expecting mild humor and was overcome with a horrendous white man’s caricature of a black man, a completely, racist, stereotypical portrayal of this “gangsta” who used language I have never heard come from the mouth of any black person I have ever met, and I know a few. It was shameful. I was embarrassed for the man portraying the “gangsta”, and felt he ought to be ashamed of himself and embarrassed, too, but I supposed they paid him the right price. This video filled me with so full of negative emotion that I really thought for a few minutes I might be having a heart attack, but I recognized it as panic brought on by pure provoked anger. Racism is a trigger for me, for many reasons I won’t go into here. It should trigger anger in everyone, maybe not to my degree. I decided to get some feedback. I shared the post on my Facebook page with the explanation of how racist I found it and how angry it made me and waited for my friends to respond. One hour went by, two hours went by. No response. No likes, no comments. This made me angrier. In my anger-addled mind, I reasoned that probably a  lot of people on my friend list thought this video was funny and didn’t care that it was racist and were too afraid to say so to me. And this made me angrier. And the anger and panic built. I was talking to two different friends by text and they were both trying to talk me through it, begging me to breathe. It just MAGICALLY happened that I was on my way to a therapist appointment that very morning and was about at the boiling point when she called me into her office. So I got in there and finally let go and I told her about the email, and I suddenly realized how really unimportant it really was in the great scheme of things. Yes, racism is important, but it’s vast problem that is not going to be overcome by me throwing a tantrum over a video. And then I remembered, and I told her, “This is not what I wanted to talk to you about.” And I calmed down a little and told her what I had planned to talk to her about, which was some things my mother had said about me to a good friend of mine. Terrible, hurtful, damaging things. As my mother has been the main subject of my therapy for many years, it wasn’t too surprising. But when I looked the therapist in the eye and told her my mother said that I hadn’t turned out the way she wanted, she inhaled sharply and startled a little and for a moment I thought she might cry herself. But she didn’t. I did. HARD. I cried and cried.  I curled into myself in the chair and rocked myself crying and gasping for breath and confessing random worries and secret hurts. “I’m never going to have a baby. My cat is getting old. I can’t deal with losing her. She’s like my baby. ” And on and on, every doubt and fear and insecurity, until I was completely spent. I got my cry out, and cleaned up my face and answered the therapist’s questions. She’s fairly new. I’ve only seen her a few times so she is getting caught up on my history. I explained to her how my mother had emotionally abused me my entire life. That she loved me, but she loved me too much. She was clingy. Nobody loved me more than she did, but she couldn’t stop criticizing me. She made me dependent on her and then when I became independent she flipped the tables and became dependent on me. When my therapist asked, without a trace of irony, “So would you say she used guilt…” I just burst out laughing in her perplexed face. I laughed and slapped her on the arm and kept laughing, nearly hysterical. “Oh, sister!” I said as I wiped the tears from my eyes again. “Does she use guilt??? Yes, ma’am, she does!” And I was laughing again, and she finally laughed with me. And I thanked her. I had needed that laugh!

