I think maybe because I have been a hermit for so long, when I actually make plans to do something with friends they question my willingness or ability to actually spend time with them.
And really the self-imposed exile was not about them. It was more about my lack of energy and the feeling that the day to day things that I could never get done were eating my life and i couldn't possibly do anything fun with anyone until I completed everything on my to-do list which was never going to happen so what the hell I will just go back to bed now.
I am getting more things done now and stressing about the lack of completion less. I am a very goal-oriented person so things that never end are hard for me to deal with. I can clean the house in anticipation of someone coming over because there is an end point. By the time they arrive things need to be done. But the daily grind? It never ends. Have you ever noticed that? It is maddening. I just want to be FINISHED.
I have to decide if I am going to pick up a more formal role in my faith community. If I am going to be on a committee and connect with my community in a different way. I'm pretty sure this is a good idea and not utter madness, but I am going to sit with it for a while. They have lured me with the idea of day-long retreats and phrases like "quaker process..."
This post is very scattered. It was kind of a scattered day.
I picked up my refill of bupropion today. So i didn't have it yesterday and I forgot to take either of my anti-depressants until after 8pm today. Went to the zoo and took a zillion pictures of water lilies, etc. Played D&D (yes nerds, this is what you are thinking) with my children. Taught my final writing 1 class for the summer and now I am lounging around playing with my tumblr site, completing a post and trying really hard to want to go to sleep.
Grateful Crap: Free entrance to Como Zoo and conservatory which is only a few minutes from my house, water lilies-- because they are really cool, the fact that I speak English as my first language because it really bites to have to learn it as an adult.
Okay sleep, I will grant that you are a useful activity. I admit that I am powerless before you and that you humble all from queens to paupers. And I will also admit that for someone who has ferociously insisted on her children getting enough sleep I have done a terrible job of guarding my own slumber.
When quite Depressed I slept a lot. It was very hard to get up in the morning and I fell exhausted into bed at the end of the day. Now I have more energy. So in addition to finding that I can no longer rely on extreme fatigue to let me know when to stop exerting myself-- I find that I can't just wait until I am so tired that I can't keep my eyes open. Because that is happening later and later.
I find that I have to relearn good sleep habits. Before: read, knit or watch Netflix until I notice I am starting to fall asleep. Then quickly brush teeth and fall face-first on the pillow. Now I am trying to make a conscious decision to go to sleep. You know, look at the clock and think: I have to get up at 7:00 tomorrow. I should be getting to bed about now.ug
See now that I am writing this down it seems absurd.
But last night I followed through on my plan to be in bed before midnight. 10:30pm I finished up a cup of hot chocolate, changed into pajamas, brushed my teeth and read a few chapters on digital photography. Turned out the light and closed my eyes long before I was accidentally dropping the book on my head.
Now I find that I don't need a nap with the daughter (who is sleeping now) and am quite alert in the middle of the afternoon. Curses. I feel like sleep is one of those addictive things. Like I am now hooked. And before I had all this imaginary time in which I could do anything. Finish editing my novel. Conquer the world. You know, the basics.
Yup. That's my new theory: sleep is a gateway drug. Soon I will be doing things like daily exercise and forgoing sweets by choice. I don't smoke, I don't drink, I don't do drugs... why can't I have this one vice? Why can't I just stay up and have another life in the quiet of the evening?
I remember finding that even when I wasn't Depressed, if I got fewer than six hours of sleep per night (on average over the week) I began exhibiting the signs of Depression.
Fine. I will get some sleep. Regularly and routinely because it is the responsible, grown-up thing to do. But I don't have to like it.
Grateful Crap: being able to function in mid-afternoon, local swimming pools both indoors and out, new lenses for my camera that are fun to use, not being a single parent (being a double parent?)
I have to write these posts in the morning. Or at least before the children are in bed. Because otherwise I get sucked into the Internet, lose track of time and stay up until 1:30 am.
Although I was certain it wasn't yet midnight. I think I need to change the clock on my computer so it isn't an analog face with no numbers. Makes it too easy to see what I want to see. I used to have it announce the time on the hour, but having a voice speak out of the darkness made me jump.
