Monthly Archives: May 2009

On goals.

On the Friday I was to leave for vacation, I called in sick to work.  I had been vomiting all night due to my failure to eat food before I took the pain meds prescribed with the antibiotic for my most recent UTI, and by the time 7 a.m. rolled around, I realized there was no way I was going to be able to drag my dehydrated ass to work.

I called my boss and broke the bad news, saying I was sorry that I wouldn’t be able to make it in.  Actually, I wasn’t sorry that I wouldn’t be able to make it in, I was sorry that I had to take yet another questionable sick day, the Friday before I left for vacation for a week.  I seem to have a knack for getting sick on questionable days, such as the two days before the Thanksgiving holiday, or the day of Obama’s inauguration.  I usually feel bad about it for about two minutes and then move on with my life.  On Friday I felt bad about it for long enough to tell my boss that I felt bad about it and then fell into a deep, guiltless, finally nausea-free sleep.

After I broke the news, she said, “I hope this vacation is very productive for you.”  I laughed and said that I was just hoping that I would be well enough to board the damn plane, and then I thanked her because I supposed she meant well.  But when I hung up the phone, I thought, “Productive?!  It’s a VACATION, for Christ’s sake!  What does she MEAN, productive?  Productive my ASS.”

But who was I kidding.  I had goals for my vacation lined up already, and I was hoping to be productive as hell.

First and foremost, I fully intended to procure a deep tan that would last me most of the summer.  And, despite two straight days of rain and intermittent storms the other six days, I did.

I also had some slightly loftier goals, such as to, you know, FIGURE OUT MY LIFE.  I bought a new tiny moleskine notebook for precisely this purpose and then spent the entire vacation not writing in it.  I did spend a lot of time watching HGTV, and God, was it good.  And you know what else?  They’ve made no new episodes of House Hunters since I last tuned in five months ago.

The goal that was easiest to meet was not using a computer for an entire week.  No e-mail.  No blogs.  No Facebook.  No nothing.  I watched my family members one by one go through withdrawal.  One evening while we were sitting on the back porch listening to the waves, my mom asked my brother to install the Facebook app on her Blackberry.  Occasionally someone would sneak off to Panera with my brother’s laptop.  But I did not give in.  And that was good too.

My main goal was to feel.  I know how ridiculous this sounds, as if I’m some whiny character from Garden State.  But it has been clear for quite some time that I spend a lot of time every day actively NOT feeling.  Coping mechanism, or something.  Feeling is a terrifying thing when what you feel when you allow yourself to feel is soul-deadening, centrifugal force-flattening depression.  Of course, NOT feeling gets me no where except confused when I have a dramatic outburst or crying spell or do something like, you know, have an affair with a married man.  I suppose you could call this “acting out.”  Because of all this not feeling, I’m a little emotionally stunted.  Cautionary Therapist says I have the emotional intelligence of a teenager.  But after seeing High School Musical 3, I am certain my emotional age is much younger than that.  Troy and Gabriella have the most emotionally mature relationship I’ve ever witnessed in my entire life.

As a tongue-in-cheek way to meet this goal, I bought myself a slightly ironic mood ring.  Right now it’s a deep purple, which means, according to the handy mood ring colors chart, very happy, blissful, deeply relaxed, inner harmony, tranquil, subdued, satisfied, intensely passionate, truly romantic, in love, and, inexplicably, “the ultimate.” Or, to uncrazy people, COLD. Something tells me the more accurate color for what I’m feeling is the greenish brown it has turned my right ring finger.

But as a result of trying to FEEL, something kind of incredible happened.  For over a year now, I’ve been trying to learn how to “sit with” my emotions.  How to feel them, identify them, validate them, and then let them pass.  And in the midst of a middle-of-the-night anxiety attack the night before we left Florida, I did exactly that.  I felt nauseated and panicky, with a side of racing pulse and dry mouth.  I identified this as anxiety.  I asked myself the reasons I felt anxious, and then I validated those reasons one by one.  Anxious about flying?  That’s okay.  Anxious about going back to work?  That’s okay.  Anxious about my six-month lease nearly being over?  That’s okay.  Anxious about not really knowing what the hell I’m doing in life?  That’s okay.  Anxious about not really knowing whether or not I want to be married?  That’s okay.

And then it passed and I went back to sleep.  And that?  That is a goal met, my friends.

And now vacation is over and the things I was anxious about are happening.  I have reentered my Cautionary Life.  I didn’t die on the return flight, which was step one.  Steps two and three include finding a new job and applying this new “that’s okay” technique to all of my emotions, not just the extreme ones.  And I’m feeling like that’s very doable, which tells me that the Lexapro might be finally, finally working.

I also suspect it’s working because this morning?  I correctly identified the feeling called happy.