I told the therapist the other things my friend had reported: my mother’s derogatory comments on my weight and not working. ( I am on disability. She was on disability, too, before she retired. I guess she forgot about that.) I told her my friend said if she had known I would be so upset that she wouldn’t have told me about it, I said that I thanked her. “I felt that she gave me a gift,” I said. “Now, someone else has seen and knows and it’s not just me, it’s HER. I feel validated.”  I told her I didn’t care about the fat remarks and the other stuff, but the part about me not turning out like she wanted was too much. When my friend told me about that, something in me just broke, and I thought, “I don’t love her anymore.” Now anyone who knows me knows what a source of anguish this is for me. Because I have always loved my mother so much, and I strongly believe in God’s command to honor your mother and father. How can you honor them if you don’t love them? I told the therapist that the ones who came before her had advised me to cut her off completely. Maybe that is the healthiest thing to do psychologically. But I have to think spiritually. She is my mother. Can I really cut her off completely? I have compromised. I limit my time with her. When the phone rings and I see it’s her and I don’t feel strong enough, I don’t answer. I wait until I do feel strong and then I return her call. It takes strength and energy to endure a phone call with her. Because she talks A LOT. If I want to get my word in, I have to be determined. And if I want to disagree with something she says, I have to be ready to stand my ground. And I have to do my duty as a daughter and check to see if she is really ok and safe, which is hard to untangle from all of her physical complaints and comments about the house falling down around her. She is a hoarder. My brother and I would like to help her but she refuses to let us. I have to resign myself to just sitting and listening to her prattle on about nothing. Why? Because she’s lonely, and she’s my mother, and who else is going to do it? Yes, Ms. Therapist Lady, she does use guilt, whether she intends to or not. My dad reminds me that my mother is living the life she created, and I know that’s true. What happened between them was over 30 years ago. Yes, he left her for another woman. I’m not defending that. But she has had ample time to get herself together and create a new life, whether that involved getting remarried or not. That is her choice. It is plenty of time for her to forgive if not forget. But my mother does not believe in forgiveness, at least not for people who sin against her. She is still bitter and derisive when she speaks of my father, never caring that it hurts me because he is STILL MY FATHER. Recently, I apologized to my father for believing all her hatefulness about him over the years, that poisoned my relationship with him. It’s a little late in the game, but I think he accepts it. We have a healthy relationship now.

So this is where I am. Still a little girl trying to win her mother’s approval, almost knowing before I start that I will fail. My question for you, dear reader, is this: What do you want to read about? What do you want to hear about from me? Do you want to go with me on the journey to explore the depths of motherhood?  Both the struggle to become a mother myself and the drama of the relationship with the one that I have? My ongoing struggles with depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety? Do you want me to write about politics? The Resistance against the EVIL TRUMP and other stories of the day, or human interest stories from around the world? Focus on incidences of injustice and inhumanity and racism? Maybe a little of everything? Or something yet unnamed? For the first time, I am blatantly asking for a response to a blog. PLEASE COMMENT HERE OR EMAIL ME AT heathersavann@gmail.com   Tell me what you want to read. What do you want to see here? What do you want from me??? I’m gonna try to give it to you, you wankers!!!!! LOVE AND PEACE TO YOU ALL!!! ❤ ❤ ❤ 

Advertisements

What I Know For Sure

   The first thing I know for sure is that I straight up stole that title from Oprah and her magazine and I’m hoping she will sue me, because I need the publicity. But there are many other things I know to be true and here are just a few:

     If you are a writer, you should concentrate on your “audience” and not concern yourself about what the people close to you think about your writing, because I am here to tell you, I know for sure THEY DON’T GIVE A SHIT. Most of your friends and family will not even bother reading your stuff and those that do will either tell you it’s wonderful when you know it isn’t, or just not comment at all. Because THEY DON’T GIVE A SHIT. It’s not that they don’t love you. It’s just that they aren’t living the literary life. They don’t live and breathe books and reading and writing. So, THEY DON’T GIVE A SHIT. Get over it. Get over yourself. Put some ice on that bruised ego and don’t insist they read your blog or your short story.  Find other readers and writers for that. 

     The movie is NEVER as good as the book. Almost NEVER. The film version may indeed be excellent, but almost without exception, the book is infinitely better. I have to give credit to the BBC’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and also Emma Thompson’s version of Sense and Sensibility. They stayed pretty close to the book. But still, if you liked the movie, I recommend you read the book, because you’re probably missing a lot, and likely seeing a lot that the author never intended to be part of the story. I hold up the Harry Potter series as an example. Delightful, entertaining films, but the books are better. Of course they are. How could a two hour film do those books justice?  The fourth film in particular, The Goblet of Fire, completely butchered the book. And yet it’s still better than most of what’s coming out of Hollywood these days. 

