Sunday, December 30, 2012

Princess and frog

Some friends gave me a gift card, which was really so, so nice, because I can spend it on something "beautiful" like they told me to without feeling guilty that I'm not spending it on gas or something else that isn't even sold at that store. So I got a flower ring (on a really great, more than half off sale).

Before that, my aunt gave me the frog ring for Christmas time.

Together, they can be the princess and the frog story.

And I'm really into jewelry just now, which, by the way, isn't exactly normal for me.

I got a necklace from Target that is their "Be Brave" necklace, with the engraving, "I am always with you Be brave have courage and love life". The box is even better, if such a thing is possible. It says, "With the courage to live life comes the gift to love life." You can look it up on Target's website. I don't want to include a link, because that seems like the equivalent of an invitation for spam.

Today, I'm wearing the necklace and the flower ring (which I think of as my princess ring, also). This morning, the depressed thoughts stopped in for a visit. Good old "wanna die" junk, that comes sometimes without even being an honest feeling. So I keep quoting my necklace to myself; "Be brave, have courage, and love life." Of course, I don't exactly feel loving towards life right now. It's more like, "Be brave, have courage, and embrace life." And I am banking (emotionally) on the idea that "with the courage to live life comes the gift to love life" from the box.

So it is its own Princess and the frog story. I'm the princess, life is the frog, sometimes cute, but sometimes ugly. And I'm gonna embrace it anyway. And I'm counting on life changing from the ugly toad into something attractive and enjoyable. Please, please please please please. And if for some reason, it doesn't, I'll count on the after life being absolutely great.

And I'm trying to figure out what caused this down-turn in my mood. The messed up schedules with the Christmas time holidays? The cold I got (that is almost gone)? Too much time alone? Too messy of a house?

I think I'll go for trying to spend some in-person time with people (now that I've just about finished blogging for the day - maybe). And meanwhile, I'll keep embracing life.

Friday, December 21, 2012

My Christmas experience

Let me give the disclaimer/warning: You may or may not agree with me as I talk about what is controversial to some people. But you don't have to agree with me; it's a free country and OCD doesn't rule. So have a Merry weekend, whatever kind you choose to have. And if you want to skip this blog post, that's fine, too. :)

My mom got pretty upset as a child trying to figure out how to celebrate Christmas in a way that served Jesus. So she and my dad and some others decided to celebrate it differently when I was little. They had a birthday party and we made a gift for people in need or did some service project, to be our "present" for Jesus. And as a kid, birthday parties are fun, but when you reach your teens, it isn't the same. And when the friends who used to celebrate the birthday party with you leave... and then when my church fell apart, part of it during Christmas time... And then Christmas was a painful thing for me.

But I still had to deal with the Christmas carols, because people at church are determined to sing them. And when I was helping with music at church, I got to play them. And I still remember a fellow musician telling me to "get over it; make new memories." Thus, "make new memories" became the nice way to say "get over it" in my mind, and I tried to keep part of my sadness under wraps at Christmas time.

And my parents tried to figure out how to adapt the birthday party thing for teenagers.

Then we started helping with community dinners on Christmas day. I.e., put on festive hats, walk in a crowded room amongst Christmas music and decorations, and for me (remember the OCD), well, there was the part about trying to have a right heart, because what good is a gift for Jesus without the right heart...

And then I moved out, and then finally, I rebelled.

But actually, it seems that having your teenaged rebellion when you are in your twenties and don't live in your parents house, it is no longer considered a rebellion. But you know OCD; it sometimes takes a different view on technical matters. Okay, maybe I should leave OCD out of this part. But I feel rebellious when I make my own traditions, even though it is fine with my parents for me to be an adult and make my own choices.

I decided to fall off the other side of the bridge. Because for me, Christmas time had come to be associated with being an outcast. Being "different" from the rest of the world. And I suppose that Christians have the privilege of being outcasts when they do things trying to serve God that people around them disapprove of.

And I didn't like the whole "Jesus' birthday" thing, because it seemed too much a semantics game.

So I guess I played my own game. Forget the roots of the word Christmas; let's go back in time to my vaguely and perhaps inaccurately remembered world history knowledge.

