Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

It’s been a year since I last updated this blog though it’s not for lack of trying. It’s truly difficult to know where to begin when talking about a topic that has affected my life both in depth and breadth. How do I say everything I want to say? I can’t.

There aren’t words to express the what this last year has been like. It’s been amazing. It’s been complicated. It’s been confusing. It’s had uncertainties. It’s had tears. It’s had laughter. It’s had… everything. To try to express how experiencing everything while not carrying the full weight of my depression is impossible. With the length of time I’ve lived with my depression, I’ve learned to articulate what it feels like. In trying to articulate my life without it being the elephant on my chest, I feel like a toddler trying to find words and stumbling over myself.

The complexities of my experience, for the sake of brevity, I will simplify. Ketamine is both fast acting yet short lived. My depression is still here, inside me. After the infusions we went to injections and from injections, I’ve moved to a nasal spray. Each switch has required a learning curve which would take a post in and of itself to talk about. Right now, I do a nasal spray every four days. If I go longer, my depression comes back and quickly. I go from doing okay to feeling blah to intense depression within 24-48 hours. That is extremely stressful on my psyche. As long as I stick to my regimen, my depression remains dormant.

I won’t complain though. In the last year I’ve seen the most beautiful colors. I’ve breathed deeply. I’ve experienced joy and hope and laughter. I’ve cried and I’ve mourned and I’ve felt all my emotions. I will take God’s miracles and mercies as He gives them to me.

I have a lot of learning to do still. After decades of horrible days, I have to learn how to have bad days. Sometimes I have a bad day and I slip into catastrophic thinking. Other times I’ve been under stress, or not had enough sleep or had tragedy and struggled to be okay existing in sadness and not trying to ignore it. This is why I still go to therapy. Like a child learning her colors, I am learning my emotions, getting reacquainted and trying to understand them.

Be patient with me as I sort it out. If I disappear, it’s likely that there was a hiccup in my routine or I’m struggling to deal with the everyday. If I seem unsure or hesitant, I have not yet gained my confidence in commitments. Often my depression would lay me out for weeks and I hated flaking out so I simply didn’t agree to anything. I’m starting to step up but I still get nervous and my anxiety flares up.

And if you want to know about depression, anxiety, therapy, ketamine, and/or how my faith in Christ fits with all of it… let me know. I have no shame in my struggles. They are what they are.

“It would be a very sharp and trying experience to me to think that I have an affliction which God never sent me, that the bitter cup was never filled by his hand, that my trials were never measured out by him, nor sent to me by his arrangement of their weight and quantity.” (Charles Spurgeon)

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I’ve tried to write this post about a dozen times and I end up feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things I want to say. So I’m going to try to strip it down bare, stick with the nitty gritty, and write more later if I think what I wanted to say (but didn’t) needs to be said.

I have lived most of my life wondering how people get out of bed in the morning and function. I’ve been hospitalized three times. I’ve taken enough antidepressants that when a doctor sees my list their eyebrows go up. I’ve even done a round of ECT (never. again.). There is nothing quite so difficult as to live life in a way that isn’t really living. It’s existing. It’s torture. It’s hell on earth. There aren’t enough Hallmark cards and fluffy cat videos to make it okay. I can read my Bible for hours and I still want to die because the emotional pain is unbearable. It’s exhausting, soul-sucking, and demoralizing.

My depression has kept my therapist on his toes. The result is that he and my psychiatrist have kept their ears to the ground in terms of treatment options.

Over the last few years, I’ve been hearing murmurs of a drug, ketamine, being used in lower doses to help treatment resistant depression. The trials have been extremely promising, and while a few boutique clinics have opened up across the country, access has been limited. Furthermore, since it’s being used off-label in these clinics, insurance companies aren’t wont to cough up for it, leaving the hefty price tag for the patient to pick up.

A couple of months ago, however, it came to my mental health team’s attention that there was a psychiatrist at a nearby hospital offering ketamine infusions and having luck pushing it through insurance. With little else to try, I was referred over and after meeting with this psychiatrist, I was set up to do six infusions over three weeks. The psychiatrist had participated in a small clinical trial dealing only with patients diagnosed with depression and they had seen a 90% success rate with moods remaining stable a month after treatment ended. In his own experience, he told me he’d seen a third with similar success, a third with no respond, and a third with some response and that some people opted for maintenance treatments.

Given where my depression was, my expectations were low. I was desperate.