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Back.

These are the books that accompanied me to Vero Beach, Florida.

These are my toes covered in glorious sand.  My nail polish color is called “Day at the Peach.”

This is a Cautionary Dog who was very happy to see me when I returned.

This is a plant that is very pissed off that I turned the thermostat up to 90 degrees before leaving for a week.  It might not forgive me.

These are my sandals, and my sister and nephew playing in the Atlantic.

This is me remembering what it feels like to want a day to never, ever end.

Haven’t felt that in a while.  It is good.

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Florida Beach + 8 Days + Lexapro + Big Stack of Books

= Vacation, indeed.

Back on the 25th.

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Answers, part three.

Q: (from Kindred Spirit) Your feelings for CL still run strong. Yet do you know how he feels about you?  Did the guilt shut him down?  Do you still talk to him?  If he summoned you, would you go?  Was it “just an affair” or was it much more to you?

A: That’s a lot o’ questions.  Good ones.

First, I do know how CL feels about me.  I know that he loves me.  I know that it’s not necessarily the same love I feel for him, and it’s certainly not an unselfish love, but it’s the truest love he says he’s ever felt.  And I believe him.

I’m not sure I understand the second one.  But CL never seemed to feel much guilt.  Or, if he did, he didn’t talk to me about it.  Neither of us really wanted to be a source of guilt and shame for the other.  But, since we likely were, we didn’t want to know about it.  We were really good at denial.  In the end, he was better at it than me.

I don’t talk to him.  The ending was anything but clean.  But finally I asked him never to contact me again for the rest of his life, and he’s remained true to that.

If he summoned me, I would not go.  I am not his first choice, and that’s been made very clear.  And I deserve to be someone’s first choice.

It was definitely not “just an affair.”  I’m not sure what that means.  Just sex?  I can only speak for myself here, but it was not just sex.  I didn’t go out looking for it.  It happened unexpectedly.  We began e-mailing.  Then we fell in love.  Then we made the heartbreaking choice to consummate that love.  And then it was too much for me to handle.

I had been asleep before I fell in love with him.  I didn’t know it, but I was.  He woke me up.  He showed me the good and wonderful things about myself.  He made me feel strong, capable, and lovable.  He accepted everything about me.  He loved everything I showed him and always wanted to see more.

It was the most painful, pleasurable, joyous, sorrowful, surprising, beautiful, horrible, frightening, comforting thing that has ever happened to me.  And it was wrong.

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This is your brain on depression.

Cautionary Husband: …and she’s getting married in New Delhi.
Me: The country in India?
CH: Um, it’s a CITY in India.  What do you think India is, a continent?
Me: Oh, you know, a region.  Like the Middle East?

Me: Do you think [Cautionary Dog] is happy?
CH: Yeah, look at him.  He’s just chillin’.  He’s fine.
Me: But since [big] dogs live eight years for our every one, don’t you think that he should be, like, eight times happier than we are in a given second?
CH: Well, he’s chillin’ eight seconds for every one second.
Me: It’s eight years for every one.  Does it work that way for seconds too?

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Day 6.

Either the Lexapro isn’t working yet and things are getting worse in the meantime, or the Lexapro is making things worse.  I don’t really care which is the case.  I’m beginning to panic that it won’t ever work, and I have to spend three more weeks feeling like this before I can try something else.

I go home for lunch and sit in silence reading An American Childhood by Annie Dillard as I stuff down a ham sandwich that tastes dry and empty.  I turn a page and glimpse my chipped nailpolish.  They need repainting.  I select a dainty light pink color that a happy person might wear.

My lunch hour is running out, so I dry my nails with the fan I keep on my bedside table for white noise.  It drowns out the tinnitus at night.  The curtains are drawn and it is cloudy outside.  The grey room seems to be filled with smoke.  As I stand in front of the fan and stare at the wall feeling the cold air whoosh by my hands, the dog watches me from the doorway, a worried expression on his face, as if he is anticipating having to catch me should I fall.

We are both creatures of habit, which is why we get along so well.  We become afraid when anything is out of the ordinary.

I want to lie down on the bed and sleep.  I think about how sometimes people who are depressed suffer from insomnia.  Sleep is the only thing rescuing me from this unbearable existing.  The existing won’t go away.  I am always existing.  I can’t stop existing.  I don’t know how the insomniacs do it.

I go back to work instead, the polish on my nails still soft.

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Diagnosis: Depression.

I had been looking for the wrong warning signs.

Cautionary Therapist told me about a year ago that if I ever get to the point where I’m not able to get out of bed, shower, dress myself, and go to work, I’m in trouble.  And so every day I was able to do these things, I thought I was okay.

