Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saturday :)

I like Saturdays, when I don't schedule them too heavily. Today is a free day on my calender, except for that niggling feeling that I might be forgeting something. I've had that for a few weeks now, though, so I think it's just a feeling. Another, "Hi, Anxiety, how are you doing today?" Actually, I was thinking of naming one of the thought-groups Whatif. "Hi, Whatif; I see you came up with a new idea (new as in this month). Whatif I forgot something that I scheduled. Oh, dear. Well, maybe I'd be glad I forgot, because maybe I don't want to do it anymore." (Whatif: "Whatif someone reads this and you had scheduled to be with this someone and now they feel hurt because you don't want to do it anymore.") "Whatif, that's a complicated one. And don't you think it's a bit unfair to qualify forgetting something as not wanting to do something?" (Whatif: "When have I EVER been restricted by FAIRNESS. Not a good comeback.") See how much fun you can have talking to your thoughts and still not qualifying as hearing voices?

Anyway, I slept until after noon. That is a bit late for me. Not too late for today, because I am enjoying my free day, but it might cause a little trouble tonight. It probably has something to do with staying up late last night. Which was also fun and also fine because I decided it was a free night. There were things I could have done, but I chose not to.

Last night I found something that doesn't make sense to say to one's self (I found out by saying it to myself). "I wouldn't have done that if I were you." Well that obviously isn't true.

I seem to be in a good mood. I considered trying to remember the upsetting-to-me things I wanted to write about (because I'm pretty sure I had some)... Oh, now I remembered. My counselor suggested that constantly trying to figure out if I was depressed and how depressed I was might be an OCD issue. She suggested that I don't actually need to know if and how depressed I am. Novel thought. Oh, but I need to know so that we can treat it right. Really? If I get it wrong, I might tell the psychiatrist the wrong information and he might prescribe the wrong medication. My counselor's response? "Dr. ______? Not a chance." So now I know that my counselor has lots of faith in my psychiatrists ability to accurately prescribe medication. Oh, and she or maybe it was someone else used the fact that he had prescribed medication as evidence that I'm not just making my whole mental illness issue up.

But I was going to not try to remember these thoughts and try to enjoy my good mood that has now receded.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

two years

I've started a new habit, if two days counts as a habit. Writing two posts in one day. But hey, then I don't have to cram all my thoughts on all my subjects into one post.

This one is about dejavou, which may be spelled wrong, but the spell check isn't telling me how to spell it right. I'm remembering two years ago, when the ERP had my stomach hurting and my appetite hiding and it might have messed with my sleep, too. Two years ago ish, when I decided to add medication to the therapy in my grand scheme to end my OCD and depression. Actually, we aren't quite at two years since my first appointment to see a doctor about it, but I probably decided around this time. In a few weeks, it will be two years since I started medication. I remember this because I had the unfortunate time coincidence of starting my medication a day or two before my birthday, rendering me very tired for my birthday dinner with my family. I am not likely to forget my birthday, so I'm not likely to forget about when I started medication, until I forget the year. That could be nice. See, there is hope of forgetting something.

Anyway, back then, my counselor told me about another lady for whom it took two years to get back to normal life. Back then, I thought, that is so long. One year is long, but okay, but two years is too long. I hope it doesn't take me that long.

Now? I think, two years sounds so good. I'll take two years; that would mean I recover any day now. Two years would be great. And I doubt it will happen (see my pessimism shining through?). (Am I making a self-fulfilling prophecy?) (Should I just go back to my last post and read my illogical statements with their identification? Might be easier than repeating the whole am-I-depressed-because-I'm-not-handling-it-right thing again.)

And now that I've decided not to go there again (I'll at least put it off), how about a change of subject? I know, so much for a one-topic post. This one is on anxiety. I was at an informal support group meeting, and the subject of camping came up. And the we-should-go-on-a-camping-trip topic came and drifted away. And I marveled at how these people spoke so casually and easily about camping as if it was actually a relaxing or at least a fun endeavor. Finally, I asked someone, swimming and camping don't give you anxiety? Which maybe wasn't fair (to myself) since we are all there for different reasons. Just because I have anxiety in one area doesn't mean everybody does. But it was one of those moments when I realized a bit more of what my anxiety stole from me. I have some positive emotions regarding camping, but the anxiety I know would go with it (or at least that did last time I went, when I determined not to go again until my medication was working better) makes it not nearly as desirable. Actually, it makes it almost undesirable.

Not sure I'm a very good counselee, and other illogical statements

My therapist lent me her copy of the The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression. She also has one coming in the mail to her that I could have if I choose to go through with it.

And I'm really good at nodding my head.

But I don't like the book.