    People who care about you will make time for you. If they don’t answer your call or text or message right away, they may be busy. People have lives. They have jobs and spouses and children and responsibilities. Things come up. Emergencies, big and small. However, If they don’t respond to you for days at a time and you notice that they do seem to have time to post on Facebook, THEY DON’T GIVE A SHIT. They can’t be bothered to make room in their busy lives for you, and you should stop wondering and whining about it and focus on people who do make time for you. An exception to this is a friend or family member you suspect might be depressed. Give them some time. I know from a lifetime of experience that depression causes you to withdraw from the people closest to you, even though you know they love you and want to help. Some days you just can’t deal with PEOPLE. But the others? THEY DON’T GIVE A SHIT. And you shouldn’t either. Move on. 

It is true what they say, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.” I am not well. I will not bore you with a list of ailments, but suffice it so say, I am not dying, at least not imminently. Technically, we’re all dying, but you know what I mean. Anyway, while other people have jobs and children to focus on, my main focus is just on getting healthy. It’s a good thing I like to read and write, because that’s about all I’m good for, besides watching TV. I do enjoy having the time to read and write, but it comes at a cost. I am often sick, weak, tired, in pain, or all of these things. I suck as a homemaker. My husband deserves better. It’s a lonely existence. But I suck it up. Because NOBODY GIVES A SHIT. 

 There is life outside of Facebook. YES! It’s true! I deactivated my account days ago and I have survived and am actually thriving. I’ve gotten tons of reading done, started writing again, began learning piano, exercising,  and I feel so much calmer. I didn’t realize how agitated I had become. Facebook had become a sordid addiction for me, like gambling and I had to cut it off cold turkey. So I did, and apparently Facebook is rolling merrily along without me! AND I DON’T GIVE A SHIT!

2017: To Blog Or Not To Blog?

WELL. Here I am, finally, some two months or so since my last blog entry. For the handful of you who actually follow me, I sincerely apologize. To say I hit a “rough patch” would be putting it mildly. Sometime in early November, I sort of had a “come apart”. The fact that my hero, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by some 3 million votes but lost the election to TRUMP is not a coincidence. Combine that with the anxiety I felt trying to write a novel in  30 days for the National Novel Writer’s Month (NaNoWriMo) and I just sort of fell to pieces. No novel was forthcoming. No writing of any kind was forthcoming, not even in my personal journals. I just froze up. I was dead inside. All because of an election, you say? Well, yeah, kinda. It was the most important election of my lifetime, I believe, and it was a disaster. In 10 days, a lying, racist, sexist, misogynistic, xenophobic, narcissistic , moronic  blowhard will be sworn in as President, despite proof of Russian hacking in the election, despite, Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote (because even though we complain about the electoral college every election year, we never do anything about it!). 2016 was a rough year. It had it’s bright moments. We should all count our blessings, of course, But it was a long, arduous election cycle, and the celebrity death count was unprecedented. People die all the time, of course, famous and not, but there seemed to be an unusual amount of big names on the In Memoriam lists for 2016. I won’t run through them all, but the most traumatic for me were Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, Prince, Harper Lee, and Carrie Fisher, though I admired many of the others.

Alan Rickman: a gentleman in real life and often onscreen, though he will probably be remembered for his starring role as the cold, brooding Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movies. That gorgeous bass voice will forever haunt me. I have a recording of Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native narrated by him, and I treasure it and listen to it when I have trouble sleeping.

Glenn Frey, founding member of the Eagles, one of the all-time greatest rock bands. Lead singer of so many classics of my youth, like “Take it Easy”, “Heartbreak Tonight” and so many others. I regret I never saw the band perform live.

PRINCE….What can one even say about this genius? He was just the best. He wrote his own music, his own lyrics. He could play every instrument. People tried to compare him with Michael Jackson. I’m sorry, but NO. Just NO. His was my coming-of-age music. I had put him away for awhile but since he died I’ve been listening to him every day. I just can’t say goodbye.

Harper Lee. Her death wasn’t such a shock. She lived a good long life. She wrote one of my favorite books, one of the greatest books in all of literature, To Kill a Mockingbird. It was adapted into a wonderful film and she rested on those laurels for many years and no one thought she would ever write another book. But about a year before she died, a second book was released, possibly against her wishes. Her state of mind was unknown. I read Go Set a Watchman and wish I hadn’t. It had some of the same characters as her first book but they were too different. I don’t believe she really wanted that book published. I believe someone took advantage of her to make money. A sad situation. But that can never erase the wonderful legacy of To Kill a Mockingbird.

