Tag Archives: hope

Wordless Wednesday–  Hope Blooms in the Cemetery 

Standard

Advertisements

Weird Grief Mash Up– the Election and Our Collective, Historical Trauma

Standard

Part of me feels an urge to write a ragey post about what this new world order means for my daughter and for all of the already disenfranchised people out there.

Yet, I find I’ve lost my voice.

I’m swinging back and forth between being optimistically hopeful and being numb.  When I try to find the middle ground in between those two things, I get anxiety.  I start to shake and start rambling about stupid shit that probably doesn’t make much sense to others.

Opening my mouth seems to lead to wrong words, so I’ve been keeping it shut.

Silence isn’t such a bad sound if you don’t have a lot to say that will improve it.  And there sure is a lot of chatter out there right now.

It takes me a long time to process and digest.

I also do not want to give the president elect the dignity of my righteous indignation.

I’m trying to be here with an open heart for others, and for that most part it feels good and right.  I’m listening.  Taking it all in.  I’m sitting with it.

Social media doesn’t really feel like a safe space for me right now, not only because of the constant exposure to this national trauma, but also because being exposed to the steady stream of affect is difficult for me to bear.

I guess I’m kind of regrouping.

Listening to Ani Difranco helps, and sort of puts things into perspective in a weird way.

The grief of this election is getting mashed up with the grief work I am doing regarding the loss of E., and that does not feel like a good thing.

I can’t go there.

I feel like I’ve finally got my head back together, and I do not want to even peek back into that dark hallway.

But it is an interesting thing to contemplate.  When we grieve for one thing, often times past losses, fears, and traumas get dredged up.  And I do think it is important to acknowledge and respect that for a lot of women, gays, people of different ethnicities and religions, that is what this election has brought about.  A collective trauma response that harkens back through centuries of institutional misogyny, racism, bigotry, greed, and hate.

A terrifying side of America has been given not only a voice, but a spotlight into which they have stepped for their warped performance.

I’ve seen a lot of posts of people telling others to stop being sore losers because their candidate didn’t win.  That feels unduly harsh to me.

That isn’t what this is about.  We are not stomping our feet and whining.

We are grieving. We are scared.  We do not feel safe.

And I say this as a white woman, armed to the teeth with education, career, and all of the privilege that my heterosexual marriage affords me.  I feel guilty when I hold all of the things that technically make me “safe” and consider the vulnerabilities of some of my dearest friends.  Do I even have a right to contribute to the chatter on this subject?

Processing all of this junk is going to take some time.  We need to ride this wave of emotion so we can refocus and get back to work.

Because there is work to be done.

Please let us be loving and supportive of one another as we go through this time.  Please let the sun continue to shine.  Please let the collective power of kindness and compassion be greater than anything we have ever seen.

That is my prayer.

We are on the brink of something important and revolutionary.

I guess that is all I have to say for right now.  But if you need me, or if there is anything I can do or say to help you feel safe, I’m here.  I’ll stand with you and I’ll hold your hand.

Love and momaste to you all.

Vitamin “Z”– Musings From a Mom On An Antidepressant 

Standard

My doctor recently raised the dosage of my Zoloft.

There, I said it.

Hi.  I’m an anxious and depressed mom, and I’m on Zoloft.

I’m also a “professional” in the mental health field, charged with counseling others with anxiety and depression.  Put that in your pipe, and so forth…

In light of my recent near death experience, I’ve been struggling with more anxiety than usual.  My body and mind are having a hard time feeling safe, and being able to distinguish between everyday stress and actual threats to my well being.

As my compassionate doctor couched it, “I think you miiighhht have a teensy bit of PTSD.”  Ummm.  K.  I can’t really disagree.  I have confidence I will ramble through it, but in the mean time, the symptoms miiigghhht suck just a teensy bit.

Taking an antidepressant doesn’t make my world perfect.  It is not a magic cure-all that takes away every bump in the road.  Taking an antidepressant simply puts the color back into things and allows me to go about my business.

Because ever since I can remember, that’s what depression has done to my world–  it sucks the color out of things, makes everything bleak, grey, hopeless.

I’m not a newbie to what I like to call “Vitamin Z”.