I read a chapter or two yesterday. Part way through the first chapter, I stopped because I was having a hard cry. Because to me, the book is showing me this ideal plan that will eradicate my depression and prevent a relapse. Seems about as real to me as a light saber. And a bit dangerous, too. Because the words go through my eyes, through my brain, are transformed into sledgehammers, and bang about on my emotions. You terrible person. Oh, look at that. A depressed thought. You are using depressed thoughts to hurt yourself emotionally. Look at you. Your depression is your fault. If you just did it right, you wouldn't be depressed anymore. There's no excuse for two years of depression (not counting the years before you buckled down to fight it). Hah! Even untreated depression should be over by now. Read this book and see how you are doing it all wrong. You should know better. You were brought up right. You are just... Words fail to convey my response, because maybe it's more of a feeling. A yucky, angry, hurt, broken feeling.

Anyway, I'm undecided about what I will say. Or maybe I'm not undecided, but what I plan to say is undecided. What do I do? Go see my counselor at my normal appointment time and say, "Hi, Counselor. I don't want to do that book. I don't like it. It makes me feel bad." Then technically, I know, it doesn't make me feel bad. I feel bad in response to it. But maybe that is just further proof that I am not doing all I can to kick this depression. Maybe it reveals that I am one of those spoken-less-well-of people who doesn't like therapy and thinks it isn't helpful.

I see some, um, non-sequiters there. I can't remember the CBT name for it. All or nothing thinking, that's it. I don't like one book, therefore, I don't like any counseling. One book makes me feel bad, therefore I must be guilty. (That's not all or nothing. Maybe that one is catastrophizing.) I don't like one book, therefore, I am not doing all I can to kick my depression. Hmmm.

So instead, I can say, "Um, Counselor, I don't want to do that book. Do you have any other ideas?" Maybe I could even come up with my own idea. What would that be? I mean, a real, let's try to fight this depression, idea.

And here's another factor; I feel like I'm getting my counseling sessions on charity. Right now, it's just my co-pay that my counselor is taking off. When I'm without insurance, I really won't be a profitable client. So should I just quit counseling? But then fear rises up. I don't want to do this alone. At least when I see my counselor once a week, I feel like I'm not fighting alone. Maybe that is worth something. (Oh, and I don't mean that she's the only one that helps me, but she is one of the people with a larger role in helping me.)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Food Stamps

Pardon my slightly political post. You are welcome to skip it. And I'm pro-Food Stamps, just so you can decide if you want to read on.

I grew up around people who thought the government was too involved in people's lives. Unobtrusive and necessary laws like driving laws and laws against stealing are fine, but "welfare?" Welfare was seen as a messed up system often abused by people who don't want to work. Basically, welfare had a negative connotation.

Then my brain plays meanie on me and I end up in the psych unit of the local hospital. "Behavioral Health Unit," since that is supposed to somehow make me feel better than "Mental Health Unit." Seriously, I'd rather have something wrong with my brain than with my behavior, because I associate less guilt with that. "Mental Illness," to me, conveys the idea of an illness instead of a sin problem, and I like that, so I will keep calling it a mental illness, so there! But I'm side tracked now.

Basically, depression and anxiety and how I dealt with them disrupted my life, my finances, and my ability to work. I still work, but I am intentionally not working full time, especially since I am going to college part time. In addition to my personal experience, I've been with other people struggling with mental illness.

So now, I don't talk about welfare, at least not by that name. I talk about assistance from the government (I'm using that term for various levels of government, depending on the place in this post) in dealing with my hospital bill. Somehow, few are upset with that arrangement. I talk about "disability," what some people who would so much prefer to be working, but who have been stopped by their mental illness, what they now can live on with some independence. I'm really thankful for disability income for some people, and I'm not particularly pleased with the "people get it who should really be working" argument. Sure, there are probably people like that, but then there are all the people who really need it. Are you going to deny them the opportunity for disability income because a few people misuse the system? I'm sure I'm oversimplifying this, and I'm not too interested in debating whether or not the government "should" be doing this. I don't see anyone else stepping up to take over in this area of providing for people, so I want to be thankful for what we have.

Then there are Food Stamps. Once again, that is help from the government, help that was not highly regarded by people I grew up around. So now I am leaving my fine monologue on the benefits or evils of current "welfare" and moving back to my personal life. I finally applied for Food Stamps. Still gives me a bit of a sick feeling. Friday, after work, I tried to gather all the paperwork I might need and I headed in to see if I qualified. Someone told me I would, but I didn't want to be over-confident. I entered the waiting room and the lady asked what I was there for. I said it aloud, wishing I didn't have to announce it "publicly" in the waiting room. Somehow, that didn't stop me from later hearing other people as they came in. (Reassurance seeking? Quite possibly.) It is a strange feeling to suddenly find myself among people "we" used to generically look down on. It is humbling and freeing and guilt-inducing all at once. It leaves me as a part of a different "we." Was I doing the right thing? I was going to do it anyway. And I did. I've been approved for Food Stamps in July. My OCD is happy to bug me about this and use it as leverage when guilting me about any purchase I make that doesn't pass OCD's approval. Now, instead of only wasting money given to me and that I earn, I'm also receiving money to purchase food, money OCD says I wouldn't need if I would just ... be a better person. Never mind that the people deciding if I qualify for Food Stamps know how much money I have and that I might sometimes spend a few dollars for a dvd or for stickers or something "unnecessary" (all great wastes of money, argues my OCD).