And dear Carrie Fisher. I identified with her so much. She was open about her struggles with bipolar disorder and addiction. It’s easy for me to talk about being bipolar because I’m not trying to maintain a career. But she was in Hollywood, an actor and also a writer. She was very brave. And had such a wicked sense of humor. She and her mother were so close, it reminded me of my relationship with my mother. When her mother, actress Debbie Reynolds, died within a few days of Carrie, I thought, “She just couldn’t make it without Carrie, ” and I could imagine my mother doing the same. Or me, if my mother died. So close we don’t know where each of us begins and the other ends.

So this is what all has been on my mind during the time I haven’t been writing. Death and disaster. I want to be optimistic for 2017, but it’s hard. The question I have now is: To blog or not to blog? If so, why? What is my purpose for keeping this blog going? I don’t have a huge readership. I can barely get my friends and family interested, and often not even them. I think I started just to be writing SOMETHING. Well, now I am writing something. I have a memoir project I’m working on and I’m outlining a novel, both potentially paying projects. No one is going to pay me to write this blog. This is sheer vanity work. This is just  getting my name out there (I guess. Is it really?). It’s a place for me to blow off steam. That was especially useful during the election year. It’s my place to share my opinion. Bur really,  who cares about my opinion? Not that many people, really. So I don’t know how much time I will be spending here, honestly. I’m committed to resisting the Trump regime so I may write about that. But I mostly intend to work on other writing projects, so if I’m in here, that means I’m procrastinating. I thought this would be a good forum to talk about bipolar disorder and maybe help others who suffer mental illness but I’m not convinced I’ve done any good. I think I may have just spilled my deep, dark secrets in vain and now everyone knows I’m crazy and thinks I’m a narcissist who can’t stop talking about herself.

Maybe I’m just in a mood. I don’t know. I had a medication increase recently and it should start helping soon, I hope. The fact that I’m even at my desk, on the computer, typing a blog is an improvement. Maybe I’ll come around and think of some brilliant new blog topics to dazzle you all with. Who knows.

Let’s Go Crazy!

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life. Electric word, life. It means Forever, and that’s a mighty long time, but I’m here to tell U…there’s something else….The Afterworld. A world of never-ending happiness.U can always see the Sun, day or night. So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills. U know the one. Dr. Everything’ll be alright. Instead of asking how much of your time is left, ask how much of your mind . Because it looks like, things are much harder than in the Afterworld. This life, you’re on your own.”   Prince

Words of wisdom from the musical genius we lost too soon this year. Some of his music is pure sex but a lot of it is very spiritual and it speaks to me on a very deep level. U are missed, your Purple Highness. Even though I hated his use of “U” for You and other shortcuts. I forgave him. Because he was PRINCE!!!💜💜💜💜💜 Anyway, maybe he had the right idea. Sometimes you gotta go a little nuts in this life.Not psycho killer rampage nuts , but just a little crazy. Because this WORLD is crazy. Look around you. Look at this Presidential election we’re about to have. Everyone is on edge. Find a way to let off some steam before you completely blow your top. Embrace your own craziness. Learn to love it. It’s part of you.If you’re freaking out and don’t know what else to do, TURN THE MUSIC UP LOUD AND SING ALONG. And dance if you feel like it. Driving and singing along is especially good therapy. Whatever music does it for you. Your personal favorite artist…mine is John Mayer. Classic rock, 80s, 90s, country, hip-hop,Kenny G. Ok, maybe not Kenny G. Save him for your more intimate moments. Get your jam on!!! Caution: playing your favorite music loudly in your vehicle may cause you to drive faster and more aggressively and will not be accepted as an excuse by local law enforcement if you are pulled over. Trust me. I’ve tried. (“Excuse me, ma’am, you say the MUSIC made you drive faster? Uh-huh. Why don’t you go ahead and step out of the car for me, please, ma’am?”)  So keep your foot off the gas. But sing along! Do a little dance in your seat! Serenade people at stoplights! Live it up! If you’re, home, crank it up and put on a show for the neighbors, especially you apartment-dwellers like me with noisy neighbors. Give as good as you’ve been getting. Just make sure the music isn’t loud enough for the cops to hear outside in case they call and you’re home free. What can they do about it? NOTHING!! I like to put on headphones and sing along so all they get is my voice which you know sounds EVEN BETTER when I can’t hear myself!!! Hahahahaha!!! Crazy? You betcha! Let yourself go a little crazy and see if you don’t start to feel better. Lighten up, loosen up, let go and CHILL. OUT.  Tell yourself, none of this will matter in a hundred years. Because it won’t.Tell yourself, all of this is temporary. Because it is. Good or bad, it will all change. The only thing you have control over is YOU and how you react. There will be serious times that call for serious decisions. Until then, LET’S GO CRAZY!