I don’t want to paint this treatment as a miracle treatment. However, after living most of my life with this nightmare in my own brain, battling suicidal ideation, and trying to do more than merely survive, this treatment was… well, let me just say that I hope it becomes more widespread to give other people out there like me a shot at sanity.

The first treatment was like a breath of fresh air. My most distinct memory was that it felt like the five elephants sitting on my chest all got up. I took a physical, deep breath and I was flabbergasted at my ability to breathe. After, the most noticeable change was how quiet my mind was. The suicidal thoughts that had plagued me since I was a kid were gone. Gone. I was still depressed but I didn’t want to die.

Gradually, over the course of the treatments, there continued to be improvement. By the time I got to the last one, I was ready to be done. I went from scoring a 27+ on the PHQ-9 to scoring somewhere between a 5-10. I really can’t express the magnitude of that change.

I feel like my head is still spinning from such a drastic change over a short period of time.

It’s now been a week since my last infusion and I meet with the psychiatrist again next week. I’m still holding my breath somewhat because while I’ve seen a significant improvement, it’s only been a week. My depression could reassert itself and my therapist does think it’s likely I’ll need some kind of maintenance, but really we don’t know. Using ketamine for depression is still experimental (the drug isn’t, the treatment is). There’s a lot they simply don’t know.

So right now it’s wait and see.

That being said, I’m enjoying where I’m at for the moment. To be able to experience the full range emotions with nothing buzzing around in the background threatening to drown me is unusual. I finally understand how people get out of bed. I finally understand how people pursue interests. I understand what it is to cry and not have the sorrow turn into a deluge. To experience stress and not have it crumble me into pieces.

Part of that is the work of my pretty fantastic therapist and the dialectical behavioral therapy team at the clinic I go to. Despite the fact that they didn’t really touch my depression, I practiced the skills and internalized them. And now, now I can use them and they do something.

I’ll end my post here. With a toddler, I don’t have much time for editing so forgive my mistakes. I’m happy to answer questions about it and I’ll try to write more in the future, maybe focusing on the experience, and updating as to how I’m feeling.

Until then, peace out.

 

One of my top posts, one that gets hits almost every week, is my Jamberry review post. When I wrote it, I really didn’t expect it to hang around as long as it did, but it has and the top search is the title of this post.

Does Jamberry damage nails?

First, just a reminder, I’m not a consultant. I was for all of five minutes and quickly went back to being a customer because that’s the role I prefer.

IMG_5015Second, this is my personal blog so really, no one’s paying me to write any of this. I just really like Jamberry to a ridiculous extent.

So – do they damage nails?

Well, the honest answer is, they can. It’s a heat activated adhesive that sticks the wrap to your nail. If you’re hoping to just tear that sucker off, then bad news, yes, you’re going to damage your nails.

Have I damaged my nails? Yes. In pretty much every single case, I was impatient. Rather than take the time to carefully remove my wraps (which, on me, last about two weeks), I’d try to get them off quickly. Inevitably I ended up with some rough looking nails, primarily at the tips where my lack of patience showed. When I took my time, I didn’t damage my nails. Amazing how that works, right?

This is my preferred method for removing nails:

1. Heat. I get my mini heater and I heat the wrap I want to remove.
2. Gentle lift. I work the wrap up, just a little, at the base of my nail near the cuticle.
3. Oil. I like lemon essential oil for this step. I put a drop where the wrap is lifted and continue to apply heat while I carefully work the wrap away from the nail. If I feel resistance, I add a drop or two more as needed.
4. More heat. I don’t hold my finger right up on the heater, but close enough that I feel it without burning.

Once I’ve removed all my wraps, I’ll use some acetone to clean off any sticky residue and then maybe massage in some cuticle oil. Using this method I haven’t damaged my nails. You could use acetone instead of oil. I prefer the oil because I have dry skin and it’s a little nicer to me.

Moral of the story: The nails have to stick and in order to last two weeks they have to stick tough. So take your time and it’ll all be okay.

When it gets too heavy…

Posted: March 7, 2015 in Depression, Life
Tags:

I wasn’t sure whether or not I was going to write this. 11 19 11_1542

There’s not an easy way to come out and say, “Hey, my psychiatrist made me check into the psych ward at the local hospital.”

I’ve spent the last few years trying to push back against the stigma of mental illness. I’ve tried to be open as best that I can. I’ve tried to answer questions honestly. It’s not easy. People want to solve your problems even when you ask them not to. They don’t know that they don’t have the whole story. I don’t publish every single facet of my depression. I share what I can, what I can endure to have critiqued, and the rest I save for those closest to me. Sometimes they don’t even get the full story.

