I am inexplicably pro fried egg with toast, but anti egg-in-a-hole. Which is fried egg inside a piece of toast. There is no rational argument I can use to explain this. I keep trying to make one. Nope.
While making fried eggs with son #2 we discovered one of them was sending us a message. Interestingly enough, the heart only appeared when the egg was sunny side up. The moment it went over hard, it disappeared.
Son #1 had a hard day yesterday too. He had an audition at school on violin and I was volunteering with the orchestra. I managed somehow to show EVERYONE else the site-reading exercises that they were supposed to look at prior to their audition. Except him.
He was stunned and froze and panicked and worried that he had botched his audition so badly that he wouldn't be allowed back in orchestra. Any words of encouragement from mom were firmly rebuffed. Because he was trying really hard to hold it together and kind words might make him fall apart. Which is not acceptable in fourth grade. Or as a boy. Or as a Scandinavian-Minnesotan.
THE WHOLE DAY WAS A COMPLETE DISASTER AND NOTHING WOULD EVER GET BETTER.
It is a terrible thing to see your worst traits reflected back in your children. Crap. And we are back to a single bad thing coloring the whole day.
Happily the school librarian noticed his distress and administered several Garfield books to be read immediately before allowing him to return to class. And by the end of the day things were fine.
Maybe we can learn together to let bad moments go by. Make them fleeting. To not let one negative thing taint the whole day. To look for little positives and big positives and string them together while letting go of the things that drag us down.
P.S. I saved instrumental music. A note from the principal sent out to all parents last week:
"On that note, I am happy to report that
we have found a way to incorporate the opportunity for our 4th grade students to continue to learn a string instrument as part of the school day with our own Yinghua music specialists... A special thanks to several parents, Ms.___, and ____ Laoshi who put their heads together with me to help solve this potentially challenging situation!"
P.P.S. I have no energy to save anything else on the corporate level
Harder day than I wanted it to be. Left home without taking meds, forgot a bunch of important stuff at home, spent a bunch of time driving back and forth...
From my Facebook post on May 19th:
"Btw clinical depression is not improved by A. Spring allergies. B. Lack of sleep. C. Stress. D. Inadequate compliance with treatment plan. E. Situational sadness.
So world, in case you were wondering, I have done the research for you. You're welcome. No need to try any of the above to alleviate the symptoms of depression."
Also, I have discovered that binge-reading The Hunger Games trilogy for a second time is not a useful cure depression-wise. Again, no need to thank me for this insight.
I am definitely in a place where I am being compliant with my meds. Which meant that when I couldn't find them this morning-- after I was done panicking and tearing half the house apart-- I just went to the pharmacy and picked up my new prescription. So there.
In the past the accidental misplacement of the prescription bottle has often prefaced going off meds for a while.
Symptoms that I am undermedicated:
I have been faithful to my plans, although I have not been able to blog for the past few days. I was without computer for the long weekend. It was kind of nice.
I spent my time at Northern Yearly Meeting with Quakers from Minnesota and Wisconsin. I think that's the only states people come from. I suddenly feel woefully uninformed.
Kids had half-days with their own age-group classes. I used that time to work on flowers for my yarn garden (see yarn bombing).
Friday before we left I visited with the clinical psychiatric nurse (I think that's her title) to review my treatment plan and come up with a strategy. Here is what we came up with: stay on the same medication I have now (sertraline: aka zoloft) but increase the dosage slightly. I will also continue to do things to combat depression besides just the pills and in a month we will visit again.
So far I am on day five on the new dosage. I have not noticed any negatives side effects. I'll keep you posted. In general I have not have bad side effects from any of the medications I have taken. I have tried at various times: prozac, celexa, wellbutrin, and zoloft.
I don't remember anything about celexa or wellbutrin. I only know that I was on them because I found reference to them in an old journal entry for my MFA program in creative writing. There must have been a reason that we tried them. There must have been a reason why we discarded them. I'll have to ask my doctor next time I see her if there are any notes about this in my chart. I am curious.
Mainly, I know, I have gone back and forth between Zoloft and Prozac. Prozac, as an older medication, was less worrisome for pregnant women since they have had more experience with it. My midwife was quite insistant that I stay on antidepressants during all of my pregnancies. Although it is often called "post-partum depression" it can just as easily hit during pregnancy. And with a history of depression and a current diagnosis of depression it was considered quite likely that pregnancy would be taxing to the chemical balance of my brain.
Now I am catching up on regular life and trying not to bite off more than I can chew. Someone asked me if I often over-schedule and over-program myself when I am depressed. Yes. So I have an excuse not to deal with the real-life things that are overwhelming. So I don't have time to think and get sucked down.
I heard a lovely elementary orchestra concert tonight. Don't laugh. It's true. No squeaky renditions of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Challenging music in harmony. Chinese folk songs. Lovely.