 

depression…part three: Prozac Princess

May 1, 1995…This is the day that everything changed in my depressed world  It is the day that my ex-husband and I (FINALLY) separated, and the day I filled the new prescription my psychiatrist had given me for a new drug called PROZAC. I had never heard of it, but the doctor said it was fairly new and initial results were promising. So, why not. The demise of my marriage had proven to me that I was clearly NOT OK on my own and I hadn’t liked the weight gain that had come with my old anti-depressant, so I was game. So, I asked. How long does it take this stuff to work? Doc said I might start feeling a little better pretty quickly but it takes a few weeks to get into your system, about a full month before you start feeling the full effect. He was correct. I did feel better, though almost certainly the cause was psychological, separating from my miserable marriage and moving in with a fun friend from work and planning a new life for myself. But I felt more energetic and cheerful in those first few weeks. Then, almost a month to the day, I remember the moment I felt “IT”.

When I left our old apartment, I moved in with a friend from work, Darlene. Darlene was a party girl. Darlene was fun. Darlene was a bit of an alcoholic, I think, but I loved her to death. Good times! Her complex had a pool. We worked together at JC Penneys at Perimeter Mall and both worked night shift and sometimes we would get up in the morning and lie around by the pool before work. One morning, we did this, right around June 1st I believe, about a month in on Prozac and it was a beautiful, warm, breezy morning, and I floated on my back in the shallow end and closed my eyes and felt the heat of the sun on my face and body and the cool water under me and I spread out my arms and sort of took it all in and a wave of something nameless washed over me. It was like happiness, but it was more. Like everything was right with the world. Like bliss…like euphoria…and then I thought. “That Prozac is some good shit.” And it didn’t go away. It lasted, for days, for weeks, for months. I went through some bad days and I didn’t feel euphoric, but I felt OK. Like I could handle it. Like I could take whatever life dealt me. I stopped crying. I found that I COULDN’T cry, even when I felt like it. That was the strangest thing. I used to cry over the least thing, like a commercial or a movie , and then all of sudden, nothing. I worried briefly that the drug was changing my personality. I decided it didn’t matter. I liked the new me. I felt bolder, more confident, and more positive. I had always been so pessimistic, so negative. The new me could do things, make things happen.

