Making Progress…Maybe?

A lot has changed in the two months since I started this blog–especially in my own head. That’s right, Susan is back and she’s better than ever. Or in other words, she’s every bit the F.I.N.E bitch she was before.

And I’m having very mixed feelings about her very unsubtle entrance back into my life. If you need a quick introduction to Susan, please refer to my previous post “Meet Me, Meet Susan.” So when “Mark” named Susan and explained that she was the reason he couldn’t date me, my mission in life was to obliterate Susan. Not just keep her silently placated, or even permanently bound and gagged in a dark corner of my brain. I wanted her fully disappeared.

Then a funny thing happened. I don’t know if she was placated, gagged, or just decided to take her leave and vacation in Europe, but Susan became suddenly quiet. But with Susan quiet, I eventually just shut down altogether emotionally. And from there it wasn’t a big leap to the depressive episode that marked the last 15 months of my life. The only thing was, I was depressed and still emotionally empty. I couldn’t even cry more than a couple of tears, even when I wanted to.

So off to the doctor I eventually went. First up was the antidepressant. Verdict- seemed to help my mood, but I was suddenly suffering from chronic insomnia. Next up- the mood stabilizer. Verdict- still unable to determine because it’s too soon. How do they seriously expect crazy people to manage 4-6 weeks before they even start to know if their medication is working??

In this time, I’ve been working on keeping my goals that I set, and I’m seeing positive changes in my life. However, I’m also dealing with more work stress than normal and attempting to venture back into the dating pool as an overweight nutcase (can’t you just see the men lining up now?).

It started small. A couple of weeks ago I felt like I needed to cry and I was finally able to cry. And then I started noticing that my mood was becoming increasingly foul. But I chalked it up to work stress. And then there was tonight. I had a feeling that she was back, especially over the last few days. I could feel my moods swing wildly from one moment to the next. But I was happy to finally be feeling something again. I appreciated the highs, and even the lows, because I felt so hollow for so long. And then the bitch crossed the line tonight.

Even during my worst episodes, I’ve always done my best to not let Susan interact with most of my friends. And I like to think I was pretty successful in my endeavor. But tonight Susan decided to introduce herself to the last person on earth I wanted her anywhere near–my friend Dave (see previous post “Friends and Lovers” for the full scoop on Dave). It was just like before. She came without warning and did her damage. Then left me with an entire car ride home to sit and agonize over the realization of what she’d done.

So I’ll be honest, right now I really don’t know what I want anymore. I hated the hollow emotionless void I lived in for the last year, but if escaping that void means spending the rest of my life trying to survive this wild pendulum of feelings, not to mention Susan coming back to further destroy the close relationships that she didn’t manage to torpedo last time… Well, I don’t know which is the lesser of two evils.

Everyday Warriors

Although I admittedly suck at staying in touch with them, I am blessed to have a number of inspirational people in my life, and I wanted to give them some of the recognition that they deserve. These individuals have each inspired me to push myself beyond what I thought possible, to grow spiritually and mentally, and try everyday to be a better person. While I would love nothing more than to recognize each of them by name, I want to respect their privacy, so I have changed their names. I hope that each of them will be able to see themselves in this post and understand how grateful I am for the impact they’ve had on my life.

Three and a half years ago I started my journey towards becoming a black belt. One of my first new friends was a woman named “Rachel,” who was less than a year away from earning her black belt. Although I participated in sports in middle school, I’m definitely not what you would call a naturally athletic person. In fact, I tended to be awkward and a complete klutz, which was my biggest concern when I decided to start training. Rachel and I bonded over some similar struggles that we shared, especially when it came to the frustration of not being able to get your body to do what you want it to do. But watching Rachel earn her black belt was what made me finally start to think that it would be possible to eventually earn my black belt. As fate would have it, the weekend I finally tested for my black belt, Rachel was testing for her second degree black belt. It was a rough weekend for the both of us. I couldn’t breathe for most of the first night (later found out that I had un- diagnosed asthma), and was unable to complete one of my board breaks. Rachel struggled with her knee. After the first night of testing we vented to each other about how frustrated we both felt with the results of all of our efforts. But the following night, we stood together and received our new belts. Rachel proved to me that the impossible was possible after all.

