I’m Back

It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve stopped taking my medication.

My anxiety may have been shelfed, but my depression and lack of motivation were at an all-time high. If I could win an award for quickly approaching total train wreck, I would have won two.

I weaned off my anxiety medicine with the intention of starting a different one. The one I have been on since January has slowly given me bowel complications and suicidal thoughts. Getting up in the morning was difficult, even though I hadn’t realized it until this past week. I wanted to crawl into bed the moment I got home, too. It was in the middle of a bustling, beautiful summer when I reached the apex of my inability to “human”.

It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve stopped taking my medication, and I’m thinking that I may not start the new one. Not just yet, anyhow.

The first thing I noticed come back to me were tears. Not depressed, sad tears. Emotional tears. If a movie is poignant, I can cry again. If someone sings with an ethereal voice or I hear a cheesy proposal story, the waterworks start.

My libido is back.  My “vagisis” is over. (I coined the term several months ago when I realized the medication affected my nethers, and I was in crisis mode over it.)

The past two days I’ve been cooking. I love to cook but have had very few days in the last 365 where I’ve felt inclined or motivated. My home-made pesto pasta and pizzas may not have come out as I had desired (I’m a bit rusty), but I still felt excited to come home and get things done.

I thought I’d be a mess without my medication, but maybe (and I don’t know yet… it is an elusive maybe) I just needed the boost for a bit, and I’m back on track. I don’t think medicine is evil, but I also know it’s not a panacea. I wouldn’t be able to wean at this point without the behavior therapy that is helping me be more in control of my life.

All that said, nothing has been making me happier than crying endlessly lately over every sappy moment on television or in my earbuds, as I listen to podcasts.

It might sound absurd, but all this crying has got me in a great mood.

Here’s to more tears (and smiles) in future months to come.

No Shame

I felt excitement. Genuine excitement. I didn’t need drugs or alcohol for a high. I wasn’t recovering from the titillating heart palpitations after a passionate entanglement under the sheets. It wasn’t my birthday or Christmas Eve.

For the past year, and perhaps even longer than that, I have been mostly quietly drowning in depression. I get the winter blues, but I felt it in the summer and spring, too. I had always been able to bounce back from the lows, but something shifted in the last year. I just… couldn’t anymore. For possibly the first time ever, I believed that my happiness wasn’t completely under my control. Sometimes it is hormones, sometimes it is chemicals.

I, honestly, realized this a little sooner. Maybe three years ago, or so, when after two years of hysterical fits, suicidal thoughts, and crying jags that lasted hours at a time, I learned that I have PMDD (a hormonal imbalance condition that can be treated with birth control). After attempting to hurt myself, I finally took steps to take care of it. My hormones could change how I behaved.

Once again, here I am, realizing I am in desperate need of help.

A few weeks ago, I started seeing a therapist. She’s not the kind who prescribes medicine, but we are starting to form a relationship as I unravel details about my past.

She has been encouraging me to take small steps to reach attainable goals. She suggested I get a physical. I haven’t had one in probably eight or ten years. I get terrible night sweats, which might be related to the hormonal imbalance, but it could also be something else. I have an appointment in a week.

Last week, she gave me homework to write a letter (I will never send) to my ex-boyfriend about everything that hurt me and made me angry about him and the relationship. I’ve been living the last several months in a pained sadness, missing all the wonderful things, like a wonder-starved child seeking pleasure in dreams. And although I know that won’t go away, because there truly were remarkable things about our relationship, I am still recovering from the arguments, mistrust, and just the broken-heartedness of someone who lost a man with whom she saw a future. I’m allowed to dispense my anger in a way that won’t hurt anyone and can only help me. She is helping me to see this so I can gain back some of my self-esteem. So I can enliven some of the courage that has been hibernating deep within me.

She also mentioned that tanning during the wintertime often helps people with Seasonal Affective Disorder. I have been stubborn against considering this an option, because of the obvious risks, and I don’t advise that it’s for everyone, but I was running out of hope and ready to try anything that could possibly help.

The past week has been pretty hellish, with the New Year starting with some intense anxiety attacks and insomnia. I dealt with most of it surreptitiously on my own, only telling a couple of people, because I was so ashamed at my inability to pull myself together as an adult. I felt terrified, swaddled in heaps of blankets, sweating and moaning for days in between the random moments of unconsciousness and the blank hours of feeling absolutely nothing inside except a tightness in my chest. I can liken it to the book I’m reading, “The Last Unicorn”, where once caged, the iron bars hissed at her mockingly because the unicorn had no power of her own to escape. It was a place I wish not to return to.