Like that it used to be a pagan holiday, but when the "Church" came along, it Christianized things, putting remembrance of Jesus' birthday at the time of the pagan holiday. The tree? Pagan roots (not positive, but I think it's true).

So, I guess I forgot the pagan part, and decided it to celebrate "Christmas" as a secular holiday. Very freeing. I didn't have to worry about being spiritual enough. I could just celebrate a holiday. Granted, it might not be with family, but it could be fun, associated with being in the party, in the brightly lit room, not being an outcast looking in. So for one or two years, I've gone to a movie on Christmas. At least once with a sister. Maybe only once.

And this year, I even got a stocking! Which, by the way, I have indeed started opening, but I haven't finished. I opened my relatives' additions (i.e. small Christmas gifts) when I was feeling down earlier. And today, with the end of work for the long weekend holiday, I opened the mystery Playmobile toys (I loved Playmobile as a kid and still do). One is a swimmer in a towel with a blow drier and a hairbrush. The other is some weird person I still haven't figured out. She looks like a combination of a dancer, a swimmer, a rock star, and a super hero. I guess there's lots of room for imagination there? It probably is something recognizable that I just don't know of, though.

This year, I've determined to enjoy the holiday. I don't want to miss out any more. Though I'll probably miss out on my Christmas afternoon movie, since my family decided to celebrate their family holiday (including gifts, but not Christmas) on the day that happens to be Christmas, for logistical reasons, since they can get most of my siblings together that day. I sing Christmas carols and Santa songs. I enjoy the lights, and my Christmas tree. I have nativity scene window stickers up in my classroom at work in one window, and Santa and other secular Christmasy and wintery stickers in other windows and on a mirror. And I'll celebrate my family's holiday that "isn't Christmas" on Christmas day. I'll play semantic games and perhaps be a bit materialistic as I enjoy "things" in my stocking. I know that if the OCD monster woke up with it's former ferver and energy and deceiving ability, this would qualify as potentially sinful on many points.

But hey, OCD doesn't run my life any more. So at the risk of being sinful (because, sorry people, doing ANYTHING or NOT DOING ANYTHING, I am stuck risking being sinful), I'm enjoying this Christmas. Around dealing with normal life, anxiety, and it's shadow, depression. But I'm not living Christmas as an OCD minion.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

late for an appointment but it turned out fine

Well, the answer is, no, I can't wear my frog ring on my finger for more than a couple hours without it starting to bother me. But it is a really cool ring, so I'm trying to tough it out.

Yesterday, I was late for my psychiatrist appointment. Really late.

But it wasn't so bad.

I first started running late when I saw that getting my mood chart ready for the dr was taking me longer than I expected. Then I started pushing it on allowing plenty of time (typically an hour, as that is a nice round number). Because I worked SO hard (well, actually just plain hard) on my chart thing, I wanted to print it, so I cut 6 minutes into my hour getting it printed. Probably still okay, but snow was falling, and my "premonition" was to skip printing and just start driving. So maybe I was going to be guilty. I didn't know yet.

Then, of course, I came to "road work" signs on the highway. But I assured myself that wouldn't hold me up long, since I had passed that earlier in the day coming home from work. So we passed that. But people were still driving slowly. And there was an accident on the opposite side of the highway (divided highway), so I knew for sure it was slippery.

Then came the gap in the weather. No snow, okay roads. Maybe I would make it in time after all.

Then came the sign saying there was a "collision" ahead, so watch for stopped traffic. So I pondered why they used the word "collision" on a light up sign that had limmited space, and how it sounded less disturbing than "crash," but why didn't they use the word "accident." Meanwhile, I counted the miles to said "collision" and hoped it would be gone when I got there.

And then, I got near there, and had the priviledge of driving 2 miles per hour on the freeway. This continued until I was pretty positive I couldn't possibly get there on time. Then I called.

Thankfully, the receptionist said I wasn't the only one caught there. Well, not thankful that someone else was experiencing bad traffic, but that I wasn't the only one who didn't leave early enough to avoid it? Okay, the thankfully is just that maybe it meant I wasn't so guitly.

Well, by the end, I was just trying to make it to the office in time to pick up my patient assistance medication before they closed, as I had already passed both the start and the end of my scheduled time.