After  several months, I made the decision to go back home to Cullman, and from there try to get back in school. I remember the day I left Atlanta with my dad driving me home, moving all my stuff. I didn’t cry, naturally. I played a tape of Stone Temple Pilot’s “Interstate Love Song” over and over all the way home and drove my dad crazy. I was pumped! Prozac and I had my future all planned out. No looking back. My ex and I were separated, but as far as I was concerned we were over. I just wasn’t giving in. I told him if he wanted a divorce he would have to file and pay for it. It took him a year and a half to do it. Meanwhile, I went back to school and got on with my life and when he finally sent me the divorce papers, I signed them, put a stamp on the envelope (the only thing I paid for) and went out to celebrate with friends. I had done my grieving during the marriage. Thanks to Prozac, I stayed pretty evened out and made pretty good grades. And then I got stupid. I succumbed to some faulty reasoning that plagues many well-intentioned mentally ill people. I thought I was cured. Prozac has cured me, I thought. Therefore, I DON’T NEED IT ANYMORE. So I stopped taking it. And for a while I was OK. Prozac stays in your system for a little while. I didn’t tell anyone what I had done. I didn’t tell anyone until the night I called my mother up talking about wanting to die. I think I may have called my dad too, I can’t remember. But I was deep in depression  and desperate or I never would have called her. In my right mind I would never say a thing like that to my parents. That’s just a bell you can’t unring. Once your mother or father has heard you say you want to kill yourself, they don’t forget it. and they never look at you the same way again. Every time they see you, every time they talk to you, they wonder if it’s the last time, and they wonder if it’s their fault. And you did that to them, and you have to live with it. Their guilt is your guilt. A parent shouldn’t have to wonder these things about a child they brought into the world. So I promised my mother I would go to the psychiatrist and get back on Prozac. And we joked about me signing a contract stating I would never go off my meds again.  I got back on the Prozac and was feeling better within a few weeks. But things were becoming more complicated. The doctor no longer felt Prozac was enough.It was becoming standard to have patients on a “cocktail” of drugs designed to treat their illness and I began taking more drugs. I started taking medicine for anxiety, ADD, extra drugs for depression.  I started to feel like a guinea pig. I was constantly coming home from the doctor’s with samples to take, dealing with side effects, going off and on new medications. I would get to a combination that seemed to work for a while, and then I would start getting depressed again and we would try something else. Always, the Prozac stayed the same, because whenever we altered it, I became extremely depressed. Was I addicted to it? The doctor said no, you can’t be addicted to anti-depressants, but I had my doubts.

During this time, thanks to Prozac, I was able to overcome a major obstacle in my life, a severe debilitating phobia of driving. I was in a terrible accident with my mother when I was five years old and had blocked out most memory of it but was left with this terrible fear that I didn’t realize until I  had to take driver’s ed in high school. Even in the simulators in class, I was terribly nervous and my performance was awful. When I had to get in the car, just sitting in the driver’s seat gave me panic attacks. I drove once and scraped the side of a bridge near school and never went back after that and failed the class. So my entire adult life up until I was 30, I had to rely on someone else for transportation. It was embarrassing, humiliating, inconvenient to myself and others, and really caused problems in my relationships, especially my first marriage, because I was so dependent. The fear was so strong that I couldn’t even try to overcome it. But after I started taking Prozac, I started feeling strong enough to at least try and I began to practice using an old truck of my dad’s. Finally at age 30, I got my driver’s license! Once I started driving, I couldn’t imagine how on earth I had survived up until then. How had I made it through all those lost years? How would they have been different if I could have been driving and independent. I probably would have never married my ex at all. But all we can do is look ahead. Eventually, I got my own car and haven’t been the same since. In recent years, I’ve had periods of illness where the fear has crept back in and I’ve had to stop driving for a while or take anti-anxiety meds but today I am fine and savor my freedom. And Prozac is still part of my daily drug “cocktail”.

I did learn the hard way over the last few years that Prozac can build up in my system and stop being effective, and when that happens, I have to replace it with something else temporarily and  get it all out and then restart it later. I say “the hard way” because I became depressed a couple of years ago and went to the hospital and the doc there took me off of it cold turkey and substituted something else and sent me home a few days later. A few days after that, I was back at the hospital, suicidal, and a different doc put me on something completely different. It was a few months before everything got straightened out and when I started back on Prozac under my private doc’s  care , it worked just like in the beginning. So, about that contract my mother was talking about…:)

depression…part two: medication

“Have you taken your meds today?” Sometimes this question is a serious inquiry made by medical professionals in a formal medical setting. Sometimes it is a (lame) attempt at humor by a friend who has noticed that you are a little off your game or maybe a little more serious question from a loved one who is concerned that you aren’t quite yourself. It’s one I’ve heard many times, one I’ve even asked myself in moments of confusion, honestly wondering if I had, in fact, swallowed the allotted pills in my daily pill organizer, that thing that one usually associates with senior citizens who take dozens of pills a day, a separate little compartment for day and evening of each day of the week. Believe me, that thing is a lifesaver. Without it, I never would keep my  meds straight. Yeah, that’s “meds”, short for “medications”. That’s the lingo in this business. Glad you’re keeping up.