Last Saturday, I overheard a couple, who live beneath me (and whom I have never met), have a very intense fight that lasted hours. It occurred directly below me in their bedroom. I was already in bed. She screamed and sobbed for an unending amount of time, and his dampened murmurs indicated that either he was trying to rationalize with her or had already given up. She screamed with desperation that she was sorry over and over. Finally, it stopped, and I was able to sleep. I worried about the two of them for days. Prayed for them. Welled up with tears in my own eyes as I imagined her grief over something I didn’t know. But I could feel it. Deeply. And it has stuck with me.

I’m pretty sure that none of this has been very helpful with my mood.

So today, one of my closest friends and I went to a tanning salon she’s been to in the past. We decided to dedicate Sundays to “girl time”. I told the lady at the front desk I would start with 12 minutes since the full 15 made me nervous; even though I am olive complexioned, I haven’t been out in the sun for a while. I shed my clothing and climbed into the inviting glow of the tube.

I imaged ocean waves and the sounds of plucked ukulele strings, as a warm breeze swept over my face and the heat of the lights made my body feel as though for a short period of time I was lying on the beach in Maine at my parents’ condo, or in San Diego, visiting my sister. I felt summertime penetrate my skin.

When it was over, I put my clothes back on and we got in my friend’s car. I told her I still felt warm and toasty, and she agreed that she did, too. When we got back to my apartment, we laughed, listened to music, tinkered with the piano, and played childhood board and card games. I taught her the strategy to one of my favorite logic puzzle games, and even after she left around dinner time, I was still filled with happiness and energy that I haven’t felt in months.

I don’t know if it was the placebo effect of going tanning or it was the actual UV rays, but today has been different. I have not wanted to move off my couch for over six months, and today I ran around my apartment in excitement, needing to show her games I had, and I actually wanted to play them.

Before I sat to write this, I started reading a new book. I have not willingly participated in activities like that for most of the past years with a few rare days of clarity and energy that perforated through.

I hope this isn’t a fluke, and I know it takes more than one day of tanning to become the whole person I used to be. However, I am dually frustrated I waited so long and so relieved I’ve finally taken the steps.

Living your life as if you’re waiting to die is no way to live, but I had become comfortable with that. I miss the woman who enjoys her own thoughts and loves being creative. I am hoping that I find her again through all this searching and recovery. I am seeking happiness with a side-effect of a nice tan for the winter.

On the Guest List

Being brave isn’t something you do for yourself; it’s what you do for others.

When J told me that he had a fiancée—when he casually mentioned she okayed me coming to the wedding—I knew it wasn’t something I could back out of. Pragmatically, I was fine with the entire situation. I have never been jealous when he tells me about her. I don’t imagine them kissing and burst into tears or become disgusted. I haven’t had those kind of feelings for J since shortly after we broke up. But in the weeks leading up to his day of matrimony, my stomach began to tighten. It was anticipation of what I’d imagine would be an awkward day, and I definitely wasn’t looking forward to it. There would be no dancing or catching a bouquet. This was simply a favor for J.

I systematically wrote out the card and placed a personal check in the slot on the left side. I did this while filling a flask that I knew I would need. The night before I didn’t eat dinner, and I stayed up too late talking to friends.

On a sunny, humid Saturday morning, my friend came to pick me up and escort me to the wedding as his date. We also brought J’s and my old neighbor with us. I had cigarettes, good music, and liquid courage. I could do this just fine.

And guess what? I did.

There was no dramatic outburst at the reception, where I wept in the bathroom stall. I didn’t ignore his new wife or make things uncomfortable. I even had a ten-minute conversation with the bride’s grandfather; he told me about his dialysis while he forced me to eat grapes, because I wouldn’t eat anything else. I smiled big. I schmoozed everyone. Even J’s mom. It was just about all I could take, and then, luckily, it was an acceptable time to leave.

When I got home, I was met with indifference from my boyfriend. He was upset about something unrelated, and without the emotional stronghold I needed, because I had been brave for just a little too long, I crumpled into my pillow and I cried. I cried on my drive to my friends’ house after my boyfriend left to get food. I let my emotions overrun me the second I walked in their door, and when I got home, I bawled again for an immeasurably painful time. Not even my sister’s calming familiarity could soothe me. On the other end of the phone, she reminded me that I’ve always been this way. This emotional. And I knew it was true, but I couldn’t stop the outpouring. I eventually did expunge my tears, because there was nothing left in me, but it wasn’t because I ceased feeling awful inside.

