theicingonthecrazycake

When life hands you lemons, toss them in the trash and eat cake

Archive for the category “Mental Health (or lack thereof)”

61 bottles of Klonopin on the wall

I awoke this morning in the midst of a sweaty panxiety attack. (No, that is not a typo.) I stared up at the ceiling, feeling like a plane was going to crash through the roof at any given moment. It is not a good feeling, especially when I couldn’t rationalize how completely ridiculous this scenario was at the time. Panic set in, then anxiety-induced paralysis. It’s difficult to jump out of bed, to avoid disaster, when you’ve turned into one of those stone figures from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Sixty-one days. I have 61 one days until the money well dries up. Take one down, pass it around, and by tomorrow I’ll be at 60 bottles of Klonopin, er, days on the wall.

Anyway, all I could think of, as the plane approached and before my brain turned to stone was this: If Morgan Spurlock could eat only McDonald’s for 30 days straight, effectively turning his liver into that of a 60-year-old alcoholic and thereby filming the brilliant Super Size Me, I can do something even more amazing in double that amount of time. Right?

It’s now afternoon, and the effects of my panxiety attack linger. I took medication, I went to acupuncture, I’m writing. Helpful, but not cures. See, here’s the cure: get off my ass, clean my house, figure out how to use up all my FSA funds before they go away on October 15th, refill every prescription I have and get every doctor’s appointment out of the way. Oh yeah, and find a job, build up my writing portfolio and figure out what the hell I want to be when I grow up. That kind of important shit.

But no, I’m a statue, afraid of my own shadow, my shortcomings, my bruised ego after being turned down for job after job. I feel like I should finish my Master’s degree – in snooty-ass Boston, an MA is “strongly preferred” or “required” in order to get some of the simplest copywriting jobs. Apparently my 15 years of experience counts for squat. I am tempted to send in a resume with these letters following my name: GAD, MDD. Wonder if I could fool the blue-bloods with my “degrees” in Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder?

Sarcasm aside, though, I’m suffering from paralysis by over-analysis. And I’m suffering from the idea that you need to buy a new car if you get a flat tire, or get an MA because some jobs require it. I can’t afford a new car, so I won’t drive at all. I am not going to get my MA, so I’ll stop job-hunting. Totally fucking ridiculous thoughts. Bah humbug to you, stupid anxiety.

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Is depression the new leprosy?

I have suffered from migraines since adolescence, and I remember my mother telling me that she had no idea what it felt like, as she had never had a headache – migraine or otherwise. She took care of me even though she had no frame of headache reference, holding a cold washcloth to my forehead and making sure I saw a doctor to diagnose my condition. She couldn’t be empathetic, but she was sympathetic to my pain.

During a bout of major depression in the past year – a battle that I am winning – I have experienced empathy, sympathy and compassion. I have friends and family, both near and afar, who have given me shoulder after shoulder to lean on and much encouragement and unconditional love. Some have been empathetic, having suffered from mood disorders themselves. Others have been sympathetic – like my mother’s response to my headaches – wanting to know more about what major depression feels like and how my treatment is going. I once had difficulty accepting that I was lovable. Excruciating difficulty. Now I know I am lovable even in my ugliest, lowest moments and when, at times, I’ve been incapable of being a good friend or sibling or aunt or adult child in return.

One of the most profound experiences happened two weeks ago. It made me cry. I went for a walk with a friend, whom I had not seen since last year. She had no idea what had happened to me in the last 12 months. I told her my story, and when I got to the part about the mental hospital, she stopped walking, gave me hug in the middle of the walking path and said “I had no idea, you are so brave to have done that.” No one had ever told me that I was courageous for seeking help, except my counselors and psychiatrist. Later on in the week, we went rollerblading together. As we were blading down the East Bay bike path, she said “I know you don’t feel like your old, athletic self, but I still see the spark and energy and soul you had when we used to run together. It’s still there. And I promise you, one day in the future, I’m going to be telling you to slow down because I won’t be able to keep up.” Pass me a Kleenex, please.

Conversely, I have been treated like a leper by uninformed fools who think that this is my fault or just a pathetic excuse for not being social or, better yet, that I just need to “snap out of it” or “be happy” or “change my mood.” How simplistic, how fucking easy. Duh, why didn’t I think of those easy fixes before I “chose” to be depressed?

Do you think I choose to “be” this way, much like people choose to suffer from, say, diabetes or heart disease? Do you think my wildest dream was to sit in a mental hospital for six days last November because it was fun and spa-like, shelling out $1,300 of my own money – money I was saving for a trip to Ireland – to get better? No and no. I saw and heard things in the hospital that I still can’t talk about to this day. People are really, legitimately ill, and thank God we have places where we can go to get help as well as the strength to admit we need help. Hopefully the patients who sat beside me in treatment have informed, non-fools at home to support them through recovery.