When a person is hospitalized for anything other than a mental illness, it’s easily discussed. People will post about it on Facebook or it’ll go out in the prayer chain or whatever. A psych ward visit though… people don’t know what to say. They don’t know what to do. It’s spoken about in hushed whispers. Without intending to, the message gets sent that going to the hospital for a mental illness is shameful. How broken does your mind have to be to land you there?

I don’t want to give the details here, on a public blog. Suffice to say that both my therapist and my psychiatrist were in agreement that I needed to go in. My psychiatrist told me I either went or he put a psychiatric hold on me. My therapist and my psychiatrist are long suffering people who would not have made this decision if it weren’t absolutely necessary.

Sometimes the despair gets to be too heavy. Sometimes the darkness is too thick. Sometimes life feels like a millstone around my neck. Sometimes it looks like there’s only one solution and it has nothing to do with feeling unloved or unwanted. Sometimes I just want it to stop hurting.

Right now my therapist (with his PhD) and my psychiatrist (with his MD) are helping me come up with some creative, scientifically based, solutions. (I say this every time – I don’t want any advice or suggestions. I have a fantastic team and I don’t need folk remedies). I trust them and I’m safe in their care.

So why am I sharing this? Because I’m not okay. Because I’m not okay and I refuse to be ashamed.

We’re all broken in some way, and these are the pieces I’m in.

The Holidays & Depression

Posted: December 23, 2014 in Christmas, Depression, God
Tags: ,

This has beeDay 12n a tough year. Well, actually a tough couple of years. After pushing through two Christmases, I hit this year and asked my husband if I could cancel Christmas. I think he thought I was joking. He gave me a hug because he knows how depressed I am, and has mostly taken over the Christmas duties. We’ve done very little past our advent calendar with daily Bible devotion and the tree is sparsely decorated. I put on the lights and moved a few ornaments, that’s it.

Last year, I baked. I don’t know how I had the motivation, but I did and so there were Christmas treats sent out.

This year, my parents canceled their visit to us (I’ve cried repeatedly about this). I’ve had terrible side effects as we’ve tried to find proper medication (Paxil made me intensely suicidal, to the point hospitalization was whispered around me, thankfully we figured out it was the medication), and so, I’m worn out.

Dealing with the severe depression I do leaves me with very little emotional energy to begin with. To have it sucked out of me… well all I want to do is crawl into bed and wait until spring when at least I can escape with my iPod and a long walk and get some sunshine.

In all of that though, perhaps the part that leaves me the most discouraged is that I want to celebrate Christ. I’ve had Christmases where I feel a little something inside reading about the host of angels filling the sky, singing. I’ve felt deep sadness at the deaths of those that Herod killed because of his pride and fear. I’ve read the story in wonder and in awe.

This year… I don’t even know what to write.

Not even E’s effusive excitement makes me feel anything at all.

From John Piper’s talk on Charles Spurgeon:

“Causeless depression cannot be reasoned with, nor can David’s harp charm it away by sweet discoursings. As well fight with the mist as with this shapeless, undefinable, yet all-beclouding hopelessness … The iron bolt which so mysteriously fastens the door of hope and holds our spirits in gloomy prison, needs a heavenly hand to push it back.”

And I wonder at times why God does not push it back? I know the intellectual answer and my heart hurts all the same.

Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of dealing with depression, particularly chronic depression, is seeking treatment.

There’s a stigma with mental illness and that stigma gets multiplied and added to any conventional treatment. Antidepressants are derided, whether it be through hushed whispers about ‘happy pills’ or those who have never faced true darkness simply hand waving the depression away. “If only she would eat a paleo diet and run twenty miles a day…” It’s an exaggeration, and yet with depression, that’s exactly what every dietary/exercise suggestion sounds like.

The implication, whether the person realizes it or not, is that it’s my fault somehow. I’m not strong enough, smart enough, fast enough, positive enough, optimistic enough, committed to my health enough. I’m not enough. I’m a failure. I’m broken because I broke myself somehow. I am unworthy. I am small. I am weak. I need medication. I can’t find medication.

Something about me is broken and it’s my fault.

As with anything there’s a kernel of truth. I live in a fallen world with sin and we’re all broken on some level, just my brokenness shows up in the form of an impossible darkness.