Then another side of me is grateful. I will be able to buy food. I mean, I already do, but I won't have to use my credit card. I will sometimes be able to buy fruits or vegetables that I currently can't afford. And they have done this in a way that still allows me to choose my food. That seems so considerate and respectful, such a nice way for them to help me and preserve my dignity. And it is a tangeable witness that society does value me as a person and they want me to be here on earth, alive and with good food. So I am grateful to the government, and to God for providing to me this way. And that trumps my sick stomach over taking such a "risky" step to apply.

the answer

I guess I keep trying to get rid of the whole mental illness stuff by finding the answer. If I understand it, then I will be able to avoid it, right?

And maybe there is some truth to that. For example, this morning, I slept too late to get to my church before too much of it had already passed, so I started trying to form plan B. But plan B was very important, as in, stomach-ache inducing important. Then I finally told myself, it actually doesn't matter that much. If it is a bad church, I know enough to survive one visit. Hey, I could always walk out if it is that bad, something I've kind of wanted to do for a while. But to put it simply, this decision wasn't that important. Realizing that helped, and I picked a church (after driving past to make sure the service time was okay).

It was a small church, which was fun for me; I grew up in small churches, even though I go to a large one now. We sang songs that I already knew, some that I haven't sung in awhile. I enjoyed it except that it lasted long enough to put the bottoms of my feet to sleep. Then the "sermon" was actually a mission report, fairly standard and not too hard to deal with. Nothing spiking my usual "I'm a terrible Christian" anxiety. In fact, I think that churches I visit just once don't usually spike that one too bad. After church, there was a potluck. I shocked some people by telling them my age (I apparently look ten years younger, and the gap seems to grow the older I get - I have more years under my belt and still appear to be the same age). And we chatted.

Since I knew no-one and had little to loose on my one-time visit (no need to go back if I decided not to), I decided to bring up depression and anxiety to one lady to try to get a feel on the church's standing towards mental illness. Of course, all I really got was her opinion, but that was enough. I used the words "mental illness," and she wondered what I had. My statement of depression and anxiety (OCD seemed needlessly specific) was met with, oh that's normal. A relative of hers has anxiety attacks and calls her. She has her little issues here and there. I really couldn't tell what her standing was. She asked if I was on medication to control it, and I said I was, but was having trouble finding the right one. It still amazes me how people seem to write off the issue if you are on medication, as if there is one medication that will work for you, leaving you back at the mysterious "normal" setting, able to handle life with nothing more than a slight inconvenience. I've actually thought this, before I experienced otherwise. I even think it is almost a nice theory - I'd be okay with the first medication (the one I started two years ago) working and having me pretty normal. As long as that normal didn't involve perpetual depression. I don't like that so well. That isn't good enough for normal for me, sorry that I'm so picky. So anyway, I didn't pin down the church's standing let alone her opinion.

I've been looking for books and anything on Christianity and Depression, how they go together without producing twelve bucketfuls of inaccurate guilt. At least, I'm assuming they can. I have picked at least one to purchase, but am trying to wait to use a different credit card - the one I use for internet purchases, but that one hasn't come in yet. So then I'm struggling between my "method" of keeping myself safe from identity and credit card theft and my eagerness to buy the book. Because it's as if, if I just get that book, everything will be alright. I know that really, I'll probably read the book in four hours or less, either feel worse or feel better for a time, and then return to my nebulous, irritating state of depression and anxiety. So really, putting it off one more day wont be that big a deal. Sometimes I think that with this depression and anxiety, my mind distorts things so that little decisions are huge, important, life-changing events. It's no wonder they bring on such strong feelings, right?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Learn from the Ostrich...'s myth

Saw my therapist today. To my satisfaction, we actually worked on the stuff we'd planned to work on instead of completely getting sidetracked on my last week's issues. To my disappointment, I didn't quite deal as much as I wish I could have on this last week's issues. Maybe I should plan to spend the first 15 minutes on immediate issues or the last 15 minutes, which is about what I did today. Somehow, I want her feedback on what I've been dealing with during the week, but I also want to make actual progress on bigger, underlying issues.