When I was hospitalized, I was officially diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, which is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as:

A combination of symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities. Major depression is disabling and prevents a person from functioning normally. Some people may experience only a single episode within their lifetime, but more often a person may have multiple episodes.

I fall into the “multiple episodes” category, unfortunately. I have gone into very deep, dark places on and off for almost 30 year, places that I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to see, including starting to cut myself at age 11 and having suicidal ideations in my late 20s. I would look out the window of the equity research firm at which I worked and fantasize about jumping out the window, wondering if a seven-story fall would be enough to kill me. Thankfully, I sought help after having this recurring thought for a week straight.

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On pins and needles

I arrived at Providence Community Acupuncture yesterday, not knowing what to expect. I wasn’t scared. Needles don’t freak me out as long as my eyes are closed and I can’t see them. And I have a ginormous threshold for pain. (I am descended from such folk: my mother can stick her bare hands into a 500-degree oven and pull a pan out, without flinching; and I once watched my physician father try to sew part of his finger back on after an unfortunate hedge-clipping incident.)

Why am I doing this? Because I’m sick of feeling like shit. I am feeling much better since taking up Pilates again. And I met with a nutritionist last week and am going dairy-free (and pretty much meat-free) for the next couple of weeks to see how I feel. After only five days of the diet, I feel pretty damn good, even though I desperately miss my best friend Mr. Cheese.

So I’m on a good path. But I eventually want to stop taking Klonopin and maybe scale back on some of the other meds. I want to have a good mind/body connection. And pretty soon I’m going to start making hemp clothing, become a freegan and join a commune. Yeah, right.

Anyway, back to yesterday. First, I filled out some paperwork, asking me about my every ache, pain, malady and medication, and then I paid the fee (sliding scale – very reasonable). Anna, my acupuncturist led me into a back room, where she asked me what I hoped to achieve from acupuncture (for me: relief of anxiety, depression and headaches, relaxation) and gave me a brief overview of this ancient Chinese alternative medical technique. She checked my pulse (which I guess was slow, because she asked me if I typically had low blood pressure). She also checked my tongue to determine the shape and color. I guess my tongue is tongue-shaped? As for the color, she said it was purple, which means my liver and spleen are all out of whack.

To be honest, I wasn’t surprised about the liver. Although I am alcohol-free now, I’ve done some heavy drinking over the past 20 years, in a futile attempt to self-medicate my anxiety and depression. I had labs done two weeks ago and my liver enzymes were fine, but I attribute those healthy numbers to my hearty Irish liver. I come from a long line of fair-haired, freckled, blue-eyed drinkers whose livers kept ticking to the bitter end. Cancer was what got the best (and worst) of them, not cirrhosis.

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Moonrise Kingdom and writing clogs

I haven’t written all week: No blog, no fiction, not even a grocery list. It was not the best week, especially down in the trenches of the soon-to-be-unemployed. I had a couple of hand grenades launched my way, including a brief and polite rejection letter from Brown, where I had applied for a Marketing Manager position in their Continuing Education department. I networked my ass off for that job, and still, it got me nowhere.

This week, instead of full-steam-ahead productivity, I wallowed. I danced under the disco ball at my very own (and sparsely attended) pity party. I read. I slept. I didn’t clean my kitchen. The cat is peeved about the overall state of his litter box. I guess I got a little depressed. I did, on a good note, see my doctor (and find out my cholesterol numbers rival those of a Powerball jackpot, and thus, I will be visiting a nutritionist tomorrow). I did Pilates. I did Meals on Wheels, delivering 19 meals all by myself to a bunch of people who were happy to see me. So there was good among the bad, and I have to accept that this is LIFE. Up and down and all around. Keep plugging along.

But the writing still wouldn’t come. I couldn’t even lift my fingers to the keyboard, I couldn’t grasp a pen or even look at a blank piece of paper. Until Friday afternoon, when I played hooky and went to the movies.

Thank you Wes Anderson for pulling me out of my cloggy funk. Thank you for making Moonrise Kingdom. It is brilliant. It is funny. It is heartfelt, bittersweet, life-affirming. It reminds me of an innocent, simpler time and the endless world that seems to spread out ahead of us in our youth, where we can do anything, be anything, unencumbered by the nagging self-doubt, anxiety and baggage that plagues us in adulthood and tends to hold us back.

