Thursday, December 22, 2016

Progress as a Process

There is a lot going on right now. My depression has finally begun to lift. I completed my Intensive Outpatient Program this week and it felt like the right time even though I am anxious about leaving such a supportive environment. I also went back to work on a very part-time schedule last week, so that is another change. Luckily, I love where I work and who I work with. I had a great time and it felt good to be productive. Additionally, I am at the point of tapering my TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) and will be requesting maintenance treatments from my insurance company. Due to my pattern over the past 3 years, maintenance TMS treatments will be vital to maintaining my health and hopefully stunting the possibility of a reoccurrence of the depression. My pattern over the past few years has been: major depressive episode for several months treated with medication and ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) followed by 6-7 months of being well which was then followed by the depressive cycle again. My current episode is the third within three years. My treaters and I want to break this cycle so I can live a healthier life.

While these are very positive things, it is also scary and overwhelming for me. I have been through a lot over the past several months and I am different. I must recognize that I am in a constant state of change, as most of us are, but with individual therapy, group therapy and just life, I have changed dramatically over the past few years. My ability to tolerate things is quite different and I feel overwhelmed by things that never did so before. I am trying to give myself a break and not be hard on myself in relation to when I feel overwhelmed about folding laundry, running an errand, or even sending an email. This is the hard part for me. I must find a way to give myself a break and allow things to fall into place. I also need to live life and while I know I am getting better I cannot have unrealistic expectations of the depression completely disappearing tomorrow. I need to take it easy on myself when it comes to the timing of my recovery. The next several weeks will be difficult but will also include positive moments which will turn to positive hours which will then turn to positive days, etc. I am open to this trajectory and constantly tell myself that this is a good thing.

Life is hard and life can be messy. My anxiety is sky high these days but I am trying to use my skills when I can. I am also trying to talk more to my husband about my feelings as they are happening. This helps with my connection to him and informs him of exactly what is happening in my head. This is not easy for me but I am trying. My life, right now, is a step forward and then a step back but this is a process and I hope as time goes on things will continue to positively progress.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

I'm Not Running Away

The election is finally over. I am so glad it is as it has been a difficult thing to witness. I am quite upset with the outcome and thought better of our country than to elect such a mean, ignorant and inexperienced person as our President. I am scared about our future in the next four years as so many others are. Mostly, I am scared for my young daughter and what it means for her as a female growing up at this time.

People have joked and some are serious about moving to Canada now that Trump has won. While I understand that notion and share their fear, I am not going anywhere. This is not just about me, this is about my family. All four of my grandparents immigrated to this great country in the 1920s and 1930s and they left parts of Russia, Romania and Latvia to find a more peaceful and tolerant country. They were welcomed and made incredible lives for themselves and their children. I am only a 2nd generation American. My father always made a big deal about voting and I know it’s because he never took for granted that he is a 1st generation American. We are quite proud of that. My grandparents worked hard and long hours while assimilating to a new culture, language and way of living while still maintaining their ethnic and religious selves. That is remarkable.

It is for this reason that I will not run. I want to teach my daughter more about her great-grandparents and ensure that she sees how important America is to our family. I want to teach her that the places where her great-grandparents came from were not always nice to Jews and that because of that living in America is a gift and a way of giving back to them as they worked so hard in order for us to have our freedom and comforts we have today.

I do not think I am being naïve. I know that our country is fractured at this time. I am not sure how we will come together. I know from my friends on social media that we all want to come together and work together and that kindness does matter. I still actually want to be a part of this country even as I shake my head with awe and worry.

I will also not run away from who I am. I am a Jewish American woman who is a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, cousin and friend who also has a chronic illness that is depression. As a mental health advocate, now more than ever, I have to stay in this great country and continue my quest for mental health parity from insurers and to continue to tell my ongoing story in order to combat the stigma and increase understanding. Yes, I am scared of what the next four years will bring but I am going to stick with it because that is what my grandparents would do, it’s what my parents would do and it is the only thing I can do.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

I Continue

It's different and yet it's also the same. My character is more developed this time which is positive. I still feel the fatigue, sadness and irritability that I have in the past. When I do not want to leave the house, however, it frightens me. I never felt it to this extent during past major depressive episodes. When I am laying on the couch with the TV on and I feel exhausted and a range of emotions that are very uncomfortable, it feels easier to stay put. During my past episodes I pushed myself to go to work, go out with friends and use my fake smile to get me through each day. I am not able to do that anymore, which is positive but it comes with its own burden. I feel guilty for being so idle.