I think we will be going through The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression: A Step-By-Step Program, by Knaus and Ellis. First off, I inwardly rebelled against the idea, because I hate the name of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, even though it used to be my favorite. I dislike the thought I now associate with it; that I have a behavior problem and if I'd just "do what's right," I wouldn't be depressed or anxious anymore. So we came up with the idea of renaming it, so I think I will call it The Cognitive Behavioral Coping Skills Workbook for Depression. Because to me, coping skills make the best of a bad situation that isn't my fault. And if for some strange reason the depression disappears in the face of my excellent "coping skills" that I hope to achieve, then I hope I won't get all mad at myself for not already having these skills earlier (back to the my-depression-is-my-fault issue - I'm afraid if I can get rid of it, then it is my problem that it is here in the first place and for each moment I let it continue to exist). I realize that my aversion to anything possibly indicative of the slightest bit of guilt may actually in itself delay my recovery - yes, I suppose I feel a bit of guilt about that, too, even as I reject it. And here it might be time for the ostrich head-in-the-sand trick; I can't figure it out, so let's quick think about something else.

Speaking of which, maybe the ostrich head-in-the-sand trick would benefit people and we should put it on our list of coping skills instead of on our list of insults.

Currently, I'm more for head-in-bed. I got new sheets, which might have been a sin and a waste of money, but I did, and I really like them. Not to mention the fact that I like to sleep (when I'm not having disturbing dreams or restless sleep).

I did discuss my current deepening of depression with my counselor, but in a very short amount of time, since we were almost out of time. Her responses got me thinking. See, I'd been going over scenarios in my head, including what-if I ended up back in the hospital with my depression. I just thought it was depressed and a bit desperate thinking. But my counselor added the word "catastrophizing" or at least she added the concept. And really, that is some of what I've been doing. Like the last blog post when I was all discouraged because I had trouble eating lunch. Trouble eating lunch along with a couple nights of less than ideal sleep and some depressed thoughts and I was envisioning my medication having failed and a long-term return of worse depression. By long term, I meant a couple months. I don't like to think of more than a couple months of moderate-to-severe depression. Not that I think it will really go away after a couple months, but I just want to block the picture from my mind. Head-in-the-sand ostrich idea used to save me once again.

So at least for a couple hours, I am no longer living under the immagined predetermined depression. I'm still depressed, but maybe not as depressed as if I really was heading back towards the psych unit in the hospital. Which sometimes has this strange push-pull to it, because I long for a quick fix and for setting everything else aside and dealing with the depression with help, while at the same time, I want to protect my pocket book and my job and my normal life and not having to readjust to normal life after leaving the hospital again and I really don't want to be the sort of person a nurse there said existed who would just go in there because it is easier and comfortable and safe when they actually needed to be out dealing with life. So anyway, I think the quick-fix hope is probably a big piece of it, and I realize that hospital psych units don't actually get rid of depression, at least not ordinarily. In my own one time experience, it was maybe helpful, but it was also emotionally exhausting and it did not by any means get rid of the depression. I probably got worse afterwards before I got better.

Anyhow, how's that for a rambling post? I also found that it got harder and harder to think while I was in my counseling session (we were going over my description of an ideal church and on how to overcome some roadblocks). I like to think that means we were making real progress. Because apparently, progress should be difficult or something. I think I'll keep thinking we made progress. It's a happy thought, after all.

And finally, I just looked it up on the internet and found that ostriches don't burry their heads in the sand to hide from danger. They might, however, put their heads on  the sand so that they can more or less disappear. Which blends quite nicely with going to bed, don't you think, while we're on the disappearing subject? Only, it's still too early for that for me (not to mention the daunting task of preparing and eating supper that still is to come).

The other thing I keep wanting from a counseling session is some kind of solution or resolution or something. The hour of randomly confronting various issues in the hope that someday my depression and anxiety will improve doesn't fit into a nice, neat, box in my head. I find myself wanting to sum up the counseling session in words and find some sort of solution to the tears that come a little closer to the surface (though they usually don't reach the surface) during counseling sessions. Instead, I get... to go back to my "normal" life. That's depressing. I almost ended on an uplifting note for me, and then I touched on a sadder one. Rats.

Um, tomorrow is Friday? Does that work? Yes and no; then I have the weekend anxieties to work with. Maybe I will actually go in and apply for food stamps tomorrow. I would be proud of myself for doing that if I actually did it. Proud of myself for taking what feels like a humbling step. It takes admitting I'm not totally self-sufficient. Which seems to assume that I should be self-sufficient. But maybe that is an incorrect assumtion. Actually, I think it is incorrect. Now, quick, let me post this before I go back down another emotional hill... (See, I want to sum up my random blog, too.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

deeeeepresssssssd

Annoyingly depressed. Like, "I thought I was done with this" depressed. This isn't supposed to happen. Even if my newest medication isn't working. I'm supposed to be wrong in thinking that my medication isn't living up to it's job. It's supposed to be working, and I'm supposed to slowly realize how much better I actually am feeling. The move was supposed to just be a little setback. You know, all my stuff in my new place and, tada! the stress goes away. Work gets better and better. I figure out my financial situation. I make amazing progress on my one summer class. My head is full of the names of bones and muscles in the body (the class is human anatomy). And the sun is supposed to shine, and I'm not supposed to still be using the heat in my car. Definitely not.

