theicingonthecrazycake

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

Archive for the tag “anti-depressants”

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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An update to Happy Birthday to Me

You know it’s going to be a good day when you have to wrestle a used condom out of your dog’s mouth during the morning walk. It was on the lawn of a neighboring apartment building. Did they have sex on the lawn or in a car or did they fling it out of one the apartment windows? I’ll never know, nor do I really want to. I hope it was good, though.

Anyway, I’ve been rereading a couple of old posts from last Fall, and I’ve been laughing and sometimes crying. The one that stands out to me the most is my Crazy Cake inaugural post, Happy Birthday to Me. I wrote that post 21 days after the breakup; I’m already a different person than I was then. So in the spirit of realizing that things never turn out as expected, I’ve provided current updates to my original list.

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#1 – October 2011: I can go three days without showering (but need to wash my hair only every four days). Not sure if all my friends and neighbors would agree…but I promise not to judge if they ever choose to curl up in a ball and eschew bathing.

June 2012: As evidenced by my recent post, I’ve whittled successive non-showering days down to two. Hair washing frequency has also improved. Progress!

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#2 – October 2011: Vodka is NOT food group. Neither are Cheetoes. I don’t think I can look at a martini or powdery yellow salty snack EVER again. Tomorrow I start training for a 5K!

June 2012: What optimistic blather I typed above. Before cutting back my drinking to practically nothing and jumping on the yellow puffy snack wagon 2 months ago, I had stared down the barrel of the Gray Goose and Cheetoes gun many times. I have not trained for, nor run a 5K. But, I have started doing Pilates again. Again, progress.

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#3 – October 2011: My friends rule the world. So does my family (even though they sometimes put the crazy in the icing on top of the crazy cake).

June 2012: Hahahaha. Sorry. Yes, my family is definitely still crazy and entertaining. I do love them despite all the emotional and guilt-laden shenanigans. As for friends, I’ve reconnected with old dear ones and even several people here in Providence with whom I had lost touch. I will never take for granted their kindness and unconditional love. Others have fallen away, sort of disappeared. I don’t know if they were afraid, disgusted, tired of my apathy toward life and my inability to be a good friend, and/or dealing with their own difficult stuff (like me). Like the condom’s origins, I will probably never know.

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#4 – October 2011: Everyone should have a pet. The unconditional love attached to a warm nose and gentle eyes won’t immediately cure a broken heart, but it sure helps a helluva lot.

June 2012: No change on this. If you don’t have one, get thee to the local animal shelter today.

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#5 – October 2011: Exercise is a natural anti-depressant.

June 2012: I still agree. And that’s why I’m still a little depressed.

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#6 – October 2011: Unpacking after packing/reversing a move S U C K S. And anyone who causes that sort of pain is just not a nice person.

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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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Muscle memory

My land-line business phone rang at 1:28 a.m. early Thursday morning. (Do not mock my land-line; I have a very nice iPhone for personal use.)

I awoke from a deep, Klonipin-induced sleep with the thoughts “Who died, who died, whodied??” racing through my head as I tucked into the fetal position between my comforter and a fluffy pillow. By the time I reached the phone – located in the other room – the caller had gone to voice mail/hung up. I looked at the caller ID, expecting to see my parents’ phone number or a call from one of my sisters. Or maybe my brother, telling me the Bulgarian Princess had absconded overseas with my nephew. Instead, I was shocked; the illuminated number had not been on my quickly assembled mental list of potential callers.

It was NEB (now ex-boyfriend), whom I haven’t talked to since last October. Why? And why – after he left no message – did I call him back? Because, stupid me, I still fucking care for some masochistic reason. Did his mom die? Was he sick or had he been in an accident? Was he drunk and finally ready to offer an apology for his douchy douche-bag behavior last year? Did he butt-dial me? Did his new girlfriend, trolling through his phone while he slept, stumble upon my number? I had to know. It’s my nature. For me, ignorance does not equal bliss.

I dialed without any thought, the muscle memory in my fingers typing the number without the need to hit redial. It rang and rang. I got his voice mail. I hung up, leaving no message. Alas, I would get no answer to my “Whys” that night and, most likely, ever.

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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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To be or not to be a mother

Happy Mother’s Day, moms! (And a special shout-out to mine, thanks for all the labor pre- and post-birth.) I feel the need to thank you all: You’re creating future doctors, scientists, writers, philosophers, teachers, police, firefighters, politicians who may actually do their jobs and hooligans like the ones who tagged my neighborhood last week and stole four tires from an SUV down the street, leaving it up on concrete blocks.