Had a great day yesterday. Went to see a great production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. We had friends in the chorus so we drove out for the day. Perfect day for a drive-- not too sunny and not too warm.
What I should have done was come home, read a little and go to sleep.
Instead I read a bunch of articles about why it was difficult for me to get to sleep when my mind is racing. Which did not help me keep figure out how to stop my mind from racing and get to sleep. It wasn't racing with bad things, even. Just interesting things. I need to only do boring things before I go to sleep.
My kids used to listen to the Star Wars radio broadcasts on CD every night at bedtime. Until we discovered that they were so involved in the story that they were staying up super late to hear the whole story. And even if we turned the CD off, their imaginations were so engaged that they had trouble getting to sleep. The prescription: no exciting movies before bedtime. No stories on tape. Calming activities. Quiet music if anything.
I don't have a grown-up telling me to do only calming activities. And I am not sure what they are, really. Knitting seems like it should be calming, but I can be enthralled by the process and knit far into the night. This is true for any of my crafty activities. Clearly writing or doing anything on the computer is folly. Reading might be the best candidate. Even though I am known to read until I drop the book on my face I am less likely to stay up ridiculously late.
I think I might need to assign myself a bedtime. A curfew. And develop some kind of soothing bedtime routine. This sounds like the kind of thing that well-rested people do naturally. It is certainly the kind of thing that I have been teaching my children.
Okay, so what are some good calming bedtime things... drinking a cup of herbal tea, taking a warm bath, reading something nonfiction maybe, and having a lights out time long before midnight.
It is ridiculous that I have to do this.
How about 10:30. If I start my bedtime routine at 10:30 and have lights out at 11:00? Most days that would give me eight hours of sleep. And I supposed I could start gradually pushing it toward 10:00.
The problem is I really like nighttime when the house is quiet and I can watch things on Netflix that are not appropriate for two year olds. I can cuss and spit and be as sarcastic as I wanna be. Sleep just seems like a waste of time. I know it isn't. But knowing and doing are two different things.
Grateful Crap: making today an arbitrary weekend (until 5pm when I work), cooler summer days, my neighborhood with its native prairie gardens, libraries to keep my kids in books
I like to do a lot of things. Really a lot of things. I am very consciously trying not to engage in all of these things at the same time since the hectic thing is not good for my Depressed brain.
This slowing down thing doesn't come naturally. I can do nothing, or I can do everything. Right.
I am finding, however, that it is possible to let go of a few things and still preserve the essence of me. I could probably let most things go and still be me. I am more than the sum of my intensities. I think.
I have been rereading some about Dabrowski's "overexciteabilities." partly in dealing with my children. But also recognizing a lot of myself in them. As a psychiatrist he studied gifted individuals and observed that they exhibited supersensitivities in five areas: psychomotor, sensory, imaginational, intellectual and emotional.
This means that a person reacts more strongly to what might be a very slight stimulus, and their reaction may last longer. Dabrowski found that it did not involve just psychological factors but the nervous system as well.
Then while poking around about depression and the gifted (I wasn't comfortable being labled a gifted child and I feel like an ass referring to myself as a gifted adult, but whatever) I came across a paper written by James T. Webb, Ph.D called "Dabrowski's Thoery and Existential Depression in Gifted Children and Adults." (and I realize that I am not citing things properly but this isn't a formal paper so you will just have to deal.)
I was really looking for ways of dealing with the oversensitivities in a positive way, but then i got sucked into this whole Depression connection. The emotional overexciteability is what makes many gifted folks susceptible to Depression.
Following are the tried and true crappy ways of dealing with "existential Depression" (which I tell myself I don't have, but which quite honestly probably goes with the chemical thing): become narcissistic, know "the truth," be a control freak, don't think, don't care, keep hyper-busy, be an adrenaline junky.
Ok so I don't do the narcissistic thing. I err rather far to the side of low self esteem instead. And I am not much for the adrenaline because I don't like its aftereffects. Beyond that, I must say that I engage in the rest of these coping mechanisms quite freely.