This is such a hard place to be in. I am damned if I do and damned if I don't. What I am thinking now is that I do not want to be a burden and more importantly I do not want to be known as "the sick one." I don't want to have to ask friends (again) for rides to appointments and to take my daughter for a play date for a couple of hours so I can try to relax. And even when I do ask for these things (and they are always granted), I simply want my friends to continue being/doing what they have been doing over the years: talk, gossip, laugh and support me.

As I continue to write this I can see how much I am projecting my own thoughts and fears onto my friends. If the roles were reversed, I would be doing the exact same things for them that they do for me. I see that more clearly now.

The truth is I am sick with a very unforgiving illness. My brain is wired in a way where the circuits are very comfortable re-routing themselves back to its familiar setting of major depression. I am honestly too tired to feel angry about it at this point. The past few years have had tremendous ups and downs yet life continues. I continue. I think that's all I can do right now.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Kveller: The Dreaded After School Question

My Scream

This has been the image in my head for the past several days. I feel offset, tangled, screaming while creating no sound. There are people walking away and I feel a sense of relief while at the same time I feel alone. It's as if my inner and outer world is skewed and simply not right. 

It has been coming on for months and it began when I was not feeling well, physically, which went on for months while doctors tried to diagnose the issue. The issue was one of my medications and while it was finally resolved it had already triggered my brain to return to that dark and horrible place it knows so well. This is not like the past couple of depressive episodes I have endured but I am not in a good place. Once again I kept pushing myself to get through it by doing everyday things: going to work with a smile on my face, smiling when seeing people but I did retreat away from friends which is a bit unusual for me. I could not imagine being a burden, again. That kept circling around in my head as did the usual guilt about how this affects my husband and daughter. 

One big difference this week was that I asked to go to the hospital. I thought that I needed a break and needed to get away to a safe space. This morning I made the decision not to go to the hospital. After therapy appointments and speaking with my psychiatrist, I will try a new medication and I have already increased another.  I will take a few days off from work and I have rallied my friends to be by my side. My husband is in "you are not to worry or think about anything...including cleaning and cooking and everything else you worry about!" He's the best team player I know. He really knows what is best for me. 

While I will continue to take it day by day, I do not know if I will be able to stay out of the hospital but as of today I am at home and using my supports and whatever skills I can. My brain is a literal tangled mess and I hope others can appreciate the depth of this illness. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Hunkering Down due to Anxiety

I have experienced dizziness and nausea since May and after numerous tests it was decided my medications needed adjustment. Whenever I have adjusted my medications it always consisted of a trial and error sort of experiment and now is no different. While in the process of these changes, my dizziness and nausea has certainly decreased, however, they are still there.

Good news, right? Partially.

I have been using every ounce of physical and emotional energy to lie low. I have not been in touch with my friends very much over the past few weeks and although I do go out, at this point I’d prefer to stay at home and not do anything. Of course, that cannot occur. There are other people involved, such as my husband and our 6 year old daughter. Instead I try to put on a smile and remain as playful as I can. It is so damn exhausting though.

I have been feeling anxiety, irritability and anger and I simply cannot imagine how so much emotion could live inside of me. I have only been mindful of my emotions for a couple of years, so I am still new at this emotion comprehension thing.

I am angry because I have not felt well, physically, which is causing my severe anxiety. OK, that makes sense but it seems so minimizing in relation to what my daily or even hourly experience actually is. I guess you could say I do feel misunderstood which coincides nicely with my Borderline Personality Disorder. That is an easy way of responding but I have to ask, does everyone feel mentally challenged when not feeling well, physically? My therapist is trying to convince me of that and while I logically and intellectually understand this, it feels so dismissive. Borderline or not, I feel a bit alone.

I don’t feel alone every day all day, mind you. I am not living hour to hour in a constant state of anxiety. It comes in bits and pieces, a few hours here, a couple of hours there. I pushed myself to go to work last night even though I only wanted to put my pajamas back on and snuggle with my daughter and husband. I am too responsible to call in sick when I am not sick and the guilt I would feel would only make my mental state worse. I worked and I was glad I did. I had human interaction which I desperately need right now.

I guess I am capable of making some good choices within my anxious brain.

I am afraid of making bad choices and feel on some sort of behavior alert right now as a result. I am irritable and agitated which can lead anyone to say things that are mean and inappropriate. This is so challenging for me and usually my husband is the target which pains me.