I was fortunate enough to work with “Christine” and “Marie” for a few years.  I was going through a lot of stress at work, combined with finding myself growing away from some of my friends.  Christine and Marie allowed me to vent and offered sympathetic ears.  I alluded to Christine in one of my previous posts (Depression Does Not Equal Pity Party) as someone who has been through more than I can begin to imagine.  Marie has also had a number of personal struggles, especially within the last year or so.  But what makes them both so amazing is that they are still the first to offer that sympathetic ear if a friend is having a problem.  Beyond that they both demonstrate what it means to go through struggles with an indefinable grace.  Christine is the one who keeps it all together; who is able to keep a brave face and continue to push through.  Sometimes it’s important to put on that brave face, and that’s one of the lessons I learned from her.  Marie, on the other hand, is not afraid to ask for help–to admit that she can’t always do it alone.  It was Marie who gave me the name of the therapist I started seeing.  As a stubborn overachiever, sometimes asking for help is the hardest thing to do, and what I admire about Marie is that she reminds me that no one can do it all alone and there is no shame in asking for help when help is needed.

There is one more woman that I need to mention- let’s call her Lucy.  She was a classmate in high school, and although we didn’t have any classes together we had some friends in common and she was always nice to me (I was a bit of an outcast in school, so I never forgot the people who made me feel like I fit in).  Lucy was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.  While I was just starting to pick up the pieces from my depressive episode, Lucy was getting ready to undergo surgery and chemotherapy.  No one who have blamed her for cursing God and curling up in a ball under a blanket.  Instead she started a blog, and has been documenting her fight.  And believe me, she’s fighting.  Depression was enough to make me a barely functional human being, and here is Lucy, her posts showing that she hasn’t lost her sense of humor. She was, in a way, one of the reasons why I decided to ask for help–I figured that if she could handle a cancer diagnosis with such a positive attitude, then there was no reason for me to continue to allow depression to suck the life out of me.  In fact, I have to give Lucy credit for the title of this blog post. On her birthday, when she was thanking everyone for the Facebook birthday wishes, she said she wanted to name 2014 the Year of the Warrior, for all of the people who were fighting obstacles. And I also have to admit that I totally used her idea to title my goal poster that I mentioned in my last post.

I cannot possibly begin to explain how these four ladies have changed my life for the better.  I consider myself honored to have them in my life, and I hope that one day they can understand how much of an impact they’ve had on me and how grateful I am for that.

Bring Me to Life

While I was at the do jang this evening, I was given an assignment.  I was given instructions for creating a list of 10 goals for myself for this year.  In addition to filling out the list at the bottom of the page to keep as my own daily reminder, I was told that I also need to create a poster and bring it in.

The timing of this assignment could not have been better.  As I mentioned in some earlier posts, 2013 was a rough year for me, as I struggled with a worsening depressive episode and all of the other problems that came with it.  Back in November I caved and saw a psychiatrist who raised the possibility of bipolar II disorder, and not just straight depression, as I had believed.  But she put me on the antidepressant that I had taken previously because she was unsure of her diagnosis and I confirmed that the symptoms I was experiencing were consistent with previous episodes.

Fast forward to the beginning of last week.  I had a follow-up visit with my psychiatrist.  I explained that my already spotty sleep has been getting progressively worse.  Despite the heavy bedtime medication regimen that my neurologist has me on (including 10 mg of Flexeril), I just couldn’t get my brain to turn off.  Instead, I became fixated on a string of random thoughts.  What should I wear to work tomorrow?  Did I lock the front door?  Did the laundromat lose my black skirt?  Maybe my skirt is mixed in with my pants?  I should check in the morning… no, I should get up and check now.  Wow, I’m thirsty–I should get myself a glass of milk.  Yuck, I hate the aftertaste of milk when I’m trying to sleep–I should get a glass of water.  Did I lock the front door?  Did I ever decide what to wear to work tomorrow?  Before I knew it, I was lying in bed awake at 1am and wondering how I was going to get up for work.  The answer increasingly became that I wasn’t getting up, and I was getting to work later and later.