Here are the less crappy ways to deal with things: become self-aware, get connected with community, compartmentalize issues, let go, live in the moment, learn optimism.
Oh brother. If I have to learn optimism we are in big trouble. When I was in junior high we all had to give speeches as part of a competition sponsored by the Optimist Club. Everyone else did a fine job of giving their speeches about "The most optimistic person I know." I, however, burst into tears and fled the room before completing my Optimist Club speech. I did not win the competition.
I am not really ready to jump on the optimism bandwagon just yet.
I can try to get more connected, and I have been. The compartmentalizing thing is hard, but I certainly see the value in that. Not letting an issue at work color all other experiences of the day.
Letting go and living in the moment sound like such stupid self-help guru things. But the problem is they probably are good things to do.
Grateful Crap: Awesome friends, caramel rolls that turned out just how I like them, really enjoyable theater, children who are enthralled by live music, theaters that still use live musicians (with 3 French horn players! In a community theater! In La Crescent!)
One friend asked me if I also self-medicated with frenetic activity. Because she did. No, I thought. I just naturally hold two or three jobs, volunteer at my children's school, create new programs and systems to handle things at work during my off-hours, play a number of online games, teach myself jewelry making and bead weaving and crochet and embroidery and paper cutting (because it's not sufficient to just knit or sew), play French horn with a fantastic group that rehearses once a week, lead a choir at work, spend quality time with my three children, ferry them to swimming lessons and piano lessons and First Lego League and orchestra, and regret that I don't have time to be involved in community theatre or teach a class through community ed.
Maybe I do have time... Okay, so looking at the list, perhaps she has a point.
But I have always been over-programmed by choice even in high school (band, choir, community theatre, soccer, creative writing, youth orchestra)... oh.
I have made a conscious effort to make sure that my children are not involved in too many structured activities-- that they have time to just be kids. And I seem to also have made a conscious effort to make sure that I have no time to just be.
As part of my ongoing battle with Depression (I will kick its ass), I will make a conscious effort to work on becoming a human be-ing instead of a human do-ing. But it is hard for me to tell when I am being responsible to myself and when I am just being lazy.
However, I think setting aside some time everyday that is just mine in which I am not doing anything useful or productive is perfectly reasonable and probably necessary. Now I am going to go sit in my room for 15 minutes and do nothing quite consciously.
Grateful Crap: Green tea, lack of headaches, a girl who wakes me with "Some books have covers, but we have blankets we can hide under and be secret animals," children who mostly get along, and touch typing. I love the touch typing.
Took meds (okay, I am taking meds right now... be right back) 150mg sertraline, 300mg bupropion
Took chewable B vitamins
Meditated 15 minutes
Spent a moderate amount of time on decluttering projects (I promise)
And I will go to bed at a regular hour
I was looking back over my old writing and came across something I wrote for a "family poetry" class. At the time I was going through infertility treatments and my parents were going through a divorce. It was an interesting time to be taking a family poetry class.
I am very very glad not to be an infertility patient. I never realized how difficult it was. I didn't absorb the weight of the issue when my doctor told me at age 9 that it might take me longer to get pregnant. What third grader is worried about the state of her ovaries? What does it mean to take longer to get pregnant?
For me it meant five years of many different kinds of medication and profound loss and a sense of devastation every month. Fueled, of course, by the fluctuating hormones. My poor mother-in-law asked me one day, "Aren't you ever going to have children?" She meant it kindly. But I burst into tears. We hadn't told anyone we were trying. It didn't seem like their business. It was too hard to think about. Too hard to talk about. It sucked. Especially when all other women on the planet were pregnant.
How to Conceive #1
Grateful Crap: that I am no longer an infertility patient, that I have three lovely children, one of whom was even conceived in the usual way instead of with the aid of a centrifuge, that there is technology available to assist people experiencing subfertility, that my house is full of chaos and bickering and toys on the floor and muddy clothes in the bathtub
Dug up a lot of buried recycling in the garage today. It is amazing how much space poorly organized crap can expand to fill.