There’s nothing pretty about being brave.

It feels raw and draining to pretend everything is okay and that I am not a human with normal emotions—that even though I haven’t felt romantic love for my ex fiancé in six years, it still wouldn’t rock my entire core to see and hear him say “I do” to someone else.

He and I once had picked out our own venue, standing hand-in-hand blissful that he would get to ride in on a quad, and I could have my barefoot outdoor wedding. I had tried on dresses and asked my sisters and niece to be my bridesmaids. I had the perfect ring, and I was making my guest list.

My braveness the other day was just a symbol of everything I am lacking in my own life: I do not have a husband. I may not ever. I probably will never bear a child from my own womb. J’s old promises to me were now wrapped in my own tissue paper and sitting on a table for a woman I don’t even know to tear open and write me a detached thank you note in a month’s time. And that’s it. That is all I have to show for almost six years of dedication to a man whose wedding I attended on Saturday.

Being brave felt like it was for everyone else, but perhaps it was my own stupidity. I don’t regret that I went, as I know it made J smile that I was there, but that really was the only reason why I went. To support him. He’s never been much for friends, and although we are ex partners, we’ve always been able to be pals. Yet, everyone I’ve spoken to about this past weekend has wondered how I even made it onto the guest list. They told me they would never be able to do what I did.

Does that make me foolish or does that make me brave?

Sometimes I don’t think there’s a difference.

Four Reasons & One Realization

When someone who is a writer hasn’t written in a while, there are quite possibly a number of reasons why:

  1. They are busy with life
  2. They have lost inspiration
  3. They’ve written, but decided it’s crap and won’t share it
  4. The ideas are bubbling in their head, but there are too many and not enough ambition or motivation to follow through

I am sure there are more reasons than that, but I have experienced all four of those in the last several months.

It’s not that I haven’t written. I’ve written. I just don’t think any of it is good or complete enough to share it with the rest of the world.

Winter strips me of my humanity. I am a walking, eating, sleeping shell, who wanders through her days, seeking only the comforts of alcohol, a warm blanket, or the vicarious vacation of watching others on television.

Sometimes, there is far too much going on inside my head, or emotionally, for me to even begin to comprehend how to put those thoughts to paper.

Yesterday was Friday. I had no plans. I also had no desire to make them. I was feeling eerily down for no reason, except possibly the effects of my birth control, this weather, or the general existential angst I’ve been feeling for quite some time. I chose to lie on the couch and eat garlic bread and pizza I had ordered. I never order food when I am alone; this was an exception.

Quite drastically, something clicked over in my brain. Sort of like when a record player shifts over the grooves to the next song. I decided that I was tired of being tired. For weeks now, I have been mulling over how, lately, I am the opposite of everything my blog stands for. I have been extremely mediocre—hating it with a passivity—but mediocre, nonetheless.

Part of the problem is that I’ve lost my goal. Somewhere in the past few months I have literally misplaced the part of me that has hope. It’s been a weird sort of depression I’ve never felt before. Usually, I’ll feel ambivalence or deep pain, but never without hopefulness.

In that moment of stark realization, I had been looking at one of those online coaching programs—the ones that, through virtual means, motivate you to strive for your health and weight goals. You know, like having a personal trainer, except not.

It’s been too bare and bleak outside for me to consider being alive again. I’ve dealt with this deadness by eating. In doing so, I’ve gained back the weight I’ve lost in the past few months. I am angry at myself, which makes it worse. So, yesterday, I decided to accept that life has these natural waves and to do something about it.

I joined this online coaching program for a free two-week trial. In the set-up, it asks me:

What are your deepest reasons for why you want to reach your goal?

After giving a brief answer, it prompts me again:

Is this the real reason, or is there more?

I wrote more.

This short, virtual prompting by a non-human was strangely so thoughtful and perfect. In those few moments, I was able to succinctly put into words a large quantity of what has been bothering me for months.

It was always in my head, but placing it on paper had a real impact.

I want to have hopefulness and strive for goals. Why? It asked me.

Because I don’t want to be depressed or have existential angst.

Is this the crux of it…?

I don’t feel like me. I miss the old me.

I have known this for a long time, but verbalizing it gave it power again.

What is the old me?

Well, a lot of things, but when I wrote that I was thinking about the old, physical me, for starters. A girl who was comfortable in her own skin and looked in the mirror every day and thought (mostly) that she was beautiful and radiant.

The old me also had dreams, hobbies, energy, and spirit.

