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!!! ❤ ❤ ❤ 

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I’m In Repair

Facebook post from last night: My husband and I took my mother out to eat for lunch today and in the ladies’ restroom I had the pleasure of seeing myself in a full length mirror for the first time in a long time. I was not unaware of my weight gain, but I was not quite prepared for the image that greeted me. My first thought was “Mama Cass” and the words to “California Dreaming” started playing in my head. Tears welled in my eyes, but I thought, you know, of the two women in the group, she did have the better voice. And also, I thought, taking a deep breath, there is always something to be grateful for. At least I’m not starving. Right? Right. Still, I wish somehow I could choose my mental illnesses. Instead of bipolar and ADD, I would be severely OCD, with specialties in cleaning and exercising. I would be disturbed, but thin and meticulously organized. But the mental health lottery doesn’t work that way, unfortunately. You play the hand you’re dealt.

 

For you younger readers, Mama Cass was a fabulous singer from the 60s group, The Mamas and the Papas. I’m sure you can find their music on iTunes. She sang beautiful harmonies, but she was mainly known for being “the fat one” and dying at an early age. I believe she choked to death on a ham sandwich or something else not very glamorous. That’s all I was ever told about her growing up, and left with the impression that if you were fat bad things were likely to happen to you, and maybe even SHOULD happen to you, like fat people deserved to die young. I got the message. I stayed skinny for a very long time. Then life happened. I grew up,  I became depressed and was given anti-depressants. Anti-depressants helped me realize, perhaps for the first time, that food tasted good. Really, really, good, and eating was enjoyable and I began to put on weight. This was healthy at first, as I had been significantly underweight. But I grew up and developed and began to change medicines often and was  susceptible to the side effects of all of them and I began to put on more weight. I should add here that I have never been a physically fit person, even when I was stick thin. I was never athletic, never enjoyed physical education class in school, even flunking it on purpose in high school by not dressing out out of sheer stubbornness. I never developed the exercise habit. I didn’t like to sweat. I liked walking well enough, if I was walking somewhere, or walking in an area with scenery like a short hike. But walking around and around a track didn’t interest me, and I didn’t see the point of running unless I was being chased, and then it depended on who was doing the chasing. (If it was a cute boy, I might let myself be caught! *blush* coy smile*) I was too cool too dance and aerobics, popular during my time, was lame.I was thin because God made me that way, but when I didn’t take care of myself over my lifetime, when i worked out only sporadically and ate whatever I felt like eating, my body began to change. I went from skinny in my teens to average sized in my twenties to curvy in my thirties to overweight at forty. The decade of my thirties really did the damage. I switched to an almost completely sedentary lifestyle. Sitting all night at work at a stressful job, stress eating, and sleeping all day. I joined gyms and rarely went. I bought exercise equipment and rarely used it. I made plans to walk and did for a while, then quit. I just never could stick to anything. Exercise made me so tired so quickly; my heart beat so fast. I found out that I have “exercise induced tachycardia” which just means when I exercise my normally high heart rate jumps up abnormally fast to a dangerously high rate. So I can’t run or do any high impact aerobic workouts. I can walk or cycle slowly. I can do yoga, pilates, weight training, etc. I just have to make myself do it. But it’s soooooo hard. WHY? Don’t you feel better after you exercise? People would ask me? Sometimes I would. Sometimes I would feel like I was dying or like I wanted to go to bed and stay there. Surely that is not normal, is it? So here I am, today. Not giving out specific numbers but well over and above a healthy weight range. My goal weight loss is 100 lbs.  To get in a healthy weight range, I need to lose 80. I’m trying not to think in big numbers yet. I’m trying to think about 10% of my body weight first.  Just losing that much can have great benefits for your health. I learned that from Weight Watchers, which really works, if you work it and stick with it. I’m not sure what kind of program I need now. Diet or exercise or both. I hardly eat at all. Ask my husband, he will tell you how I don’t finish meals or I skip meals. I’m doing SlimFast right now and some kind of diet pills I got off the internet. But I am tired ALL THE TIME. I have an exercise bike, and I am too tired to ride it. Simple household chores exhaust me. A few months ago, my doctor told me that I still had mono from a year ago! But my blood tests are clear now. Supposedly the virus is gone, but I am still tired and weak. My fitness level is zero. The doctor suggested water therapy and is supposed to be giving me a referral but I haven’t heard from the clinic and I don’t know if Medicare will cover it. If I had the energy, I could go to thy Y in Madison and do water aerobics twice a week. (and the motivation.) But I don’t have the energy. Just started taking super potent max dosage B12 vitamins that are supposed to give me massive enetgy, but so far I haven’t noticed a big change. Taking big dose of vitamin D too. Maybe B12 shots might work? I’m ready to try anything. Adderall worked when I was taking it for ADD, but Medicare stopped covering it and will only cover Ritalin and Ritalin does not boost my energy, at least not at the dosage I am on. At least it keeps me awake. I was sleeping half of every day for the longest. Now I am awake, if barely, but I go to bed early. tired, every night, soon after dinner. Just a blob. That’s what I saw in the mirror in the restaurant. I felt pretty when we left to pick up my mom. I had on a new top, purple, my favorite color, beaded and cut loose and full so it didn’t cling to me and feel tight. Probably looked like a maternity top only I’m not pregnant, just fat. I looked in the mirror and just saw a purple blob, with newly colored black hair that my mother didn’t approve of (she had made sure to tell me as soon as she got in the car) and now in the ladies’ room when I joked I looked like Mama Cass, she didn’t deny it, just remarked something about her career. And I just felt fat and old and stuck  and hopeless. But I have so much to live for. I am blessed with a loving, supportive husband whom I love with all my heart and soul and we have big dreams together. And I am finally beginning to fulfill my dream of being a writer. I can’t let my weight drag me down. I have to get healthy. I have to take care of myself, for us.
Later, when I came home and posted that status, many lovely people wrote kind words of support in the comments and my good friend Kristine McKeown reminded me of our favorite guy John Mayer and his song that has brought us back from the brink so many times. If you’re not familiar with John Mayer, you should get to know him. He is my favorite singer-songwriter. I have often said I feel like he is singing my journals out loud. He really gets me, and I get him. His song “In Repair” perfectly describes how I feel, in this in between stage of not being quite right, but getting there. This fall and winter I will be in repair, and hopefully “when things turn green again, it will be good to say you know me.” Here it is, with lyrics. Enjoy.