This was the third or fourth week that I spent a concerted effort to get large amounts of recycling out onto the curb. And today I could see the floor. I even swept. And a car will fit in the garage. Bonus.
Also, I am borrowing my brother's truck for a few weeks. I have high hopes that I will take at least one load of stuff to the dump. Although I have been warned not to do more than one load at a time.
The incredibly unsurprising revelation is that it feels better to do something about the mess than to just look at it and despair. It also feels better to not try to do everything at once. Things will still get done. In fact they are more likely to get done if I adhere to the whole slow and steady wins the race than if I try to marathon it out and do everything at once.
I also did more than just realize that I need to cut back on my commitments-- I actually followed through on cutting back. I need room to breathe. It was surprisingly easy to say no.
This reminds me, oddly enough, of the stupidest thing I have ever done...
When I was a student at a summer program at St. John's Univesity (as an adult, mind you), I was taking a walk near Lake Sagatagan with a friend.
"That's a big lake."
"It's not that big."
"I could totally swim across it."
While experiencing some nameless creeping rage (caused, I think, by a change in my antidepressants; I should find out what they were at the time) I decided to go for an angry walk around the lake to blow off some steam. At least that was the plan. If it hadn't been for the biting flies... They weren't horseflies. They were those horrible little blackflies that cause welts and make you bleed when they bite. They were so thick that when I clapped my hands together I killed five at a time.
I got halfway around the lake to an old abandoned chapel and couldn't take it any more. For some reason the flies didn't follow me into the chapel (although there were no doors or windows). But as soon as I left the enclosure of the stone walls they were back, eager for my blood.
I was halfway around the lake. The path was equally long no matter which way I went. And the flies were driving me mad. So much for a calming walk around the lake to recover my equilibrium. I looked out across the lake and remembered my conversation. It's not that big. I could totally swim across it.
Soon I found myself in the middle of the lake, with both shores equally distant. I was wearing cargo shorts, my Chaco sandals and my glasses, so I didn't want to get my head wet. I am a strong swimmer. In fact I am a (lapsed) licensed lifeguard. Which means I knew enough not to do what I was doing.
I NEVER swam without someone watching me. I certainly didn't venture into unknown water as night was falling wihen no one knew I was anywhere near the lake. At this point I noticed, what with the drag produced by my shorts, the inefficient kicking of my sandals and the fact that I kept my head out of the water to avoid losing my glasses... I was getting tired.
In fact I had stopped swimming horizontally and was swimming vertically. I was the lifeguard training video's example of "distressed swimmer." And this is how strong swimmers drown, I thought. I panicked. I splashed frantically, trying to reach shore as fast as I could before I went under. I wondered if my body would wash ashore on such a small lake or if it would sink with the weight of my heavy clothes. CRAP. People would think I did this on purpose! They would think I drowned because I was Depressed and swam out into the lake. Damn it!
I went under. I swallowed a gulp of water. And everything was quiet. There was no longer the sound of splashing or the frantic clatter of my thoughts. It was just still. And then I remembered: I can float.
I can float. I could float all day and all night if I had to. I resurfaced and floated on my back to catch my breath. (Did I mention I had asthma and my breathing wasn't doing so well?) I had never realized that there was such a strong psychological element to drowning. I was psyching myself out and the panic was causing me to flounder.
I figured it could work both ways. I told myself that my friend was watching me from shore. I pretended that the canoe behind me was serving as a spotter as well. I gave up getting to shore as quickly as possible and decided to get there as slowly as possible-- with forward movement.
I made it to shore. I barely had the energy to walk up the steep hill to the dorms. And when I reached my friend's room (which was on the first floor) I told him that I would only sleep in my own room if he carried me and the spare mattress up two flights of stairs.
The following morning the only lasting injury I had was a nasty bruise on my right hand where my wedding ring hit as I clapped my hands together to kill flies on my walk.