And then the dr. called to see where I was (in the parking garage at that point), and he told me to come on up. So he saw me half an hour late, when the office would normally close. I am definitely thankful for that.

Though I was also mentally prepared for just picking up my medication.

Anyway, it was a good appointment. He thought I was doing even better than in September, at least depression-wise. And I'd agree.

My anxiety has been worse sometimes recently (worse than I wish, not necessarily worse than in September), and sometimes simultaneously with my anxiety my depression spike. But the depression typically drops again when the anxiety does. And I don't feel equally anxious all the time; sometimes I feel pretty good and other times it goes up.

Well, now, (as usual for when I'm blogging), I'm hungry.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

a pattern

Well, it seems to be a pattern. I write a really upbeat blog post, and then something goes wrong. Actually, things "go wrong" all the time. Anxiety is good at finding me here and there, even when it has receded enough to give me a good day or even a good several months. I suppose this is perfectionism faced with a challange.

I'm not going to be perfectly happy. I'm not going to be perfectly healthy. I'm not going to go about my life perfectly. The perfect is in heaven and I'm not there yet. Rats.

Of course, you already know that anxiety comes back. You already know that mental illness has ups and downs. So maybe it is just my OCD telling me, you'd better make sure your friends know you aren't cured, because A., that would be a lie, and you know how OCD feels about anything with the slightest possibility of being a lie, and B., if you say you are healthy, all your support system will melt before your very eyes, and you will have to struggle with the rest of your mental illness all by yourself.

Never mind that this has been proven to be not true over and over again. Never mind that it defies logic that your friends would disappear when things were going well in your life and only be there for you when life is terribly difficult. Never mind that all or nothing thinking is almost always wrong. In this latest case, strike up the adrenaline band. Sound the physical alarm through yourself and prepare to fight or flee from the terrible shadows cast by the OCD monster.

Same song, just another verse.

On other topics, I am very happy that last night I chose not to park in my parking lot just in case it would snow too much so that I'd have to move my car for them to plow or risk being towed. I wanted to sleep in without worrying about it. So I did, and was awakened when my landlord knocked on the neighbor's door to ask him to move his vehicle. But I still got to sleep in, so I'm happy about that.

And I put that Rain-X stuff on my car windows and was happy with how easy it was to clean off my windows from the snow this morning.

And I found guinea pig food for less than half the price I've been paying for it, and timothy hay that costs little enough that maybe it would be okay to buy it again instead of picking it up off the barn floor at the feed store (I don't mind the picking up part; it is the asking for permission to pick it up that sends my anxiety high).

And I had a successful shopping trip today.

And so there are still lots of good things happening and lots of good feelings inside me around the various OCD and anxiety and depression issues that pop up.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

OCD and depression as an illness, and sleep as a key

Wow, I've gone almost a week without posting. Probably has a bit to do with my being done with my two online courses for the semester. I don't have to do as much online, especially with deadlines.

Prepare for sudden topic change. Back to mental health. I think one of the greatest "proofs" to me that depression and OCD are actually illnesses is what recovery for me is like.

Take OCD. One of my worst (i.e., most disturbing to me) obsessions was up and running when I "fell apart" and started medication. Exposure Response Prevention was too stressful for me to do much with it with this particular obsession. Then came one of the med changes, and this issue has for the most part melted away. Since then, I've switched SSRIs a couple times, but this issue has never regained all the power it once held. My counselor pointed out that it could have to do with my therapy, and maybe it did, but how much this obsession bothered me followed by how much it just melted away, well, that is just amazing. If this obsession was part of my personality, if it was a spiritual issue, I don't think it would have gone away like it did when it did. If it was an illness sometimes treatable by particular SSRIs (which ones and how much depending on the individual person's response to medication), then I would expect that large symptom to slip away to a small reminder every now and then, not unlike how my toe kept hurting sometimes for probably years after I broke/sprained it.

Then take depression. When I'm in it, at least if I've been in it at that level (moderate, severe, mild, whatever) for a while, it seems normal. When it is severe, it seems strange that lots of people consider life worth living and even something to be desired. When it is mild to moderate, I think it is just me being lazy. Actually, I think that when I'm at a mild stage of a flu, too. I'm just lazy, that's why I don't want to and wont wash my dishes. I'm just not a good enough person.