Too many shadows in my room
Too many hours in this midnight
Too many corners in my mind
So much to do to set my heart right
Oh, it’s taken so long
I could be wrong, I could be ready
Oh, but if I take my heart’s advice
I should assume it’s still unsteady
I am in repair
I am in repair
Stood on the corner for a while
To wait for the wind to blow down on me
Hoping it takes with it my old ways
And brings some brand new luck upon me
Oh, it’s taken so long
I could be wrong, I could be ready
Oh, but if I take my heart’s advice
I should assume it’s still unsteady
I am in repair
I am in repair
And now I’m walking in the park
And all of the birds, they dance below me
Maybe when things turn green again
It will be good to say you know me

 

 

Politics vs. Prose

I should have seen it coming, in retrospect. My anti-anxiety medication, which I normally take on an “as needed” basis, and hadn’t been needing all that often,  I was taking the maximum dose at bedtime every night for months, and wishing for more during the day. I was tense and having trouble sleeping and watching the news obsessively and living on Facebook, posting meme after meme after meme about Trump, Hillary, and all things political, not caring who I offended or bored. My husband was perplexed, to say the least. He tried to reason with me. “Why do you care so much? Why does it matter to you?” I couldn’t come up with an answer, only a question. “Why don’t you care?” He does care, but “they’re both criminals”. And this nation is going to hell and yada yada yada, I can’t discuss this with you, don’t you have a headache, anyway? Seriously, he told me, “You are only one person. All you can do is put your message out there and sit back and wait and see what happens. We are not driving this train.” And my therapist agreed. She asked me  how much attention I give to politics and I explained to her that it was about as much as I would give a job. She said, “That’s a little obsessive.” And I realized she’s right. I’m on disability because too much stress makes it impossible for me to hold a job with my illness. And here I am heaping stress on myself on purpose. But I love politics. It’s in my blood. Perhaps I could take it down to a part time job? This seemed like a good suggestion to the therapist. More drugs is not the answer. I’m already medicated to the max. A change in lifestyle is required. And besides, I’m supposed to be a WRITER, not a political strategist. Whatever happened to that? OH YEAH, that. Not just a blog now and then, but the real writing. What’s going on with that? Well, not much, frankly. I’m working on a memoir project, but I haven’t touched it in two weeks, so I can hardly say I’m “working” on it. I have an idea for a novel, but I have been procrastinating outlining it, probably because deep down, I know it’s a dead end. In fact, when I pitched the idea to the therapist, she laughed and said it sounded like one of those “what do you call it, that channel with all the movies with women in trouble?” And I said, “Lifetime?”  “Yeah, that one, ” she chuckled. (BURN!!!! OUCH. Truth hurts!) And I have a ton, quite literally a TON of reading to do. Just got in three new books and I haven’t gotten through the last two months yet. Who assigned these? Why, I did, of course. I’m doing a DIY(do it yourself) MFA (Masters in Fine Arts degree) program on my own and it requires a lot of reading. It’s legit. Look it up. DIYMFA.com. It’s for people who can’t or don’t want to spend the money and time going to school and have the self-motivation and discipline to create their own program of reading, writing and building community. So I signed up for that and I have a plan, but I haven’t been working the plan very hard. I’ve been obsessing over Hillary and Trump and I’m afraid the next few months are going to be even worse. But I am going to make a very concerted effort to STOP THE MADNESS. Yesterday, as I explained to my husband when he got home from work, I took a mental health day. I did laundry. I never turned on the news. I got on Facebook and shared a few things but mostly stayed away from politics and edited and managed my profile and photos and chatted with a few friends. It was a peaceful, quiet day, and I remained calm and anxiety-free throughout.