This day got me thinking about why I’ve never felt the maternal pull. Sure, my body was engineered to create, incubate and birth life, and I won’t lie: I’ve felt the twinge here and there. But whenever I’m feeling this way, I scamper to the nearest Walmart for a reality check. Screaming kids and frustrated, expletive-wielding moms fill the aisles. All it takes is about five minutes and my ovaries have shriveled up like grapes morphing into raisins on a sunny day

However, my overall apathy toward being a mom is not the only reason for my decision. I have several more specific reasons:

#1: I value my vagina.

The definition of episiotomy gives me night terrors. I don’t have a lot of other things going for me physically: I need to lose weight, I’m one large freckle, and if I can find the inventor of a truly effective under-eye-bag-eliminating cream I will lobby for his/her Nobel Prize nomination. My vagina is one of my best features: It is unsullied, uncut. It has never witnessed (and played a vital role in) pushing a bowling ball-sized baby through a very small space. I’d like to keep it that way.

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Still insane, but now I’m an insane jobhunter

After a nearly four-month hiatus from this blog, during which I completed a 10-week Fiction Writing course at Brown and have endured a job loss, I am back in the blogging saddle. My writing instructor encouraged me to write for at least 1-2 hours per day. So I figured, blogging would be a perfect way to get some writing hours under my belt.

After getting the pink slip (which is not officially official until late Summer, so thankfully I am still drawing a paycheck/health insurance until then), I began to think about the word “jobhunter.” I feel like I should be going into the forest of jobs with my bow and arrow (a la Katniss Everdeen). Or maybe I’m like a job-hunting lioness, who stalks the innocent, unsuspecting job at the watering hole, or an orange-vested redneck, waiting in the job blind with a scoped rifle in hand?

Is jobseeker any better? “Seeking” sounds so calm, as if one is searching for enlightenment or foraging for mushrooms in the woods. In this economy (arrgh, I hate that phrase, I’ll get to that below), simply seeking ain’t gonna cut it, especially when the state’s maximum monthly unemployment benefit is about $900 dollars. (That will barely cover my rent, let alone my raging espresso habit, or better yet, food and those other pesky necessities called electricity, healthcare and gasoline.) Instead, I need to hunt, beg, barter, prostitute, plead, argue, outwit, bend, break, and do backflips while tap-dancing and juggling sticks of fire simultaneously. Whew, I’m out of breath (and slightly terrified) after typing that.

And I swear, if I hear “in this economy” one more time, I’m going to swallow my fist. It is the reason (and sometimes the excuse) for myriad things. My very very very favorite is this one: “In this economy, you should be glad you have ANY job.” I’m thinking thief, hooker, Bernie Madoff wanabee, mob boss, bank robber, professional pyromaniac and/or hitman are not the ANY jobs I would personally want (but if that’s your preference, I will not judge). I will, however, serve as a barista, muck stalls, walk dogs, model nude, or do backflips while tap-dancing and juggling sticks of fire simultaneously. Any caffeine addicts, horse/dog owners, artists or circuses/traveling carnivals looking for an employee? You know how to contact me.

©Copyright 2012, The Icing on the Crazy Cake, Inc.

COL Letter: I want a refund for 2011

NOTE FROM AUTHOR: This is the first in a series of Crotchety Old Lady (COL) complaint letters, which I will write from time to time as life experiences and subject matter merit. My first COL letter was written in 2003 following a horrific trip on Delta, and it is a favorite among my friends. (Second best letter was sent to McDonald’s after purchasing their “new organic” coffee, which tasted like burnt mold.)

Dear 2011 Customer Service Representative:

I would like a refund for my 2011 flight (departing 1/1/2011, arriving 1/31/11). Perhaps a free first-class trip to Ireland or Italy would suffice, as long as you don’t seat me next to a 350-pound woman with halitosis (who won’t stop talking to me) or two kids watching Toy Story on their laptop loudly, with no headphones. Instead, I want to be seated next to someone funny or cute, like David Sedaris or John Cusack. That said, what I really want is a full cash refund for 2011 and the promise that my 2012 flight won’t be as crappy.

When you sold me this overpriced ticket, you promised me great things: A lovely trip with a non-commitment-phobic boyfriend I love (with first-class accommodations and plenty of legroom), happiness (in lieu of being coked out on three different anti-depressants for Major Depressive Disorder), and a normal family, finally. What a load of crap you sold me; lies, all lies.

The flight was smooth in January, albeit with storm clouds on the horizon. In early February, we made an emergency landing in a snowstorm and were stuck on the tarmac in Buffalo for six hours. With no heat. By the fourth hour, my now-ex-boyfriend (NEB) freaked out, opened the emergency exit door and disappeared into a haze of  snowflakes. I have no idea where he went and didn’t hear from him for a month.

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