And then recently, something very mysterious has happened. I can wash my dishes. Not always all at once, but I can wash them, without it taking incredible willpower and effort. I can clean off my table without dreading it for many days, without working up my superhuman abilities so I can just put some of my belongings closer to where they belong. It is so amazing, and I was thinking about it today (after washing my dishes and cleaning off my table shortly after I got up for the day, wanting to get my chores out of the way so the rest of the day would be free). It isn't that huge struggle it seemed to be before. Partly because I've been doing it more often, so I'm not as far behind. But perhaps (and I'm pretty sure you could never completely prove it, but I will hold it as evidence in my own eyes anyway) I wasn't just being lazy when such chores seemed like mountains. Perhaps, as I wondered, it really was the depression. Perhaps, because corresponding to my feeling better for longer, these chores are getting to be less of a big deal in my eyes.

Actually doing the chores, however, continues to be a big deal on the celebration side. I did it! I actually did it!

Switching topics again, my week started kind of low when I took an evening first aid and CPR class Monday night. By Wednesday, I was quite discouraged when meeting with my counselor. But after following her suggestion of going to bed early that night, I started feeling better. It seems that I got to short on sleep, which I know throws my mood off. Sleep is one of those important keys to my mental health. Maybe someday I will be better able to handle lack of sleep, but for now, it is very important for me and those around me.

Someone asked me what it looked like when I lost my temper at work. Which got me thinking. Yes, there are outward signs. I might get extra quite. Except when I get extra firm when speaking to kids that aren't listening. I might say things to coworkers that are a bit bolder than usual. But most of it probably stays inside, where it is like I'm filled with this disturbing feeling of lack of control and upsetness and sometimes anger. So that probably explains part of why I hate getting upset at work. Even if it all stays inside me and doesn't bother a soul around me, it bothers me. I don't like it. So I will value my sleep.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

remembering hard times (my hospital stay)

Now, for once, I wish for a private blog.

I went to a shelter recently with some other people. I was just going to play guitar and sing, but ended up doing more.

Anyway, the night went well. I got to talk to various people and enjoyed my time.

Until the end. Combine late night with memories.

Of being in a locked building, only I was locked inside. Of getting my evening meds from a caretaker. Of bed checks, of classes during the day, of my life out of control, of ... wordless feelings. Of my stay in the hospital.

Every so often, I think about it. And I'm grateful for being able to go to the hospital when I was feeling so bad. I'm grateful  that I finally got to see a psychiatrist, and not just for one short visit. I'm grateful for the classes.

And I'm still disturbed. I felt like it was a grown up version of a daycare like where I worked when I was on the outside. I felt for the nurses trying to take care of us all. I understood when they didn't have enough staff to take some of us outside (into the little yard with very high, non-see-through fences). I felt for the people around me, who were struggling to deal with their lives. And then I had my own set of issues. And then I still was me, so whatever problems were suggested, like being co-dependent, I assumed I had.

I remember the psychiatrist telling me that the saying of "fake it 'til you make it" applied to me; that I'd have to act like I was healthy and eventually my brain/emotions would catch up. I remember that he liked some of my discoveries about myself, like that I did lots of black and white thinking, but I was going to intentionally look for grey options.

I liked making one or a few small goals that I could acheive during the day, like "take a shower" or tell myself three good things about me.

And I remember feeling broken, seeing my presence in the locked ward as evidence that I couldn't handle life on my own any more, at least for the moment.

And I remember how hard it was transitioning back into the outside world. I'd longed for sleep when I entered the hospital and assumed that they would be able to give me something to help me sleep. I didn't expect to lie awake in bad for hours each night. And then the nurses would flash their flashlight in on me for bed checks for a second or two, and then they would record me as being asleep because my eyes were closed and I wasn't moving! Come on! Parents know better than that. It got so I wanted to open my eyes and show I was awake when they came, but I tended to be too slow. So maybe I was half asleep, but not sleeping well.

So back in the outside world, I was SOO tired, dealing with anxiety, dealing with the trauma of having been locked in the hospital (even though it was voluntarily). Eventually, as in that same week or maybe the next week, I saw my family doctor, and he was so nice about saying that if he'd had to stay in the hospital, that would upset him; he wouldn't sleep as well in a strange bed, and it would scare him to think that he was that sick to need to be there. He said it well, only I blame my brain more than the strange bed for keeping me awake at night.