In the interest of full disclosure I have to confess that I have recently added well over a hundred, probably close to two hundred new Facebook friends based on politics alone. Just went down the list and added people with Hillary profile pics, building myself a support army for the coming months. It’s lonely being a blue girl in a red state. Also I deleted a few people based on political differences, and I don’t feel one whit guilty about it. One posted “BS” when I posted a pic of Obama wearing a hat that said “I’ve already made America great”. She was an old friend and coworker, and I felt a little twinge but then….nah. The other was a person I liked quite a lot but who unfortunately fell victim to some Hillary conspiracy theories and she was getting a bit psycho and hysterical. If she had been in the room, I would have slapped her just to get her back to reality. I couldn’t deal. She had to go.

I made two commitments. One, to defeat Trump, and two, to get Hillary elected.  So, although I’m sure I’ll have my moments, and I’ll depend on you all to call me out, expect to see a little less of me and my obsessive rampaging on Facebook. Oh, I’ll be there. Don’t you worry your pretty little head about that. I’ll be skulking about. Just dialing it down a notch, that’s all. I’ll be around. My work is not yet done. 😉

 

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

 

All I can do is all is all I can do.

Question to myself from a private journal:

Why am I always worried about what others think of me? When did I become such a people-pleaser? Why doesn’t anyone worry about what I think?

Answer:

Because you are WEAK. You seek others’ approval to build up your low self-esteem. You always have and you will do this until you learn to love and approve yourself. And no one cares what you think, love.

(True enough.)

The thing is, I could please people more if I would stop being quite so much myself, if I could tone THIS down a bit, maybe. Posted less politics and opinion and more Harry Potter and cats. Then more people would like me. But then, why don’t people worry about getting along with me? Why do I always have to be the one to change? Well, I’m not, that’s all. I will pick and choose my battles and decide what’s worth fighting for and what can fall by the wayside. I just have to give up this juvenile desire to be loved by everyone because it ain’t gonna happen. I’m never going to please everyone and I have to stop trying. Some people are easy. Give them a smile and a kind word and they are good to go. Some people are never going to be satisfied with me no matter how hard I try or what magnificent feat I pull off. I have to cut myself some slack and stop trying so hard. All I can do is all I can do, as the song goes.

 

 

 

depression…part one: suicidal thoughts

It seems only fair that I should follow up my “worst manic moment ever” story with a story about my worst moment of depression. That is something I simply cannot do. I’ve simply lost count of the times that I have been suicidal. I have bipolar II  which is mild to moderate bouts of mania alternating with moderate to severe episodes of depression.Even well medicated I spend most of my time on the depressed end of the spectrum, usually somewhere in the mild  to normal zone.  I can narrow down the number of actual suicide attempts, but just to take you to the brink of death with me would not be helpful for either of us.  I want to talk about what psychiatrists call suicidal ideation or suicidal thoughts.  If you ask a depressed person how they are doing they will most likely say “OK”, even if they clearly aren’t.  From my own experiences, recorded in journals, let me show you a window into the disturbed mind of the suicidal soul.