She didn’t look forward to drinking as an escape from reality. She didn’t sit on the couch, watching television for hours so the aching she felt inside could be tamped down. She looked forward to full stretches of days alone, where she could practice guitar, write, do arts and crafts, go for walks in the woods, and feel the cosmic love of the universe pour down upon her in gentle, reminding waves of compassion.

I don’t feel any of that anymore. Literally, none of it. Today, is the first day in a very long time I have felt anything.

Knowing that every day was one I was sleepily rolling through, like a person in a crowd on an escalator, was making me mediocre. Mediocrity led to helplessness and uselessness. I do not like being alive just so I can eat snacks, watch a movie, or go to work. I like being alive because I know I have some purpose. If I am not contributing to this existence in any way, I don’t want to be here.

This is the existential angst I’ve been feeling.

My dreams have been filled with nightmares and destruction for weeks. I wonder if this was my body’s way of trying to cause motion again?

My problems are far from being resolved, and this is only day one of the first step, but I have at least identified and verbalized what is causing me such stagnation.

I have finally chosen to listen to myself.

Chemical Cocktail, Please

His hand is outstretched with an ornament in his palm; he says, “Do you want to hang this one?”

A week ago, Bryan and I put up the Christmas tree in my living room.

With the new Gilmore Girls Series playing in the background, we spread all of the ornaments across the floor and began to hang.

It was a home-made ornament from my co-worker Heather with one of my favorite photos of Zen and me on it: I’m in my thread-bare bathrobe, snuggling him in a deep embrace while smiling.

me-and-zen

I immediately broke out into tears. Big alligator tears.

I don’t know if it was that I was completely taken by surprise or that it was the beginning of the week where my hormones get all wacky thanks to my silent passenger, PMDD. It probably was a combination of the two, but I was a tiny ball on my living room rug, crying hard while apologizing through snotty wails.

Losing Zen a month before Christmas last year was such a whirlwind that I had erased from my memory that I ever received that ornament. And unfortunately, it wasn’t the only one. After I recovered myself, we continued to hang ornaments, and minutes later, Bryan finds another customized Zen ornament that my sister had made. Another one I had forgotten about. He hands it to me, and once again, I am on the floor, tears streaming down my face.

I have always been “highly sensitive” and “overly emotional” since I was a child. In the past few years, it has intensified. Recently, I’ve discovered I have what is labeled as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, where my hormones go hay-wire for approximately a week to a week and a half each month, usually during ovulation.

So, it makes me wonder, was I really that distraught over my deceased cat or was it just my crazy hormones acting up?

Knowing that I have a hormone imbalance and being able to regulate it with birth control and natural remedies, such as exercise, dietary changes, and herbal supplements, has basically saved me from losing my mind and firing off at people with no self-control. Yet, it has also enabled me to use it as a crutch or an excuse when I do act ‘roided up on emotions.

That bothers me, sometimes.

Some of the magic of life’s moments are blanched when I have the knowledge that a specific combination of neurochemicals and hormones are having a rager in my body and that’s the reason why something makes me wistful, depressed, nostalgic, deeply affected, or impassioned. Things like my libido and emotional acuity can be altered with the application of a pill each day.

However, I cannot deny that PMDD is a real thing and I can actually see the signs of it now that I know what it is. It’s not just a made-up crutch with which I scapegoat my behaviors. I’ll come home from work and have that “I just want to go to bed now” feeling that I used to attribute to laziness and always gave myself a hard time about, but I know now that it is the onset of PMDD. Knowing that helps me get through it and actually motivates me to go to yoga, start cleaning the apartment, or make dinner. These subtle signs always happen during a specific time of the month, providing some proof that the chemical cocktail is coursing through my body.

Crying over Zen was unexpected and real. It may have been heightened by my levels of hormones in that moment, but I love and miss him fiercely.

I refuse to let the knowledge that we’re all varying mixtures of chemicals ruin the incredible luster that is cherishing a lost one, smiling because a memory with an old partner feels painfully beautiful, or hurting because my heart is breaking. It might not always be a fun feeling, but it’s me.

It’s always been me.

Unchartered Territory

In yoga class, my teacher tells us to breathe in our “intention”, and then, exhale and let it go through the mouth.

I imagined a ball of green light filling up my stomach and reaching to my extremities, like the way contained lightning looks inside one of those glass bulbs. I visualized black smoke leaving my lungs and mouth, as I pushed the air and unheathiness out of my body.

My focus lately has been completely that of regaining mental, physical, and emotional health. Along with that process comes spiritual brightening, a sense of reconnectedness with my surroundings, and an overflowing bowl of love that supersedes the compassion I have felt in the past several years.