Although I have used Celexa for depression several times before without any problems, there was one big difference in the other medications I take, compared to before.  Last summer my neurologist put my on Vyvanse (a cousin of Adderall) for ADD.  Apparently the combination of Celexa and Vyvanse just wasn’t working for me.  So my psychiatrist took me off the antidepressant and decided to try a mood stabilizer instead.  This was all new territory for me, so she explained a bit about the medication and how it worked.  She also explained that the mood stabilizer she was prescribing for me had a black box warning because one of the possible rare complications is Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.  I was advised to be on the lookout for rashes, especially on my hands.  This in and of itself is ironic, almost to the point of humorous–I am prone to random stress-related patches of dermatitis, and have suffered from moderate-to-severe eczema for at least the last six years or so–on my hands.  But, I know it’s a rare complication, there are plenty of common medications that have been linked to Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, and I’m getting pretty desperate to start feeling better.  At this point, if my psychiatrist told me that dancing naked under the full moon would make me feel like a functional human being, you can bet I would be out there, polar vortex or not.

So that brings me to this week.  I was lucky enough to get another week’s reprieve from choir rehearsal (admittedly my director is really the lucky one, since he’s the one in Cancun for the week).  I decided that I wanted to try to make the most of having fewer obligations than normal, so I made it a goal to train all week.  Keep in mind that with only a few exceptions, I’ve been averaging one (sometimes two) classes a week since April, and those are the weeks I made it to the do jang at all.  I haven’t trained with the frequency I was hoping for since I was preparing for black belt testing.  Without a doubt, it was going to be tough.  In addition, I wanted to get to the gym before work again because I needed to get back to strength training.  Building up the muscles in my neck and back helps tremendously with my chronic pain.

Monday morning I woke up with my alarm.  I felt awake, ready to take on the world. Then I turned and started to get out of bed to turn off the alarm.  At this point, my lower back said something along the lines of, “You don’t really think you’re going anywhere, do you?”  The pain was not debilitating, but it was enough to make work difficult and martial arts impossible.  I decided to take some ibuprofen and try to sleep it off for an hour or so.  The next thing I knew, I was still in bed and I was supposed to leave for work 20 minutes earlier.  On the bright side, my back pain was down to a dull roar.  I decided to train that night after work.  I got out of work late, so I missed the earlier class, which was probably just as well.  The adult class was kept for almost 90 minutes, and my back was screaming by about 40 minutes in.  As I was getting my shoes on, one of the parents sitting and watching the class commented to me that she felt bad for me because she could see I was in a ton of pain.

Yesterday I again woke up with the 4am alarm.  I still didn’t get to the gym before work, but I didn’t fall back asleep, either.  I even got to work about a half hour earlier than I’ve managing lately.  Even more importantly, I brought gym clothes with me.  After work, I finally made it to the gym.  I’m not going to lie–it sucked.  Don’t get me wrong, I love strength training, but my poor muscles were suffering from very serious under-use, so it was hard.  How here’s the really impressive part–I went to the do jang and took class after I left the gym.

Last night I was up late with an upset stomach, so I wasn’t expecting to get to the gym.  But I was able to get out of bed and make it to work on time.  I also went from work directly to the do jang and stayed for not one, but two classes!  I admit, my neck and back are sore and my triceps are practically screaming obscenities at me, but I pushed through.  In the midst of this, I received the assignment I mentioned at the beginning of the post.  Several of the adults grumbled a bit at the list and the task of creating a poster.  A year ago, I would have been one of them.  But there’s something humbling about hitting your own personal rock bottom.  You start to look at things differently.  I’ve always been an overachiever and the last several months have taught me to appreciate the baby steps that I’m able to take towards feeling better.  I’ve learned to use my setbacks as lessons and to celebrate even the small victories.  After all, sooner or later those small victories are going to add up and get me to bigger victories, as long as I keep trying and pushing through. What better way to remind myself to push through than to see in writing exactly what I’m pushing towards?