Oh, and I'm not supposed to say "supposed to," because it is too much like "should."

The flat tire (from two different nails) on Sunday was okay, because I was over-scheduled and needed to take the afternoon off. See? My over-scheduling of the weekend was solved.

But today was not just Monday, it was Tuesday! Monday, I was "supposed to" brown the meat I bought. Instead, after talking on the phone and delaying supper until seven thirty or later, I had fast food for supper. Then I went shopping and found a book that made me laugh in the store. So, of course, I bought it (it was three dollars). Actually, the clerk forgot to charge me for that, and only charged me for everything else she put in my bag. I forgot about that. Maybe I'll go back and give them my three dollars plus tax. But even I, with my OCD, know that her mistake wasn't my fault (or hers, either; I once tried to give someone twenty dollars change when I wasn't supposed to. The kind man figured it out right there and helped me fix it). Anyway, I got home and wanted to read the book again (a short book), but I was afraid it would loose it's power to make me laugh. It seems I was right; the second time through wasn't as good. But who knows, maybe the third time will be better? That or I can show it to someone else; that might help me appreciate the humor more fully again.

Today, I convinced myself that I could take just a short nap. Alarm set for half an hour. And then another half hour got added since I didn't fall all the way asleep in the first half hour. And then 39 minutes after my second alarm went off, I returned to consciousness. Rats! Oh, that was a nice nap, but I'm a little worried about sleeping tonight. I've been having trouble the past couple nights. Like last night (this morning) in my dream when I was trying to make the plane to Puerto Rico and was running late. I don't remember quite what the results were except for me being a bit extra grumpy this morning.

Anyway, after my nap, I couldn't put off lunch any longer. But it was still so hard to get myself to get lunch out! Seriously!? What's wrong with me? Even with the bribe of watching an old tv show (funny one). But I did it; I ate lunch. It only took me one and a half tv shows to eat it all. And then I felt sick. Oranges. I like them, but didn't leave me so happy this time.

Now I'm putting off supper a little, but am still trying to get over the fact that I struggled to just get out and eat lunch. I know there is a name for being discouraged that you are depressed.

So my "sane" reasoning theorizes that the move threw me off more than I expected it to, which means I am still less able to handle stress than I wish I was. I'm having trouble figuring out the whole eating thing with my tiny refrigerator, freezer only for ice, and microwave and single free-standing electric burner. My old supper stand by was frozen pizza, but the food safetyness of my freezer is very debatable (not to mention the size), so I can't/wont stock up. Instead, I will ... have to figure something else out. Rats.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

better (than my last post)

I haven't written all week, so I give myself permission to blog twice in one day.

I took a long bubble bath and felt better. Then I ate pizza and watched two episodes from Season 1 of Guilligan's Island, a nice, fairly light comedy good for distracting me during meal times (yes, I still distract myself intentionally to make eating easier). It was nice. And then babysitting, which was nice, too. So the day turned out all right after all.

the weekend

I woke up and started the day with the significant concern that I would use the day wrong. Hello, new "dominant" face of OCD. Got through breakfast and returned to bed, because I didn't know what to do or how to do it in the time between now and when I'm scheduled to babysit this evening. Eventually, I convinced myself to get up with the temptation of wearing something exciting - i.e., something I wouldn't wear to work. But, of course, the first choice no longer fit me. The trouble with gaining weight, whether or not I'm still within a decent weight range. Anyhow, I finally got out of the house and on to checking Facebook and blogging, and I'm feeling a bit better. The moments of indecision when I don't want to do anything because I can't decide what to do are annoying, but once I actually start doing something, it gets better. As, I'm pretty sure, any counselor would tell me to do, and I would counsel myself to do, too.

I babysat again last night - different family. This one was supposed to end earlier, and it did, but it was still pretty late for me to be out. And I was asked to work yesterday afternoon, too, so it was lots of work time. Cut down on the "free" time that I would have to decide how to use, but I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed with life right now. Yay for over scheduling - and yes, I'm blaming myself for that, but still want to do both babysitting jobs. And Father's Day is this week. I'm wishing it was next week, but unfortunately, I can't change the day of the holiday. Oh, dear, I think I'm sounding complainy.

I wish my depression wasn't so strong. I wish I didn't have an anxiety disorder. I wish I could sleep all day, except that I don't even want to do that.


Anyway, I guess that's enough for now. The wind outside is really nice; just perfect since it isn't too strong. And that today is Saturday is nice.