And I wish that the hospital was some magic cure, but it was really just another stop on the journey. Sure, I got focused time to deal with myself. And as my counselor suggested, I tried to see it as a break from my outside life, a safe place to rest (the non-sleep kind). I think it was a good thing. But a few days in the hospital to change from one antidepressant that takes months to work to another antidepressant that takes 6 weeks or months to work, how is that an instant cure? Basically, it isn't.

The stupid severe depression continued to haunt me for a while. And it hurt so bad. And I still want to cry about it.

And how does that fit with feeling better now?

Maybe I wasn't quite ready to visit a shelter yet. Maybe my life is still too close to some of that stuff.

Maybe I'll stop feeling this hurt some day.

It would have helped, possibly, if I had gone to sleep earlier last night. But it was hard to transition from the late night out to going to bed. I did a slow transition. So now I'm tired and struggling with memories. Maybe I'll go home and distract myself with a book or a movie or even a nap.

Because my memories of my time in the hospital and of the severe depression, I still don't know how to handle that. This isn't indiscriminant stuffing away of unpleasant memories. This is the, I don't know how to deal with this, so let me distract myself for now and hopefully I'll be able to deal with it later, kind of stuffing away.

Well, the snow came back and the sunshine went on vacation. Nasty things. I'd better go sit by my therapy light. I wish it was more magical than it is. I wish it completely obliterated the effect that weather has on me. But I think it has done more towards the lack of daylight hours as opposed to the grey weather.

Well, on to better things?

Saturday, December 8, 2012


And now for a less serious post? Maybe? Today, I had hot chocolate with a friend, then went out to see the eagles! There were a number of people out with their cameras. It is tough to get a good picture, at least with my limited zoom camera. I think the third picture might be my best yet, though I haven't compared it with last time's photos.

And I got my "exercise" while I was out walking and jogging to photograph birds and exercise. My walk back, the camera was off due to lack of battery power. That was nice, because it let me look at the eagles and appreciate them without subtracting from that in my quest to photograph them. (Though I was tempted to see if I could get in one more picture before the batteries completely died.)

The sun has come out after a few days of rain and snow. Seems to be helping my mood. The therapy light does seem to help my mood, but it doesn't stop my mood from going down on cloudy days. I presume it helps me not go as far down, though.

Well, I'm really, really thankful. Talking with my friend this morning reminded me of how many positive changes have occurred in my life in the last several months. A new church, playing music at church, feeling so much better. You know, this friend was one of the first to suggest that I was depressed and could potentially be significantly helped by professional help and even medication. It was a few years before I actually saw a doctor for my mood, but I think I had to get used to the idea and hear it from multiple sources.

Another thing (and now I've gotten serious again; what a surprise -not!). The fact that my church is on the "conservative" list kind of surprised me today - it would still be seen as liberal by some of the people I've met :). And it kind of bothered me, because people supportive of my seeking help for mental illness and even for my labeling it a mental illness instead of a spiritual problem, a lot of them are probably to the less conservative side of what I grew up with (or even significantly "liberal"). So I feel "liberal" compared to some of the ideals I heard as a kid and still run accross, yet I love my "conservative" church. So today's aha moment was this; it is okay if I am a somewhat conservative person. I don't have to change that. I can keep the "liberal" beliefs I have as well as my "conservative" preferences. I don't have to copy either side exactly. I am the person that gets to choose what I believe, and going to a "conservative" church doesn't mean I have to look down on liberal people or whoever else the stereotypical conservative looks down on (including their potentially looking down on me). Funny how much stereotyping goes on, and almost instantly!

So I'm not sure if I'm liberally conservative or conservatively liberal or what, but I'm enjoying the sunshine and the weekend away from work (I was ready for the break!), and I'm slowly but persistantly learning to be okay with myself.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

How to make myself anxious

Oh, that's an easy topic.

Tell myself to spend more money on food and then go about preparing to do so.

Paying bills

Not paying bills

Answering questions.

Not answering questions.

Getting mail (particularly if the mail has to do with money).