And from there I get a lot of “You just need to have faith in Jesus.” I used to wonder what that meant because the truth is, it’s my faith that gets me up in the morning and gets me to take care of my children. So far God has done nothing about this weight on my shoulders and I honestly don’t know if he will. In America we like to think all our problems can be solved because we can get a cheeseburger down the road or drive to Whole Foods and buy organic kale and vaccines work so well we think they must not have worked at all.

11 19 11_1540God doesn’t work like that, I say. No one listens. Because the idea that one might have to live with a wound that hurts for the rest of one’s life is too much to bear.

I know because I bear it and there are many moments I don’t know if I will make it to the next one.

It’s a lonely road to commit oneself to the path I’ve chosen. Naturopaths are swindlers and alternative medicine is a scam 99% of the time. Pharmaceutical companies aren’t altruistic, so I find good doctors, the ones that want to help. That doesn’t stop people from suggesting supplements and acupuncture which I smile graciously and don’t bother with. It’s too easy to get sucked into a world where my idol is health. I’ve made a decision as to what I will try and what I won’t try and it’s based on my faith and what I believe about God and salvation. It’s more complicated than I can explain on a blog post and more personal than I would want to share in public anyway.

I’m very tired these days. Maybe it’s the winter. Maybe it’s one more medication that hasn’t worked but has given me frustrating side effects. Maybe it’s a depression that dogs my every step and has haunted me since I was a child.

Maybe it’s the loneliness of realizing that no matter how much help I ask for, it’ll never be enough because no one else can fight my demons.

Yesterday I hit 50k. I wrapped up my novel because the truth is, if I decide to revise, I’ll be expanding that way. There’s a lot of thin parts where I came to scene and then realized I didn’t know where it needed to go, so I jumped to the next one. I haven’t decided if I’m going to revise. I don’t write fluffy books. For me, writing is cathartic for my depression. It is a way for me to put my struggle in a tangible form and that makes my writing something that exposes me a great deal. Not to mention it makes my stories dark because depression is dark and it’s messy. I sanitize a lot of my experience for other people primarily because I’m not sure how someone will take it. It’s exhausting to be vulnerable with another person and then have them respond callously. It makes me feel incredibly “other” and alone. It is, unfortunately, something that happens a good bit of the time. People don’t mean to be, they just don’t understand. When I’m in a better place, I can cope through and help educate someone how to interact with me (and hopefully others like me).

Winner-2014-Twitter-Profile

But, that means my novel is much darker than I think most people would expect and so if I do revise, I’ll probably publish under a pen name and tell virtually no one I know that I wrote a book.

However, it does feel good to have hit 50k. I feel like I accomplished something for me.

And Jamberry? I decided to start selling it. Jamberry is something else I do because of my depression. Sometimes, when things hurt so much I can’t breathe, I steal away to a quiet place in my house and I do my nails. I pick colors and then whenever I’m out and feeling overwhelmed, I look at my nails and while I don’t feel happy, I feel a little better. So I wanted the discount :) I guess that means I’ll have to update my Jamberry review post to say that I’m selling because I like to be transparent. I don’t know if I’ll ever have more than a few parties, but at least I’ll be able to keep up with my therapeutic habit.

 

Past 10k (Notes from NaNo)

Posted: November 5, 2014 in Life, NaNoWriMo, Writing
Tags: , ,

Day 5. 12,000 words.

I’m really surprised by how well this year is going. The previous two years that I participated left me struggling each day to get to the recommended word count. I constantly checked my count to see if I’d reached the coveted 1,667 words for the day. I wrote each word with a level of anxiety that I would describe as often story-breaking. I had every judgment in the book floating around in my head. It didn’t matter that I knew that no book comes from a writer’s fingertips in pristine, publishable condition. No, despite knowing that I agonized over every sentence.

I pretty much expected the same this year. And I had it, day one… day two… paranoia set in. I was ready for it. I pulled out all of my therapy skills (thank you awesome therapist) and I got down to business. Inner critic started yammering? Non-judgmental stance. My story is neither good nor bad, it simply is and it is a first draft. I kept taking my thoughts back there every time she reared her ugly head to tell me about all the ways my story was crappy. I came to this fight expecting to battle her at least until 25k.

Imagine my surprise to find that she’s decided to (mostly) shut her trap.

I don’t know if this will be the novel. Y’know, the one I decide to endure a myriad of rejection letters for (or the one I decide to self-publish). I do know I feel very differently about this story in the past. Whether that’s me getting a grip on my DBT skills or if that’s because it’s just a better story, I can’t tell you.

But here I am. 12k in and looking forward to the halfway mark. See you then.