The last few months, my process has been to chart everything, whether it be literally or mentally:

I have charted weight loss; I evaluate my emotions and insomnia during ovulation to see if the birth control is curbing my PMDD symptoms. Carbs are slowly being reduced from my diet. I bought a bunch of vitamins and supplements and line up pills each afternoon after lunch, as I swallow them down with seltzer. I add up hours of sleep I’m gaining; I keep track of alcohol consumption and have greatly reduced my intake. I am aware of my breath in yoga and keep tabs on my exercise regime. I celebrate each day cigarette-free; Whitening my teeth has become a twice-a-day routine. I regale in numerous hours of solitude and count back from 100 as I drift off to sleep.

I chart my life. My new life.

My new life is structured, balanced, and healthy. It needs to be for now. These promises and habits I’ve allowed myself to receive are saving my life and I can’t take that lightly.

It’s been two-and-a-half weeks since I quit smoking cigarettes. It’s hardly been a struggle at all, which is making me wonder why I waited so long? What’s harder is that I am now battling an over-active appetite as well as water retention from taking the pill. The 7 lbs I lost in the last month or more have seeped back into my fat cells. Or maybe I gained muscle? We can pretend that’s what it is.

I don’t think I’ll always be so stringent with my habits, but this is part of cultivating the healthier me who deserves to feel good about herself. I’ve wanted whiter teeth for eons; what’s stopping me? I rapaciously lap up each second of my yoga classes, often on the verge of tears and slipping out small smiles, because I missed peacefulness and inner and physical strength so damn much.

I’m a chronic body obsessor. I have very obsessive-compulsive thinking patterns, and sometimes, behaviors. I think I have body dysmorphic disorder. Have thought so for years. So, I battle these evil thoughts constantly. Most people just don’t know this about me, because although I will blurt out a complaint or ten about my appearance, I don’t seem excessively worried. Inside, I am terrified of my body, all while appreciating it and loving it, too.

It’s a boomerang of feelings, but I do my best to realign my focus more on my physical health than my physical appearance, and I think I am kinda kicking ass at it.

I’ve always been a person who has massive amounts of self-confidence all while hate-shaming my body and worth. Many times I’ve referred to myself as a “self-loathing narcissist”.

Although I have been abused and neglected by men, fucked over by friends, and feel uncomfortable in clothing, I do really love myself. I think it’s rather self-evident in the radical changes I’ve made in the past couple of months without a second thought, because I knew I had to in order to get my PMDD under control and ensure I wouldn’t try to hurt myself again.

I’m almost done with month three of the pill and this week is the time-frame when my emotions usually become overwhelmingly intense and my motivation to move nose-dives. I have become teary-eyed and sensitive a lot over the past several days. I don’t feel incredibly unmotivated, however. I feel sort of sad or wistful, but not in a depths of despair kind of way. I am longing for someone to hold me more than usual; I am nostalgic for lost moments, and the ache that always lurks in the precipice of my darkly-rooted traumas is ever-so-present. It always shows its face during this time of the month. But instead of being anchored to my couch, crying and paralyzed for hours at a time, I am observant of it, processing it, feeling it, letting tears out where needed, and remaining positive.

Birth control didn’t fix my PMDD; it is only helping me while I figure this out.

As I place trembling feet into unchartered territory each day, all of the confident steps I’ve taken to bring equilibrium and salubrity into my life coach me and make every mile a little lighter and easier.

Here’s to Health (Update)

I’m a smoker and my doctor has warned me that pretty soon I would have to stop, because once in your thirties, your risk for blood clots increase if you smoke.

I had my follow-up appointment on Friday to see how the birth control (that I’ve begun taking two months ago for my PMDD) is going.

For the first time in my life my blood pressure has elevated. It’s still pretty healthy. I think it was 120/84. She said according to all my records, my blood pressure has pretty much always been 120/70.

Well… she’s pretty sure the cigarettes are causing the increased blood pressure, and if, in 6 weeks, I go back and my blood pressure is still going up, she has to take me off birth control.

I really, desperately do not want that.

For the first time in a few years, I am starting to feel more normal during that one heinous week of each month where my emotions and depression become monsters with their own agendas.

I do not want to switch to a different method, such as an anti-depressant, because the side-effects are greater, and I feel fine most of the month.

After this weekend, I have to try hard not to smoke anymore.

This is something that should have happened a long time ago, anyway; I just never had a “good” excuse to be motivated enough to quit.

If I don’t quit, I could be compromising the positive changes occurring in my life, and that would be foolish.

So, here’s to health!