(Not getting mail usually just makes me a tiny bit sad, not anxious. :D  )

Answering questions like what I might like for Christmas. And now, since it is possible that the person who asked will read this, please let me elaborate. I don't mind the question. Actually, sometimes it is nice, because it lets me ask for things that I haven't been able to justify buying for myself but that I'd really like. I just worry that I'll ask for the wrong thing, for something too expensive, for not what I really want, for someone to feel like they HAD to get me what I suggest, when really I just want them to take it as an idea they can like or turn aside. But rest assured, if I wasn't worrying about this, there would be some other anxiety coming my way. It comes with the territory of having an anxiety disorder.

Okay, now I'm tired of that topic. Or am I?

Now I would like to discuss my most recent anxiety that I gave myself an ear infection by trying one of the exercises described in my intro to Audiology book for opening my Eustation tubes. My ear is hurting. So, vuala, why is it hurting? Do I have one of the disorders I learned about today? I mean, an ear infection is fine; just boring and somewhat painful. But what if it is harming my cochlea?! Let's see. My counselor would probably suggest a "Thought Challange" for evaluating the risk, evaluating my evidence to see if it really backs up my catestrophic fear (save yourself the trouble; just write a high level of fear at the beginning of the page and a low level of likelyhood of your fear occuring at the bottom. Then go to sleep immediately, hoping that will acheive the anxiety reduction that writing the whole paper out or thinking the whole exercise out might do). Just kidding on that short trick. That sounds like a good way to postpone sleep, which I don't want to do. Correction; I don't want to postpone sleep by starting my anxiety brain alarms. Wandering through a store and putting off my shower, those would be more attractive alternatives.

Oh, and my tongue hurts on one side. What if it is a yeast infection? (Yeah, Abigail, and what if it is? You've presumed to have had one before, and nothing terrible happened.)

Well, I think it is safe to say that my anxiety disorder has not completely left me, not that I thought it did. It's just annoying sometimes to be reminded of it. :)

On a positive note:

My Food Stamps application was accepted.

I'm ready to take my finals for both my classes this week (the deadlines aren't until next week!).

We survived the day Santa comes to visit the day care, and are free from that for another year (to put it shortly, it is a hastle. In more words, some of the kids cry when they are sat on Santa's lap. And it is stressful to try to keep a bunch of toddlers in picture-perfect shape through breakfast and snack and play until the pictures are over).

I've finished studying for the day. The day is almost done, and my duties are even closer to done. :)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

If I stay in the safe zone, I do pretty well

From Friday... "So, the joy of taking my medication early yesterday and now being over 24 hours without it today,... I just don't quite feel good. Just a little off, tense, emotional. Yeah, I remember when I tried to get off Seroquel a year and a half ago. Cold turkey from 300 mg, under doctor supervision, mind you. Anyway, we settled for going back on, but we kept it at 150 mg instead of 300 because I didn't seem to need the 300. Anyway, I should feel all better tomorrow." Yeah, it was (not) fun being off Seroquel for a few hours. I explained it to my mom as feeling like you are really really hungry so you are almost shakey and you could snap. She then was sympathetic and really nice about it and I didn't snap at her, either. Instead, I waited until almost 6 pm and took the Seroquel, happy to let her drive me to my brothers' dance recital and then spend the night at my family's house.

And I am Oh, so thankful for Seroquel and whatever I'm on that is helping me. Because it seems that if my stress level stays low enough, I don't work too much, I eat regularly and properly enough, I sleep enough, I see my counselor, I take my medications, I do things for fun, and I sit with my therapy light enough, then I usually feel pretty good. Pretty amazingly good. As in, I can start to see why "normal" people aren't living their lives wishing to die.

It is amazingly wonderful not to have to fight thoughts of wishing to die so much any more. I mean, they'll still come up sometimes, if my anxiety gets spiked or I really need to eat something or I need to take medication or something, but usually, I'm doing pretty well. Thank you, God, so much.

So my life is lived within certain boundaries (food, work, stress level, medication, etc), and if I stay in them, I am more likely to live a more free life, more fully living. It is kind of like an oxymoron; if I submit to these restrictions, I am free, but if I go outside these restrictions, the depression and OCD are more likely to trap me, and the longer I'm outside of them, the more likely I'll have trouble. So... I should eat soon (only I've planned some shopping before I get home).