It also reminded me of a writing prompt from my fiction workshop: Start off with the words “I remember” and go from there. I’ve already done this prompt, but Moonrise Kingdom inspired me to do again, this time focusing on my childhood and adolescence. My reasons are selfish, I suppose. I want to find that innocence. I want to go back and remember the good and the bad. But most of all, I want to figure out when the break happened. When did I cross over the bridge, from guileless childhood to the sometimes cruel/sometimes beautiful reality of the adult world? Or did I ever have a naive, innocent time during my youth? I don’t know if there was ever a bridge to cross.

I Remember

I remember sledding down a hill in Durham, laughing so hard that my smile seemed to split open my face while my cheeks turned crimson in the cold. I remember the move from North Carolina to Florida; I rode with my dad in his beat-up neon-green VW Rabbit, while my mother and brother followed behind us in a rust-colored Monte Carlo. I remember my dad flicking cigarette after cigarette butt out of the window, chain-smoking his way through four states, from mountains to swamps, smoking to the soundtrack of the kerplunk, kerplunk, kerplunk of the tires hitting the highway seams. I remember the unrelenting damp heat of Florida, juxtaposed to the drier mountain-and-ocean-buffered Carolina heat, It hit me like an unexpected slap, leaving hand-prints on my soul and scrambling my brains like eggs on a searing sidewalk.

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In degrees

I debated about taking a shower this morning. It was a long debate. A senseless debate, really. If you haven’t taken a shower in two days, it’s probably an opportune time to take one. Remember my muscle memory post? Shouldn’t showering be a muscle reflex (if anything, a reflex from your nose when it smells your armpit)?

Well, apparently it isn’t, at least not for the jobless, the depressed, the shut-ins, those who don’t have an office to go to or a client to meet. And I know several of them right now, including myself. And for some reason, the showering really trips us up. We share in  a community: the community of a lack of purpose and (sometimes) poor personal hygiene. And really, who gives a shit about soaping up your armpits when you lack big-picture meaning – a job, a vocation, a career – in your life?

As I’ve posted previously, I will soon be unemployed. The spaghetti I’m throwing at the walls – through research, writing, online job searching, networking and agreeing to whore myself out for anything that pays at least $20 an hour – is not sticking. So recently, my this-feels-fruitless-job-hunt-I will-be-living-in-a-cardboard-box-very-soon anxiety has grown into an enormous green-scaled, red-eyed monster, who hovers in my shadow during the day and hides under my bed at night. He has really sharp fingernails (talons?) and it hurts when he pokes me in the shoulder to let me know he’s still there. I’ve offered to pay for a manicure, but he’s ignored my offer. I’ve named him Puff the Magic Dragon; it makes him seem harmless…even though some days he is quite the opposite of nice.

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Weddings and divorces and long holiday weekends, oh my

I am way out of sorts today. On the verge of tears, in fact, as I sit in a very public East Side place — surrounded by the ladies who lunch dripping in gold chains and adorned with frosted foot-ball-sized hair — typing this. I hate these long holiday weekends, especially when they back into a four-day work-week where I don’t really have a job anymore. I feel lost. I feel lonely. I feel useless. I feel (stir) crazy. Hopefully the fancy ladies won’t notice the fat girl in the corner sniffling over her bowl of fruit, which she really wishes was a big chocolate cookie.

I know what my problem is but  I don’t know how to fix it. At least not right this moment. So I’m just going to write about it.

Back when lack of a paycheck and job and the imminent doom of government cheese weren’t concerns, I intended to fly out to Northern California this weekend and see a good friend get married. Although I know my decision to not go was a wise, mature one (so unlike me!), I’m sad that I’m not there to see her on one of the most important days of her life. I watched her work her butt off to become a doctor and suffer through her mother’s long illness and subsequent death, and it was about time to see her on a very happy day. Have a blessed, beautiful wedding day, dear Jess. My much happier spirit is there with you. I promise.

As a juxtaposition to that, I found out yesterday — via my sister-in-law’s Facebook status update — that my brother asked her for a divorce on Friday afternoon.

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Anxiety shmanxiety

I was wide awake at 4 a.m. this morning anxious about my anxiety. The Klonopin just wasn’t cutting it last night.

I started thinking about my anxiety and how it all started for me as child: Fear of being abducted, never to return home again. (I often daydreamed as a child about being adopted, and that my kind, loving birth mother would come and take me away one day. Yeah, I know I’m fucked up. And that’s a different kind of abduction than the one I’m about to talk about.)

Anyway, I digress. It was 1981, and Adam Walsh had been abducted and killed in south Florida (not too far from where I lived at the time). His decapitated head was found floating down a river or canal or something. I was 8. I was terrified. Even in my young (crazy) mind, I wondered — with bile frothing in my throat — whether the kidnapper had cut off his head before or after his was dead.