My therapist says I am terrified of becoming ill again and she is damn right. I cannot even imagine going through half of what I have been through in the past 2 years due to severe depression. Problem is I am now my own worst enemy as this intense fear only adds to my anxiety. My brain feels as if it is functioning on overdrive and I cannot shut it off.

I am hanging on and praying I can make good and healthy choices that will not upset me or anyone else. This is so hard and yet I just keep on going.

Monday, April 11, 2016

On to the Next Chapter

ECT is over, at least for now. I went for my scheduled appointment this morning with the intent to talk to my doctor first to explain how I wanted to stop the treatments. I explained to him that I am feeling very well, that I go to a DBT (dialectical behavioral) group every week and just cut back to every other week with my therapist. I am now working part-time and feeling quite good. I explained how the act of traveling to the ECT treatment and being around other patients who are very ill is traumatizing for me and only increases my anxiety to an extremely high level. There's no relief for me at this point when I come for the ECT treatment. It helped to bring me out of my severe depression and now that I am out, I want to live my life and enjoy this time.

My doctor was very supportive and appreciated how well I am doing. He agreed to stop for now and to monitor me closely. Luckily I already have an appointment with him in his office this week so we can discuss it more.

As I learn more and more about myself through this process, I am pleasantly surprised that while I was very anxious yesterday in thinking about today, I was able to discuss it with a clear mind with my husband and a close friend. I was able to sort through the pros and cons and think about it reasonably. That, in and of itself is progress! I am proud of myself, not only for handling myself in a responsible way but for also sticking with my gut and following my clear thoughts. I am lucky to have so many friends and family members as advocates but I will always be my best advocate.

And now back to my regularly scheduled life, which certainly includes doctor's appointments and therapy visits. It simply rolls on in a new chapter...

Thursday, February 25, 2016


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Authenticity of Self

If it’s easy, then it’s not real.

Authenticity is a powerful attribute. For the first time, I was not only honest with myself, I was honest with friends. When asked how I was feeling, instead of being dishonest and sugarcoating a hopeful response, as I have done my entire life, I was truthful. I was able to open myself to a degree that felt comfortable and real. I explained how I was feeling better but still not yet at the place I want to be.  Not only was this important for me but this is important for all of my relationships. Most significantly, though, I want to model this for my daughter so she will know what being authentic really means.

One of the most startling realizations that I have had recently in therapy was that I have been waiting for a false self to emerge. Last year as I was feeling better from that episode of depression, I experienced joy, true joy and bliss. This occurred with my husband, our daughter, family and friends. I had never before felt such feelings of happiness. I believed I would continue to feel this level of happiness but as I became ill again, I lost it. I still felt moments of happiness in my relationships but not at the same level. Since I became ill again, I have been patiently waiting for that joy and elation to return, however it hasn’t. It was only during a recent therapy session when I learned it won’t. My therapist explained that those euphoric feelings were real but only because I had never felt them before. Those feelings were not realistic though in the long-term and as the tears fell down my cheeks, she also explained how I actually had been experiencing those “moments” in the past months, which she pointed out with numerous examples of things I had brought up during past sessions. I am still absorbing this information and in some ways, mourning the loss. I know that what I have gained is so much more, but the memories of feeling the joy and pleasure at such a high level are still so fresh in my mind. This is how I can be authentic: own my feelings and accept them while moving forward.

While I know who I am, as a wife and a mother, I am still learning who I am to myself. This is a difficult process and requires more than my weekly therapy session, more than the pills that help promote my stability and more than the ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) that I receive. For the person who believed she was receiving exactly the kinds of treatment needed, I was informed that I actually could benefit from an additional mode of therapy. While it took some months to accept this and understand how I would benefit from it, I have finally agreed with my therapist that DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) would greatly benefit me as I move forward in my recovery. I will be starting group therapy, which will be another new experience and will work on myself in a way that I never have before.

So, this is me being authentic. It’s been a rough road but I am finally beginning to allow myself to heal, to really heal. Instead of manipulating situations where the end result is me feeling intense psychological pain, it is time to let go of the pain and allow myself some peace. That is my goal at this point in my treatment and while this will be a difficult goal to accomplish, this is what is left:  It is time for me to accept that I deserve peace and all of the blessings I have in my life. How much more authentic can I get?

Thursday, January 7, 2016