I think one of the issues for me in choosing how to spend my time is that I really, really, really want to do whatever it would be that would help me feel better, get me out of the cloud of depression. I have so many hours to try to escape these feelings of ungroundedness and freefloating, not properly attatched to reality feeling. Well, at least that's the problem today. I want to feel better really badly (even though what I'm feeling now is tons better than how bad I have felt in the past). I feel confused and lost and half asleep. Oh, well.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The depression "wasn't hiding so well"

After babysitting until after 1 am, I went home and followed my going-to-bed-routine, created not for OCD but in the interest of sleeping and the comfort of "normal." And slept late. But I did get up. Babysitting is key for two reasons. The first is that one of my tires died yesterday. The tire shop was able to stick a used one in its place, allowing me to postpone the inevitable purchase of new tires. The cost for this and the service was forty-some dollars (as opposed to almost four hundred dollars to put on the cheapest new tires). Incidentally, I also was asked to babysit last night, and I got paid $40. Yes, the similarity was evident to me, and I chalked it up to a miracle from God. So that was nice.

The other reason it is important is that it threw off my sleep schedule more than usual, which left me less "strong" than usual, which will matter in a few minutes.

I got up in time to get a package from the post office - a new table cloth - actually a cloth one, not the cheap vinal kind (that I still like also) - thank you, Aunt and Grandma! Otherwise, I probably would have slept past eleven in the morning. Then I went thrift store shopping, purchasing a family of elephants. Before you call me out on my great waste of money, let me assure you that they were small and cost less than a dollar fifty. And yes, that may have been a waste of my pennies, but oh, well. Then, I managed to get myself to go to this health fair thing they were having. Actually, I just told myself I'd drive past it and see how it looked, and I saw a car pulling in and pulled in myself. Congratulations, self, on attending a social event (full of people I didn't know, which in some ways makes it easier for me).

The health fair thing was a free offering to the community providing opportunities for medical check-ups (they included mental health visits!), education, food, and information. I attended a class on managing my money. The instructor was informative and nice, the classmates ranged from very nice to irritating. And I'm waffling between guilt-tripping myself for not taking the bus to work (i.e., the way to spend an hour riding instead of driving ten minutes and still adding a ten minute plus or minus walk to the whole thing), guilt-tripping myself for other ways I've spent my money that weren't absolutely necessary, and moving on to more helpful subjects. Going with the helpful subjects choice right now. After all, I have a great memory for guild-inducing actions, so I can always guilt-trip myself later. Currently, I can get more worry mileage worrying about whether or not to buy an electric burner so that I can brown meat and saute vegetables, etc. It might, you see, be a waste of money, and blah, blah, blah. Gotta love my brain.

Anyway, I finally escaped that class to go to one on greaving. Conveniently, though I was fifteen minutes late, no-one else chose to attend, so I got to talk one-on-one with the lady. She gave me a brief overview of the greif training stuff she does, and then let me just talk to her, since she was a counselor. So I continued my list of greater losses until I started crying (which didn't take much; the sadness was very close by, and, as I pointed out at the beginning, I was very tired). She was happy to hear that I already was seeing a counselor - after I started crying, she was happy to know that I was seeing my counselor next week. But she was also a momentary listening ear. Thank you, counselor lady. I mentioned that I had OCD - she wondered when that started for me. I still don't know why she wondered. Anyway, I said my OCD was better now, or it was in hiding. So was my depression, I said. They were both hiding, pretending I didn't have a mental illness. She said that my depression and OCD weren't doing a very good job of hiding (well, at least she meant the depression). I guess that is a bit hard to back up while one wipes tears from one's eyes. But who wouldn't cry on a lovely rainy Saturday when a kind person was listening and when one had stayed up very late the night before? I mean, isn't moderate depression "healthy", normal, and actually hardly any depression at all, at least in the context of severe depression? See, I'm guessing I really am still moderately depressed, even though I had convinced myself otherwise. But I can't know for sure, because the depression screening quiz could be innacurate, I could have taken it "wrong," and I still have enough OCD not to be sure about my depression level. Interestingly enough, my counselor didn't try to convince me that I wasn't moderately depressed; she suggested the "it's so much better than it was" explaination, too.

And the depression is so much better. After all, I did make it to the health fair. And I did make it through babysitting. And I'm not a helpless, hopeless blob. I have hope right now. So there!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Not a superhero

I don't think words can express how glad I am that today is Friday. It was time for the work week to end. I still try to be SuperTeacherCaregiver. If such a superhero existed, I'm sure it would have more than two arms and definately at least two heads. This superhero would be able to intervene in time every time so that no child bit anyone else. That would be really important and save a lot of stress for all the adults involved. If the superhero had any intervention ability left over, it could be used for the less serious squables that the children have. As for the two heads (at least), these would be needed so that the teacher could know everything that happened in the classroom. No socks would ever be lost. No scratch would be left unexplained. Everything would be recorded in the Superbrains (with super memory). Any question about how any child ate, slept, played, etc would be answerable right away with no delay for searching one's memory (and the SuperTeacherCaregiverHero would have 100% recall, unlike me).