And so started the first shades of anxiety in my life. I did not want to walk to school alone, fearful that I would end up chopped to bits and distributed into individual Ziploc baggies. Yet my mother insisted I walk, deeming the car riders “lazy.” It was not a long journey in retrospect: when I go home to visit, I chuckle at how close my old elementary school is to my house. A third of mile, perhaps? But in the mind of a kidnapper-phobic 8-year-old, it was a 25-mile hike through dark alleys filled with leering men.

Prior to leaving for school each morning, my mother insisted on a good, hearty breakfast. “You can’t have a good day without a good breakfast” was her motto, force-feeding me eggs and cream of wheat, which would end up in piles of barf on the floor. That’s how upsetting my walks to school were: I literally made myself sick in anticipation.

Disturbed by my daily breakfast regurgitation, she took me to several doctors to determine the physical cause.

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Crazypants – Part 2

**Continued from Crazypants Part 1.

Just one month ago, the first sentence on Bea’s first page of a new life was punctuated with happiness. After three years of dating, she and Sam were getting married in just 11 days, on a farm in Vermont. The invitations had been mailed, her organic-farm-appropriate wedding gown altered. Everything was set. They just had to show up and say I do.

Before she met Sam, her friends and family had pretty much written her off as either a lesbian or a spinster.

In the dark ages, Bea’s mother would remind her, an unmarried 35-year-old woman would’ve been burned at the stake by now. Unmarried people at your age were considered to be witches. Or insane.

Bea wasn’t sure what high school her mother had attended, but apparently they used Grimm’s Fairy Tales as history textbooks.

At the urging of a friend, she signed up for one of those online 42,000-points-of-compatibility dating sites and met Sam. He courted her with precision and pursued her relentlessly. She silently swooned but played hard to get. They fell in love, and dated long distance for the course of the entire relationship. Sure, they both brought Samsonite-sized baggage to the table, but Bea was confident that, with time, they could condense the issues into a simple carry-on bag.

He eventually proposed. She said yes, maybe not because it was what she wanted to do but because it was what she was supposed to do. The prospect of being tied to a pile of sticks and set aflame scared the crap out of her.

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Crazypants – Part 1

It is 9 a.m. on Halloween. Bea’s mind is racing with wild thoughts and neurotic indictments that she has been unable to turn off for years. Bea’s sister calls this phenomenon the elves in her head: Santa’s little helpers that hammer and yammer and build toys day and night, regardless of whether it is December or June.

All the elves have indulged in triple espressos this morning. This is not a good thing.

I’m not crazy, Bea thinks. Okay, maybe I’m crazy. Or wait, maybe I’m not: Are truly crazy people even aware of their craziness? Well, I’m aware, so that makes me not crazy, right?

The group is in a circle, seated on uncomfortable folding chairs. Some people are in varying states of psychotropic-drug-induced stupor, while others are nervously rubbing worry stones or picking at their ragged cuticles with the focused intensity of a neurosurgeon digging into a patient’s cerebral cortex. It is Bea’s first day in the outpatient program. She is terrified.

A skeletal brunette sits directly across the circle from Bea. Her eyes are drooping, and she is drooling on herself. Bea watches as the window-shades of her eyelids close. Saliva oozing from the corners of her mouth quickly turns from bubbling brook to white-river rapids.

Okay, so now it’s time for goal-setting, says our perky group therapist, who has impossibly white teeth and a smiley face button pinned to her Easter-egg colored blouse. Not only what you want to get out of the program today, but what you’re going to do when you go home tonight. For those of you who are new today, we do this every morning when you arrive and every afternoon before you go home. Why don’t we start with you? she says loudly, as her eyes turn toward the salivating skeleton.

She awakes with a start. Um, my goal. Um. My goal for what?

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Rabbit Holes and Gratitude Lists

Note: Sarcastic, funny Audrey has taking the day off today. She is slated to return tomorrow.

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I feel like I’m taking another free-fall into the rabbit hole, but I’ve managed to cling onto one of the twisty roots along the side and I can still see light filtering in above me. Fuck this, I am not hitting the bottom again. There may be cute chipmunks down at the bottom of this hole, but there are also cute chipmunks outside of the rabbit hole. See? See how cute they are in the sunlight OUTSIDE the rabbit hole?

I don’t really know what the hell is wrong with me. I can’t seem to get a grip. The start of 2012 was tough: a lot of old feelings resurfaced and as I sat alone on New Year’s Eve, I realized I still miss H I M, NEB, aka emergency exit parachuting dude. I rang in 2009, 2010 and 2011 with him, and I had no reason to believe 2012 would be spent without him. I suppose the non-depressed side of me could turn that notion on its head and say “Thank god you’re not spending another year with him.” Some days, though, I’m just not there yet. Some days, I feel terribly alone. And paralyzed.

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