Nevermind that I was actually spending an inordinate amount of time getting ready because of how shitty I feel.  And the fact that once I’m finished and presentable, I feel ridiculous, as if the way I feel inside still manages to eek through to the surface.  Like a fraud.

Nevermind that I haven’t been e-mailing anyone at all lately, and writing e-mails used to be my favorite thing.  In fact, I haven’t wanted to write anything at all, including entries on my blog.

Nevermind that I haven’t wanted to listen to music.

Nevermind that most of the foods I eat lately don’t taste like anything, or, if they do, they taste like metal.  Especially Cap’n Crunch cereal and Blue Bell Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream.

Nevermind that the second I sit down at my desk in the morning I feel exhausted, as if all of my energy is streaming out of me with every exhale.

Nevermind that I haven’t been able to concentrate long enough to proofread a goddamn coupon.

Nevermind that I can burst into tears at any given moment.

Nevermind that I feel as though every day I’m crawling in agony toward that 6:30 p.m. finish line when I get to go home and drink some wine and zone out until it’s time to go to sleep.  Glorious sleep.

What did it was the trails.

I thought I was going blind, you see.  And not blind as in “I can’t see well,” but blind as is “I can’t see AT ALL.”  I noticed what is commonly referred to as a “floater” in my eye a couple months back.  I self-diagnosed with the help of teh internets, who told me that the goo in my eyeball is becoming less goo-like or is liquefying or basically doing something that it really shouldn’t be doing, and what I see is the shadow of that goo doing what it shouldn’t be doing.  A tiny black fuzz floats into my line of vision and then shoots off in another direction.  I’ve named him buddy.  Buddy’s skittish.  And kind of an asshole.

Then I started noticing these flashes of light, and this thing that happens sometimes when I’m driving that looks like a tiny, transparent target in my direct line of vision, and the endless twitching of my left lower eyelid.  And the honest-to-God TRAILS streaming after slowly moving objects, usually my hands, as if I’m on LSD all the time.  That’s when I really started to get freaked out.

I went to the ophthalmologist, who said my eyes are fine.  My retinas are intact.  So I figured the problem wasn’t my eyes but rather my brain.  I did a little more research on teh internets and found that all of these things, including the tinnitus I’ve been experiencing the last couple of months that showed up at the exact same time as the eye problems?  It all could be caused by extremely low serotonin levels.

That’s when I knew.  I am depressed.  I have been for a while.

And alllllll the other less concrete, more subjective symptoms began to fall into place.  Lack of interest.  Fatigue.  Crying spells.  Feeling disconnected and lonely.  And, oh God, when was the last time I felt joy?  THAT LONG AGO?

So I called the doctor on Friday.  I waited too long to begin therapy.  I did not want to see how much worse this will get.  When the receptionist asked for the reason for my visit, I said, “I’m having these vision problems, and the ophthalmologist said my eyes are fine, so either I have a brain tumor or I’m depressed.”

At my appointment yesterday, the nurse was gruff with me.  Skeptical.  “So how did you get depression from vision problems?” she asked me.  I struggled to keep the tears in my eyes from overflowing as I tried to answer her questions without saying the word “internet” if at all possible.  She took my blood pressure and left, and I shivered in the cold room, afraid the doctor would come in, take one look at me, at my straightened hair, my makeup, my dress, and pronounce me okay.

But when she came in and asked me gently what’s going on, all I could do was smile as the tears brimmed over.

After a few moments, I said, “I’ve been trying to hold it together.”

She said, “You don’t have to.”

I described my symptoms, how I’ve been experiencing them for a while, but the physical, concrete problems with my eyes made it okay for me to acknowledge the other symptoms, and all of it led me to conclude that I’M NOT OKAY.  She listened, asked me about my personal life, asked me about therapy, talked with me about treatment.  She wrote some things down and gave me a sheet to check out with.  It said “Diagnosis: Depression.”

It doesn’t feel like what I thought it would feel like.  Scarier, in a way.  I’m not SLEEPY, I’m exhausted.  I don’t WANT to do things, but that doesn’t mean I’m not actually doing things, dragging my feet the whole time, of course, but still doing things.  And I’ve never been super excited about buying/preparing/eating food.  Now I’m just slightly less so.

I’m not thrilled (Haha, get it?  I’m not thrilled about ANYTHING!) at the prospect of going on an antidepressant.  I’m the kind of girl who wants more than anything to put on a light dress and go live in a field in southern California.  I’m a hippie at heart.  A naturalist.  It took me years to come to terms with taking birth control.  But.  The doctor assures me this will not be long-term.

That’s been my mantra these last few days.  A mantra that you, my commenters, helped establish.  This will not be long-term.  This will not be long-term.  This will not be long-term.

We’re starting with Lexapro and going from there.

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