Today was the first day of National Novel Writing Month. It’s my third time doing it.

All in all, I’m off to a decent start. My goal for the weekend is 5k and I’m at 2100 words. Not too shabby and yet a long way from 50k. I’ve done it before (twice) and I have no reason to think I can’t get there again barring unforeseen events like maybe aliens (aliens would be a good excuse not to finish right?).

For me, writing 50k in a month is what I imagine it’s like to run a marathon. Sitting down and writing this much requires dedication. I know from experience that other people look at bit askance at me when I talk about writing a novel – either because it seems like I’m insane (possibly) or because they think, “If you’re not published, who cares?”

Or maybe that’s just my own inner critic (she’s loud).

National Novel Writing Month is therapeutic for me. My depression really starts to kick into high gear as the days get shorter and darker and that’s saying something given that if people knew my thoughts I’m pretty sure most would want to hospitalize me or at least remove all the sharp objects from my house (no point in being shy about it – this is just a fact of living with the type of depression I have). I have so many days where I can’t get out of bed. So many days when I feel like I’m a failure at life even if all the facts point to something different.

Writing 50k in a month is my way of looking my depression straight in the eyes and saying, “Not today.” It’s a goal that gets me up and gets me doing something that feels like an accomplishment for me.

I felt that today. When I punched in my first word count update, I felt my depression quiet a little bit. I heard my inner critic snort and start rifling around for the really good insults.

I’m going to get to 50k because I like to win and I like to be right. And writing 50k is me getting sassy. It’s me fighting back.

Maybe I’ll write a third novel that I don’t care to revise and publish. Or maybe I will. I don’t know but that’s not why I’m writing this. I’m not doing this for anyone except me.

But… I’m writing about it because it is a journey. Because just like I can’t fight my depression alone, I can’t reach 50k alone. I want encouragement, I want shouts of support, I want other voices telling me I can do this and to understand why I’m doing it.

God designed me with depression and I don’t know why. At the same time, He also made me incredibly stubborn. It drives everyone crazy but it gets me out of bed. It gets me fighting even after I think I’ve got nothing left to fight with.

And it’ll get me to 50k.

Well. Here’s hoping anyway :)

National Novel Writing Month

Posted: October 30, 2014 in Life, NaNoWriMo, Writing
Tags: ,

I love to write.

I’ve been writing in some form or fashion since I could hold a pencil and put it on paper.

For me, writing isn’t necessarily done with a goal in mind. I might try to publish one day or all my writings might sit on my hard drive. I write for the same reason I breathe – I have to. If I go too long without writing, I feel like I’m mentally constipated (yup, I just gave you that image, you’re welcome).

The hardest periods for me are post-baby. Trying to write with a little one needing your every attention is hard. Freaking hard. It’s only slightly harder than writing with a toddler (oh look, I have one of those). That said, after taking a year off, I’ve decided to jump back in the saddle and what better way to do that than to try to write 50,000 words in a month?

The other reason I’m taking on this challenge now is because I need to do something to affirm me as a person. I’ve been mom and wife for a year while my identity has taken a backseat to everyone’s needs. This is just what happens when there are children involved and you do what I do (homeschool, cloth diaper, feed all the people).

NaNoWin2011So this is for me. I need to stretch myself in a way that stretches myself and I need to feel an accomplishment that means something to me. Some people run marathons, I write marathons (because man I hate running – all those genes went to my pretty awesome little sister who does IronMan competitions and smokes it – I am so proud of her – shout out to you Heather!). I don’t know what the crap a runner’s high feels like; all I ever felt while running was the bewilderment of why I was running when there were no zombies chasing me. I imagine though it feels a bit like what I feel when I hit the 25k mark on my manuscript. I’m like “Hell yeah! Halfway! In your face novel!” and I feel practically euphoric as I watch words appear on the screen.

Maybe this year I’ll write a story I want to share with the world. Maybe not. But I will write a story that I want to write. If you do NaNo, why do you do it?

Here’s what I’ll be doing this year:
– Paper plates, plastic cups, disposable flatware because something has got to give and that’s the dishes.
– Extra pizza nights. Because hello, pizza.
– Maybe an extra bottle of wine ;)
– A rough outline of what I want to write (although normally I’m a hardcore outliner, this year I decided to relax a bit and only do a rough sketch).
– Clean PJ pants.
– A conversation with my fantastic husband who is supporting me in this endeavor and willing to help me make it to the end.

See you on the other side!