August 3, 2008

I am going to kill myself. It’s just a matter of time, means, location. I can’t do it right now because my apartment is a mess. I don’t want my body found here surrounded by junk.. Maybe it would be better if my body was never found. I’ve done everything else in life half-assed. I’m going to get this right. I’m going to think this through, plan it down to the last detail. I am going to be in control, for the first time and the last time in my life. There are decisions to be made, which is ironic. I’m terrible at making decisions. I change my mind so easily, and nothing is more final than death. Or is it? I can’t even decide that. I don’t know what I believe anymore. My faith used to be my ultimate protection. I believed in God, God created life, only God can take away life, etc. And most importantly, if I take my own life, I’ll go straight to hell, right? But is that really true? Would God really do that? Is there a Hell to go to? A Heaven? Is there even a God listening to me or have I been talking to myself all these years and calling it prayer? Ugh. I’m already in Hell.

(undated)

 

WAYS TO KILL MYSELF

DRUGS   this would be the simplest since I have plenty, but I’m not sure it’s enough. They’re stingy with samples at the clinic and I’d hate to end up taking only enough to make me sick or a vegetable. Too bad I don’t like to drink. Alcohol could certainly speed things along.

Lately I’ve been thinking of more violent ways to kill myself, I think because I feel like I should be punished. It’s strange that even though I hate myself and feel I deserve pain and suffering, I’ve never gotten into cutting myself like some girls do. I have dreams, images of it, but I can’t bear the thought of it. Does that mean that deep down , I really want to live? Why, then, does it seem acceptable to me to endure seconds or minutes I might experience if I jump off of a building or in front of a train? Even though I’ve considered these things, so far I’ve been too chicken to take such drastic action. I believe one can be passively suicidal and that’s where I’m at. I’m too scared to do it myself, but I have a definite death wish. Ideally, I would like to die in some manner that I could not be blamed for. I find myself jealous of other people’s cancer diagnosis. How sick is that??? Or when I hear of someone killed in an accident, I think, why couldn’t it have been me.If I die in an accident , from a disease, or at the hands of another, my family and friends will grieve for me and remember the good things about me, and they would accept it and in time, move on.They might be able to believe it was God’s will or that it was my time to go or whatever. If I kill myself, they will be heartbroken and will despise me forever. Will I know, when I’m gone whether they love or despise me or whether they ever did? I need a plan. I need to decide when and where and how. I need to clean house, put what’s left of my  life in order. I don’t want to leave a mess behind. I need to find homes for the girls. I’ve heard of people killing themselves and killing their pets too but I couldn’t do that. They don’t deserve that. They can bring joy and comfort to someone else, like they have to me…if only it was enough. Do I have enough insurance to pay for a funeral? Imagining a funeral brings up a whole lot of other problems. Maybe it would be best if I just went missing and my body was never found. Would that be more or less cruel to my mother? Not to have a body to bury. But if I die here, someone has to find me here. Someone, most likely, from work. Which shift, which officers? Which dispatchers would be working? How can I possibly think of doing that to them? I don’t show up to work one day and I don’t answer my phone. How long do they wait before they come over, force entry? How could I do that to my friends? Who would notify my mother, my mother  who loves me more than life. My father, my sweet father. My brother and his wife. My nieces and nephew. The rest of my family, friends. Who would post on my Facebook? I think about each of these people. Imagine every individual reaction. Force myself to imagine the misery caused by ME. All because I couldn’t hold on another day. Couldn’t find something to laugh at. Something to be grateful for. Something to get out of bed for. Something to live for. But there they were, all along.

I may kill myself one day. But it won’t be today. Not as long as I have people to love and people who love me. Not as long as I can find something to laugh at. Something to be grateful for. Something to get out of bed for. Something to live for. And maybe it’s just the Prozac talking, but I think there will always be something. 🙂

 

 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1 (800) 273-8255  US only

 

http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html