When I was at my lowest back in high school music saved me. It breaks my heart that music is leaving our schools at such an alarming rate. All children deserve access to instrumental music. The chance to play with an ensemble. To be part of something larger. To feel music from the inside out as more than a mere spectator.
My sons, who both play piano were talking about the fact that they are both musicians. The older one stated that his entire class could be counted musicians since they played the recorder in music class. But, "singing doesn't count." They were honestly surprised to hear that singers counted as musicians. Ah, true instrumentalists!
I am looking forward to meeting with the psychiatric nurse practitioner tomorrow . I am anxious to see what she can recommend besides medication. Of course now I need to find the piece of cardboard that I wrote the address down on...
Also, and this is a true story, I received notice from two separate libraries that I a have missing books. "Confessions of a Happily Organized Family" and "Real Simple: the Organized Home"
I have noticed a pronounced increase in my forgetfulness. I have lost my keys five times in the last two days. I lost my phone for the whole weekend. It was in the pocket of my coat. I left my purse on an airplane. My keys have been all over the place, but once they were in the ignition.
I know this is a sign of depression, and it is one of my more obvious symptoms. I am often forgetful and thinking about a billion different things, but this is different. A brief and unscientific search for information on the affects of clinical depression on memory brought me to this:
"One symptom of depression is the inability to concentrate. Depression causes an increased amount of cortisol in the bloodstream, which shrinks certain areas of the brain. One of the main areas in the brain affected by cortisol is the hippocampus, which is responsible for short-term memory. Therefore, a depressed person has difficulty remembering new information. In addition, neurological studies have shown that depressed people can only remember negative memories, causing them to remain depressed even longer."
taken from: "Can depression affect your short term memory?" Cognitive Neuroscience, Discovery.com
So I don't think I am at the point where I am only remembering negative memories. I would be interested to see what those studies actually show. But if that is true, it just seems too cruel. Once you are depressed it is really hard to get undepressed. It's like being overweight. Or out of shape.
People who are fit naturally burn more calories. People who aren't depressed can remember happy things. Figures. This does not help to challenge my Murphy's Law view of the universe.
It's raining today. And it will rain every day until we need to leave to go camping. Thus preventing the annual airing out of the tent. I didn't do much beyond taking my meds today.
So what went well? I smiled a lot at my daughter today who spent most of the day in song. Zebras and monkeys and even spiders climbing up and down waterspouts. Occasionally accompanied by piano.
I have written and erased twelve paragraphs in the course of attempting this blog entry. I am maybe going to just leave it be for now.
It can't rain all the time.
My mom gave me some good advice that I am choosing to take.
I am really upset about changes to the instrumental music program at my son's school. As a former instrumental music teacher and a current instrumental music parent, I am very emotionally attached to this issue.
However, it isn't good for me or my family to let my feelings about this issue suck me under. So I should speak my piece, understand that whatever decision they made is likely to stand anyway, and just know that my children will be fine.
Since making this decision I have been able to sleep more easily because I don't feel that the entire future of the instrumental music teaching profession rests on my shoulders. Which it never did anyway, really.
The messages in Quaker meeting this week dealt a lot with growth, and with just being. The miraculousness of seeds that contain all of their treeness within them and they grow into just what they should be. A maple seed knows to become a maple tree. It just reaches its arms into the light and stands tall. An invitation from the light: be with me.
Concentrating less on doing and more on being. This is not an easy message for me. I like to do. Being is fraught with introspection and self-doubt. Doing keeps me busy. Doing produces visible results. Being can also seem lazy. But what I am searching for is not the lack of do-ing, but the presence of be-ing.
I want to be a supporter of instrumental music without trying to overhaul the entire system on my own. Say my piece, do what I can, and get out of the way.
I also followed the advice of a friend who suggested not waiting until I have been compliant with my meds for longer before going in to see a behavioral health specialist. She advised telling them that I think the reason I keep going off them is they are no longer as effective as they used to be. Which is probably true.
When I called this morning I was told by my health care provider that the earliest opening in behavioral health was in September! (Note: today is May 20). Right.
Now, there is a workaround and after transferring me a few times to a few different departments I have a meeting with a psychiatric nurse practitioner this Friday. I know they save some spots for emergency visits and people in crisis. But HONESTLY. September?
It's hard enough to seek treatment for mental health. Who can wait that long? How many people choose not to be seen because it is to frustrating to work your way into the system?
When your brain is not working at top form it can be surprisingly difficult to advocate for yourself. My advice is, if you don't feel strong enough to fight your way through the phone trees... enlist a friend who most reminds you of a bulldog. Or a snapping turtle.
It snowed in April this year. A Lot. In northern Minnesota it was not only the snowiest April in recorded history, but the snowiest month in recorded history with 50.8 inches reported in Duluth by the National Weather Service.