There are far too many people in the world suffering from mental illness that are untreated, tragically, but most people with diagnosed depression and/or bipolar disorder are prescribed some kind of medication. Some choose to take it, others prefer to wing it on their own, not liking the side effects, or fearing becoming someone else other than themselves on the drugs. I am considered an ideal patient because medication has worked for me at least some of the time and I trust it and my doctor, to a degree. I know that bad things happen when I try to go off meds entirely and that I will likely be on some form of medication for the rest of my life. I can live with that. Whatever keeps me far away from the deep, dark abyss of depression, I am committed to that. When I talk to people who are going off their meds, I congratulate them on their bravery, but inside I’m thinking, “FAILURE! DOOM! DON’T DO IT!CHAOS! HELL! MISERY! SADNESS!” and I pray for them. I don’t want to hear about another suicide. I’m a believer in pharmaceuticals, because they have worked for me, sometimes.

I first began taking anti-depressants as a freshman in college. I was depressed before then but never got professional help until I was on campus at the University of Alabama. I was dating my future ex-husband, and my ex-boyfriend, whom I was still in love with came down to visit me and told me, in one breath, that he was joining the Navy, his girlfriend was pregnant and he was getting married. I didn’t cry. I just hugged him and said it was ok, everything would be ok. Later, I cried, and apologized profusely to my current boyfriend, swearing I only loved him and I didn’t know why I was crying. Then I didn’t sleep for two weeks. So I went to the student health center and saw a psychiatrist and a psychologist and was diagnosed with depression and given a prescription for Pamelor, an old school trycyclic. This was pre-Prozac days. I finally got some sleep and started feeling better and started talking to a therapist and realized I had been depressed since childhood. This was sad, of course, but in a strange way made me feel somewhat better.  I wasn’t just weird. Something had been wrong with me. and it had a name, and now I was getting help. I felt hopeful. Over the next few years I was fairly stable with a few adjustments to the dosage level of my medication. Then I dropped out of school and got married and moved to Atlanta and instead of looking for a doctor there, decided as many wrongly do,  I was all better and didn’t need meds anymore. I had worked out all my childhood traumas in therapy and I was fine. I didn’t need any help. I wasn’t suicidal, so I didn’t think I needed meds. I convinced everyone around me of this and no one argued. Within 6 months of marriage, I was miserable. We both were. It was a disaster, for reasons I don’t have room to write here. Just that our relationship had run its course before we had gotten married. We never should have done it. We had broken up before and should have stayed that way. But there we were. He decided to be as bad as he could be to make me divorce him. I was not brought up to believe in divorce so I clung to him like a snapping turtle. I was determined to make my marriage work. My husband started seeing a therapist and got a prescription for Zoloft. That same day, I got a call. He was on the top of the parking deck at his work threatening to jump off. He was taken to the psychiatric hospital where I was allowed in while he was admitted. They gave me his belt, his tie and his shoe laces to take home with me. They asked him what was going on with him that made him want to take his own life. He looked me right in the eye and said “My marriage.” Thanks for nothing, you bastard, I thought. Rather be dead than live with me? Fine. I asked if there was anything he needed. He wanted me to call his parents and tell them but ask them not to come. I agreed, but told him I couldn’t prevent his mom from coming over. That was the hardest thing, telling his mom over the phone. She thought I was about to say he was dead, so she was a little relieved but, the hurt in her voice when I said he wanted to die. And then that he didn’t want to see anyone, not even her. She probably blamed me. That’s ok, if it made her feel better, may she rest in peace. I went home and got the best night’s sleep I had had in a long, long time. It was a peaceful few days that he was gone, but it had to end. He came home, and all I can say is Zoloft may cure depression, but it doesn’t make you a better person. It just made him more of a self-absorbed jackass than usual. He became the “victim” in our relationship, according to his therapist. I was the bad guy, though not quite sure what I was supposed to have done, since he was the one with other women on the side and I was just working and trying to be a housewife, the latter of which has never been my calling. We inflicted ourselves on each other another year until he forced a separation by giving notice on our apartment, knowing I couldn’t afford rent by myself. I resisted. We fought all night. I remember throwing a Bible at him, screaming scriptures at him. “God hates divorce!” Then I found a leftover bottle of Pamelor and took what was left and swallowed it and went to hide in the closet. He dragged me out and took me to the hospital, more angry than concerned. The nurse there caught his vibe and asked when we were alone if he was abusive. “Not physically,” I answered. I convinced her I hadn’t taken enough to harm me and she let me drink charcoal instead of pumping my stomach and he took me home. We separated a month later.