Grateful Crap: a brother who lends me a big truck (that really almost fits in our garage as long as it holds its breath), a brother who has supplied an excellent cousin for my children, a break from the heat, students who think I am the best teacher they have ever had, the ability to say no and finding that the universe does not implode
Should have written earlier before headache settled in. Was a good day today. The cliches of sleeping, taking meds on time, moderate exercise and less sugar seem to be playing out as expected.
I felt like my normal self today. Not super-energetic or anything, but with a distinct lack of fatigue.
I felt like I was shedding something I had been carrying with me for some time without even realizing it. A weight that wasn't just on my shoulders, but wrapped around my chest.
There's something also like the real me has always been in here and although I have put on a good show for the past few years, now I don't have to fake it. I actually am as functional as I seem to be.
having a job I love and a supervisor who values creativity, shoulder massages to banish tension headaches, green tea, corrective lenses for my very nearsighted son, free summer programs that take kids fishing and swimming and canoeing while I rock my daughter to sleep
took meds (150mg sertraline, 300mg buproption)
went for a walk (1.5 miles)
drank a bunch of water
Better today. Only caffeine from green tea with mango. Fairly bad headache in the afternoon. Responded to ibuprofin.
Did .86 miles on elliptical trainer. Mostly sufficient sleep the night before. Got a battery for my watch. Tomorrow I will figure out how to set the timer.
Only here is the thing... trying not to think about things that stress me out is difficult. I am too aware of them. Pink elephants. Out of practice. Need more daily meditation.
Not going to Quaker meeting because we have no air conditioning at the meetinghouse and when I go in the heat I am not able to worship. At all. I just get very very angry about nothing in particular. Which I don't think is what I am aiming for.
Hard day. I got only a few hours of sleep because I was stressed out over something and that made it hard for me to go to sleep. (stupid cortisol)
AND I had forgotten to take my allergy medications the day before SO when the house was open at night because it was finally cool enough not to run the air conditioner and the pollen came creeping in at 4am I was awake.
I am only recently aware that in my more Depressive states it is difficult for me to settle myself from being stressed. I often think that the amount of stress I am continuing to feel over some occurrence is perfectly reasonable. I am sure it is the issue that is making me feel overwhelmed.
But as I listen to myself explaining it to someone else it doesn't seem like I am having a measured response. It's not the issue that is causing the distress. It is the stress.
The distress is perpetuating the distress. Sure enough. Turns out the more Depressed you are, the longer it takes your body to go back to normal from a cortisol spike. I sometimes enjoy the adrenaline. But I don't much like the hangover that comes afterwords.I think I need to let go of the extraneous things that are causing me to hyper-focus and stress out. I keep saying this and then I keep not quite doing it. I am holding on to the things that I said I would set free. Someone who doesn't go to pieces can take care of these things and the world will still turn to face the sun.
I had to go back to bed at 7:30. I had zero tolerance for anyone else's whining because I was too focused on my miserable self. Went for some enforced family fun, which really was fun for most of the time, but then crashed in the heat.
No really, I crashed. I had no energy to put into anyone else and I just lay on the grass in the shade and stared into the sky. It was quite relaxing. I took this picture of an airplane. However, I don't think that spontaneously lying flat on my back whenever I am overwhelmed will turn out to be a very useful coping mechanism.
It isn't very satisfying to be overwhelmed by chemicals. It is more satisfying to have some thing that I am wrestling with. I can't very well say "I'm sorry, I'm having kind of a cortisol spike here. Can't behave rationally. Don't trust my own assessment of the situation."
The icing on the cake? I have had a child (not really awake) screaming herself hoarse every fifteen minutes for the last two hours. Overtired night terrors. (stupid cortisol)
Grateful Crap: manual focus camera lenses, cool nights, effective treatment of allergies, strawberry rhubarb pie, family even when they are driving me crazy (not literally
took meds (150mg sertraline, 300mg bupropion)
time with extended family
photo safari of neighborhood with eldest kid
How long have I been on the increased dose of bupropion... I have to go back and check. There is a possibility that an increase in anxiety may be related to a change in dosage. If so, it may or may not subside. Or I am just a stress-monger and I now have enough energy to stress super-well.
Quaker, teacher, parent,