And then it snowed some more. In May. I like snow. But after a while, enough is just enough. Plowable snow in May!?!
And yet, because of my seasonal allergies to "exotic" trees like birch, oak and elm, I do not welcome early spring. I become a sneezy, watery-eyed, head-achey mess and my usually well-controlled asthma is not so well controlled.
It seems cruel that the narrow window of beautiful early spring when the weather is the perfect temperature for outdoor exercise and exploration is also the season that makes me feel terrible.
I think there is a definite seasonal element to my depression. February is typically not a good time. In spite of a quite good adherence to my medication regimen things took a dramatic turn for the worse in the year's second month. Then the cold and the snow dragged out that winter season right up to the point when POOF it was tree pollen season.
So I am not so happy to see the greening of the spring. Rain is fine. It settles pollen and dust and typically cools things down. There is one sign of spring that I have grown to love, but it is an indoor event.
As the days get longer for a short time the morning sun shines through the aquarium to form rainbows in the hallway. Last spring the youngest two kids figured out they could bend the path of the rainbow using clear plastic toy bins. They call it "rainbow time."
I like the idea of rainbow time. I like its brightness and the fleeting nature of its existence. I like the joy it brings to my children and the wonder of seasons that change and return every year.
This is day one of attempt to combine a desire to get back into writing with a desire to combat an ongoing wrestling match with clinical depression. I am hoping that by writing daily about things that I am doing (beyond popping prescribed pills) to increase the measly number of neurotransmitters I have available to me.
Brief history: I was diagnosed with clinical depression at age 18 and it has continued to plague me off and on for the subsequent 23 years. Holy cow. That's longer than I thought. Which is both an "Oh crap!" and a "Go Me!" Since the opposite of struggling with depression is often not struggling at all. So I am still fighting the good fight.
Things I know that work well for me: yoga, healthy foods, anti-depressants, and laughing.
Things I do not feel like doing while I experiencing an uptick in my depression symptoms: doing yoga, eating well, taking my meds (or remembering whether I have already taken them...), and laughing.
I am what I like to call a "high functioning" depressed individual. Many people who I work with have no idea that I am depressed unless I let things get very bad and stop answering emails or forget to turn in my timecard or start crying in the middle of a meeting.
And this is what is hard to explain to people who have not experienced this. It is not about mood for me. I am not necessarily sad. Although I might be. It's not like being depressed makes people immune to sadness, after all. Sometimes I am even happy. When my depression is bad, my brain just doesn't work.
I have trouble sleeping. I have trouble waking up. Small things are overwhelming. Like laundry. I avoid answering the phone, answering the mail or opening my email. I don't want to see anyone. Or talk to anyone. It's hard to make my facial muscles do much of anything. My face feels like it's made of unfired clay. Heavy and wet, not dry and brittle.
When I had my first major depressive episode in high school, I noticed that my abilities went away gradually...
First I couldn't do my homework because I couldn't concentrate on the big picture while reading text. I could understand words and sentences, but paragraphs were a big problem. So I stopped doing homework.
Then I found that I couldn't drive anywhere without getting hopelessly lost, even if I had been between the two locations many times before. So I made sure that other people drove me or I was able to follow behind someone else's car, panicked that I might lose them and circle forever like an ant that has lost the trail back to its hill.
I couldn't smile. Even if I tried really hard. It felt wrong and looked terrible.
I couldn't follow the plot of even the most mundane television shows, so I stopped watching T.V.
I couldn't practice piano. Which was a problem because I had a job as the church accompanist. They should have fired me. I am eternally grateful to them that they did not. I badly "sightread" the music every Sunday, loud voices drowning out my mistakes.
I couldn't read for pleasure.
I couldn't remember when I had done things. Brushed my teeth? Eaten a meal? Changed my clothes? Taken a shower? Had I just done these things moments ago or had it been days? Weeks?
Time was unreliable.
I had only the energy to stagger through the school day and then come home to stare at a yellow dot on my bedroom ceiling from when my brother through some playdough and it stuck there, leaving a stain even years later.
All of this and I still didn't want to go get help. I had recently been through treatment for an eating disorder and was too busy patting myself on the back for conquering that monster to realize that I wasn't done with recovery.
Here's what got to me: I was at band practice at school. The director handed out new music for us to play. And the notes on the page looked like Arabic or Greek letters to me. I couldn't make any sense of the black scribbles. I have been reading music since the age of four. I burst into tears and fled the room.
That's when I went to get help. Within a week on Prozac I was feeling like... me.
So I know that when my depression is controlled I feel better. I am better. I want to get to that point again. I plan to do at least 2 things every day to improve my poor beleaguered brain and post them here to keep me honest.
Quaker, teacher, parent,