On May 1. 1995, the day I separated from my ex-husband, I took the first pill of a new prescription called Prozac and my life changed forever….

to be continued in  depression…part three: Prozac Princess

 

Aging Gracelessly

Facebook post from yesterday: 

Well, I’ve had a lovely birthday….kind of blown away by all the birthday wishes here on Facebook. Had a delicious breakfast from Cracker Barrel brought to me by my sweet husband, Steve, Then we went to the movies for the first time since our first date and saw Bad Moms (totally raunchy but hilarious….I needed a good laugh!) and now we’re winding down the day with some chocolate birthday cake from Publix. Big piece of cake, tall glass of ice cold milk. It doesn’t get any better than that. By the way, this is an important birthday for me. This year I start counting backwards. I have some lost time to make up for from the last several years. So, without giving my exact age, I can tell you by the time I turn 50, I will be turning 40…again. 🙂 It’s like…magic….

Yes, I decided “growing old gracefully” is for the birds. I plan to be dragged into old age kicking and screaming. So as of yesterday, I am growing younger by the day, until…until I change my mind and decide it’s time to be old. I’m simply not ready yet. I don’t feel XX years old and therefore I am not going to be. Over the last several years, I have suffered a major breakdown and lost a job that was precious to me and spent the better part of a few years almost entirely in bed. So I feel I have to make up for lost time. Some tell me that’s impossible or unnecessary. “You’re only as old as you feel”. Fine. I find that I do not feel as old as my driver’s license claims I am, so I refuse to be it. Looking in the mirror, I find that I am no longer passing for a twentysomething,  but my true age is still hazy. At least one friend my age has sworn not to tell if I don’t, so that’s something. It’s no big thing. I’m not going to cringe and cry if someone finds me out. The truth is, I never thought I would live this long, suffering from depression and being often suicidaI. It’s kind of a miracle really, to find myself here….at my age…whatever it may be.

I know I can’t avoid aging. Every single day there’s another reminder of that. But I can fight it for a while. I don’t have to give in so easily. I don’t have to do like some people and wake up one day and decide to be old and just give up. And if I live to be 102, I don’t ever plan to GROW UP. I plan to be childlike until my dying day. As innocent as possible in this screwed up world, pure and simple. Not childISH. That’s a different thing. Not immature and bratty. Despite my leaning toward realist/pessimist views I want to remain open to things that are new and different and good and positive. Peace and love and kindness and all that hippie stuff. To quote my favorite actor, the late Alan Rickman, “When I am 80 years old and sitting in my rocking chair, I will still be reading  Harry Potter. And my family will say to me, ‘After all this time?’ and I will say ‘Always.'” Yes, I will be reading Harry Potter and other children’s books the rest of my life. And coloring in coloring books, and playing with animals, and children when I get a chance. Anything to “rage against the dying of the light”. I will not “go gentle into that good night.”

And I challenge the older people in my life not to give in so easily, no matter what the calendar says, no matter what the doctor says. What does your heart say? Do you still have the heart of a young man in a wizened body? A mind full of wisdom, even though you can’t remember where you left your phone? You still have lots of living to do, lots to offer the younger ones. Hang on, as long as you can. You are so loved, and your life matters.

 

Do not go gentle into that good night

Dylan Thomas, 19141953

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.