As for hands, the SuperTeacherCaregiver needs two per child in the classroom plus two more for cleaning, filling out paperwork, and teaching Sign Language in it's spare time. Oh, and the SuperTeacherCaregiver either needs one huge heart or several smaller ones to care for and love each child every moment of the day.

Wouldn't the SuperTeacherCaregiver look scarey? Like a monster? With octopus arms, multiple heads, wow. I wouldn't enroll my child in that classroom (if I had a child). Not unless the SuperTeacherCaregiver had developed an excellent reputation. And even then, have a monster care for my child? Maybe not.

So maybe it's a good thing that I'm not a SuperTeacherCaregiverHero. If only for cosmetic reasons.

But since I'm not a SuperHero, I need the weekend to recover from all the little or not so little squabbles that I didn't manage to solve in time. I need to recover from my disappointment. I need to rest. And I need to celebrate the fact that I actually got all of them to sleep for nap today! And the fact that it is the weekend. I guess I'm getting redundant.

On the mental health front, I'm still not sure how depressed I am. I know that I was stressing out or something because I had stomach pain off and on through the day yesterday. The kind that goes away with sleep and/or sufficient relaxation. Confirmation that I'm not a superhero and maybe I still am on track trying not to work too much.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Disjointed thoughts

Thrift stores give me two emotional highs, one when I make a purchase I am happy about, and the other when I donate stuff. So much for giving in secret. My counselor talked a little about getting rid of things and understanding that our identity, while sometimes represented by things, is not dependent on things, and that that is an important understanding to be able to get rid of things. It was definitely a helpful thought when I sorted through things. I used a spin off thought: I can remember this event or this person without keeping this item (or at least not the whole item; I tore off a few inside cover pages that just had the book title and a note to me from someone). And I got rid of two boxes of stuff! Hurray! It also helped when I thought about a book I was getting rid of would maybe help someone else. This was good for overcoming guilt for not reading "enough" of a few books I've been given.

When I spoke to the hematologist who works in a cancer center and who I think was also an oncologist, I mentioned how maybe I wanted to work with kids with autism with my communication disorders degree (or rather, the degree after the bachelor's degree). He said something along the lines of, "Autism. Wow, that's hard." Somehow he conveyed his understanding of the possibility that the child with autism would not got better. What struck me was how he found autism to be so discouraging, yet worked in a cancer center. To me, there is so much hope for kids with autism (especially including the joys they already have), but working with cancer patients sounds hard. It reminds me of when I lived in Puerto Rico, and they found large wild animals (i.e. cougars or bears) to be a formidable fear, while they experienced hurricane season every year. Personally, I feel safer taking my chances living in a state with cougars than on an island in hurricane land. I guess we adjust to (some of) the challenges around us, while difficulties further away inspire more fear or distress.

Now, I warned in my post title that my thoughts weren't nicely related, so prepare for another topic switch. While I was going through some of my books, I found "Feeling Good," by Dr. David Burns. My previous psychiatrist recommended this book, and I made some progress reading through it. Early on, there is a depression test, which I took every week or so for about two months my first year with a psychiatrist. I qualified as "severely depressed" at at least one point, but did recede to "moderate depression." So yesterday, I thought, I'm feeling so well, I'll just take the test one more time before I give the book away. Then I can see how undepressed I am and feel good about it. Hind-sight? Not the best idea. If you think you are doing well, why not just enjoy it? Because, what I found out is that I still qualified as moderately depressed. Mid-moderate, but definitely not in the mild range yet. Rats! How depressing! Here I thought I was doing so much better and yet I still might be moderately depressed? I have contrary feelings; A. I still have a decent excuse for not being able to lead the life I would lead if I wasn't struggling with mental illness. (But I haven't even tried living such a life; maybe I could do it, but I don't want to try and fail.) B. The test might not be accurate (of course, it might not have been accurate when I used it before, either, but I thought it fairly indicative). And anyway, who cares what the test says? I'm feeling good right now! C. Hmmm, I wonder what has changed that has me feeling so ... like there is light in my brain, like I'm not overcome by depression. I wonder if it is just a perspective change more than a change in depression level. That and I'm sure the summer weather helps (I mean the sort of summer weather that has you keeping your jacket not too far away, but at least there is more light outside).