 

 

Growing Old, Growing Up, and Being an Adult

When I was a child, I was a grown-up in many ways (I can see my parents nodding emphatically in agreement with that statement).  My parents often told me to lighten up or to stop being so serious, usually because I rolled my eyes or made a snide comment related to something they said or did.  I learned how to fend for myself at a young age (at least enough to manage a box of Rice-a-Roni or ramen noodles when I was hungry).  I always wanted to be a grown-up.

Fast forward a couple of decades.  I graduated college, I had a full-time job–I was a grown-up!  But I wasn’t.  At the same time, I often felt and acted much older than I was.  You see, I spent almost the entirety of my 20’s battling the inner demons that came from being raped in college.  Much of this was focused on the series of failed relationships that marked that decade of my life.  I know that it needed to happen that way.  Each failed relationship brought me one step closer to understanding myself.  Each was a step toward realizing that I was still capable of loving and being loved in return, and more importantly, that I deserved better than just “any” guy that might be interested.  But my focus on this part of my life left another part very sadly neglected.  I had somehow lost myself.

I’ve spent the majority of my 30’s alone.  While I’m not immune to feeling lonely, these years have also been very blessed, because I’ve been able to reconnect with myself.  I sing in two choirs, I have friends again, I go out and do stuff on the weekends.  Admittedly, sometimes I go a bit overboard when I’m with certain friends:  the nights I had to stay on a friends couch after way too many shots, the video my choir director has of myself and another woman in the choir on pole dancing with a couple of strippers on stage at a strip club owned by a church parishioner… trust me, the list goes on.  I sometimes feel like this is the life I was supposed to have in my 20’s.

I’m responsible and have a good career.  I’m involved in choir and train in martial arts.  I do the things that adults are supposed to do, at least on the outside.  But the funny thing is that lately I don’t feel like an adult.  The current depressive episode I’ve been battling (for over a year) often leaves me feeling child-like and helpless.  There are days when I feel like I can’t even take care of myself, let alone anyone else.  I dated a man for six months without him ever seeing the inside of my apartment- because it was that bad.

I’ve often heard people say that they may grow old, but refuse to grow up.  I understand that and I completely relate to never wanting to be one of those “boring” old people.  But once again, I can’t help but wish sometimes that I could be a grown-up.

Ringing In the New Year

Yes, I’m a day late.  And yes, I’ve been slacking a bit on my posts.  ‘Tis the season.

I suppose plenty of people take the changing of the calendar as a time to wax poetic about the old year. No, on second thought, I don’t suppose–I know.  Nothing like an entire week of almost nothing to read on Salon.com except lists and countdowns to make an information junkie ready to pull her hair out.And those that aren’t reminiscing about the old year are busy making resolutions for the new year.

So let’s get one thing out of the way right now.  I don’t do resolutions.

It’s not that I don’t look at the new year as a chance to turn a new leaf.  And of course, just like everyone else, I would love for 2014 to be the year that I lose a ton of weight, start feeling better mentally and start learning how to take care of myself like a functional adult.  But aren’t these the same things everyone wants for themselves?

I had the chance to ring in the new year with friends at a small party.  The party was hosted by one of my closest friends, one of the longest friendships out of my current circle of friends.  While I was there, I began talking to her neighbor and we ended up talking for a couple of hours because it turned out we had a lot in common.  As we raised our glasses at midnight, I thought to myself that this was the perfect way to spend New Year’s Eve–with one of my oldest friends and with my newest friends.

And then I started thinking about it even further.  One of the biggest regrets that I have in life is that I absolutely suck at staying in touch with people.  I don’t know why it’s such an issue for me, but it’s not a new issue.  I see my Facebook news feed and I see how much some of my former classmates are still in each others’ lives, even if they no longer live anywhere near each other.  I regret that I missed the opportunity to maintain those friendships the way I wanted to.  Even now, I struggle to maintain friendships that I truly cherish.  I don’t know where the time goes, and I start to feel uncomfortable with the idea of trying to show up again after being MIA for so long.  I wish I knew how to show the people in my life how much they mean to me.

Sometimes I wonder if the wall I built was to keep people out to keep myself in.