Now, for another thought, this one depression related. Maybe there is a theme after all. My pastor has decided to do a sermon series on Ecclesiastes. I am somewhat amused and curious to see how he'll take it. My entry association with the book of Ecclesiastes going into the sermon was of when I read a bit of it in the psych unit of the hospital (I think it was one of those "open your Bible and read wherever you happen to open it" moments). Let me say that reading it on a hospital bed in a locked ward gives one a different perspective. I mentioned it to someone whose opinion I respect later, and they didn't think Solomon meant what he wrote in the depressed way I interpreted it. But to me, it does seem a pretty articulate expression of depressed thought. Anyway, the pastor opens up saying that this wasn't the Sunday to get a cheer-you-up message; it was a rather depressing one. Hmmm, I thought, I need a cheer-you-up message, though. In fact, though, I was potentially one of the least depressed people from the sermon. After all, what does Solomon say that I haven't thought? I mean, that's ridiculous; surely such a wise man thought much more, but some of what he thought isn't so far from what I've felt. "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity..." To me, one of the most discouraging parts was what was probably meant to encourage people at the end. That living for God, life is meaningful. This is annoying because "living for God" has not taken away my depression, which remains plenty aware of the vanity meaningless issue.

Anyway, still on the same topic, after the sermon, I went and talked with some friends. One said that the sermon was really depressing, and the other agreed. Well, I said, if one was moderately to severely depressed, these were normal thoughts, normal thoughts for me. "Thanks, Abigail," replied a friend sarcastically, as if the idea were also depressing. And I was encouraged. How's that for an unexpected response? Well, I look up to this friend, and knowing that average people find such thoughts depressing has me not feeling so bad for feeling depressed. Sometimes I feel like the princess and the pea or somebody who is a wimp and cannot stand up under normal pressure and needs medication and therapy and such (no, you choose to get therapy, my counselor corrected). But if the average human finds such "vanity" thoughts depressing, maybe they would struggle with depression if they were in my position. Maybe I'm not abnormally weak.

Anyway, now I will conclude my thoughts. Despite citing severe depression in my conversation, I am not severely depressed, even if I still thoroughly qualify for medical help and therapy. I'm over all feeling pretty good right now, and rather fascinated by various thoughts that have come up. I am curious about the "happy ending" that I hope still exists in Ecclesiastes. And I'm curious about how the pastor is telling the people in church how finding happiness and fulfillment in life through work and things and such is not going to work while I intentionally work on finding happiness and fulfilling feelings in life through work and things and such. I briefly considered that maybe I was making a big mistake as I struggle to leave my depression, but I'm going to "take the risk of being wrong" and continue to work on intentionally enjoying my work and my belongings and such. Sometimes I feel almost like I live in a separate world alongside these nondepressed people. How's that for building the relationships my counselor wants me to have. But today, I crossed the invisible divider and met with my friends through the sermon as they had a taste of my world and I tasted theirs.

Friday, June 1, 2012

90%

So, thanks to all of you who had the discussion a little while ago about grading how you did on exposures so that you could get credit for a less-than-100% exposure. I was thinking about grading what I did, and I decided that I was going to try to get my apartment I was moving out of 90% clean. An A, and no more. Well, the thing above the stove, I decided an 80% would be fine after scrubbing above my head for a bit. There is endless grease up there.

Aiming for 90% helped a lot. That way, when I noticed holes I hadn't seen when I filled the nail holes, I told myself they were covered by my 90% goal. When I realized I forgot a small section of the wall (washing it), it also was classified in the 10% I was leaving undone. In the end, I'm sure it wasn't exactly ten percent. Now that my OCD is peaking over my shoulder, it assures me I probably left like 50% undone, but thankfully, the 50% I missed would be invisible to most people without OCD. "So there, OCD! You must invite yourself to your own parties, or people aren't going to understand you." 90% gave me the freedom I needed to finish. So I still spent hours on it, but I got it done. And I'm pretty sure my landlord was happy with what she saw.

The other super good news is from the second opinion I got from a hematologist at a different medical group in a different town. He thought that I merely had a less-than-ideal but very normal shortage of iron and I was still in a tolerable range. He saw no need for a bone marrow biopsy or anything more invasive than an iron check every once in a while. I think if I had told him I could tell when my iron was low, he might not have even suggested the blood test twice a year. But I can't. My depression and anxiety and medications and life circumstances seem much more related to my energy level than my actual iron level and hemoglobin level. He said that possibly various antidepressants effected how well my body absorbs iron, but that there were too many possible factors for us to figure all that out. Anyway, he thought I was fine, and I'm so glad. I can write off that worry. (Oooh, sin... that word, worry, you just showed the world what a sinner you are... Shut up, OCD, or, to follow my own advice to my students, Be quiet please! But to follow a variation on my counselor's advice, Go ahead and say whatever you want, OCD, but I'm a little busy right now, so I might not pay much attention.)

Of course, basically, I'm believing the doctor who tells me what I want to hear. But with my lovely OCD or depression or "normal" neurosis, I had come up with a situation with two not very tolerable options, the one involving physical discomfort and costly testing, the other involving committing an unethical act by not taking proper precautions to preserve my life. The doctor who told me what I wanted to hear gave me an out from my OCD trap. And... I think I'll go ahead and take it.