The first time I took an antidepressant was the summer after my senior year in high school.  I was struggling with an eating disorder and a psychiatrist put me on Prozac when I didn’t respond to therapy alone.  I didn’t take it consistently, and ended up stopping it before long.

I took Zoloft for much of my college years.  It was helpful, and I was consistent with it.  The entire time, I participated in counseling to help myself learn coping skills, and to process myself.  At some point, I stopped taking it and did okay with life, utilizing natural supports, exercise, and the talking cure.  For a brief period of time, after a trauma in my 20s, I used Celexa, but stopped when I got married and wanted to consider pregnancy.

Then I had a baby.

Postpartum depression and anxiety hit me almost instantly upon giving birth to my son.  I participated in intensive therapy and was convinced to try Zoloft again, as it was a medication considered compatible with breastfeeding.  Again, the clouds lifted.  I stayed on a very low dose of Zoloft for a period of two years after having Jack.

When I got pregnant with Emily, I knew enough to request I go back on it within hours of her birth.  I am happy to say, after birthing Emily, I had no issues with postpartum mood at all.  Part of this was likely due to having more realistic expectations of what parenthood would be, and also to proactively managing things.

I use the terms anxiety and depression almost interchangeably, because in my mind they are two sides of the same coin.  They waltz around up there hand-in-hand, making me anxious because I feel depressed, then making me depressed because it feels so crappy to be anxious.

If you’ve never experienced either of these conditions before, you probably don’t know what I’m talking about.  Maybe you think I’m crazy.

I’m not.

I am a great mom.  I am a radiant, professional, grounded, and competent human.  I have a career, social life, and hobbies.

I also have managed anxiety and depression since I was young.

It makes me feel vulnerable to speak about.  I would really rather write a post about how my daughter would like to be a dinosaur when she grows up and call it a day.  But I think that sense of vulnerability makes this topic something important to talk about.

Part of this vulnerability comes from the stigma we have around mental illness.  I’ve never thought of myself as someone with “mental illness”, but I guess that is how some would classify me, since anxiety and depression fall into the category of mental illness.  Whatevs.

I prefer to think of myself as charmingly neurotic, a little obsessive, chronically organized, and highly sensitive.  Sensitivity is not necessarily a bad trait, unless we make it one.  I believe my sensitivity helps me to be empathetic and relate to people.

I prefer not to think of myself as “mentally ill,” “depressed,” or “anxious,” because those things seem really heavy and hard to bear.  I prefer not to have others think of me in these categories, either.  I fear being labeled.  I fear being doubted or discredited because my neurotransmitters fire a little differently.

I’ve also learned to manage judgement that comes with taking medication to manage anxiety and depression.  Close friends and family have actually suggested that taking an SSRI is bad, a sign of weakness, an unnecessary habit.  Wouldn’t it just be better to get some more exercise/eat more leafy greens/meditate/look on the bright side/just let it go/yadda, yadda, yadda?

And then there are those who believe it just takes more love.  I can say with authority, love does not cure depression.

Such comments used to make me feel insecure, riddled with self doubt and recrimination.  I’ve learned to let them pass from one ear to another without causing any cognitive dissonance.

Here’s the equation it boils down to in my brain:

Being able to get up and be a functional human = GOOD

Feeling miserable and negative = BAD

Feeling able to care for myself and my family = GOOD

Carrying a hopeless sense of overwhelmed panic = BAD

When life is more or less balanced, I can juggle my highly sensitive nature with what I need to manage in the way of kids, marriage, home, career, etc.  But when something happens to tip the balance, such as a brutal winter, trauma, or situational stressors, it is much harder to keep all things in perspective.

I know my moods are getting the better of me when I am more irritable than usual, when everyday responsibilities fatigue me, and when everything seems like a struggle.  These are pretty much typical symptoms of depression.

For me there is also a sense of being trapped and feeling like my situation won’t ever change. And then of course there is the twirling cage of wild, flapping birds that fills my chest and abdomen when I am anxious. I feel too sick to eat. I wake too early in the morning, unable to fall back asleep because I am worrying about my day, the laundry, my kids getting eaten by bears–  you name it.

It is at this point when I call in the script for my good old Vitamin Z.

Look, if it were as simple and elegant as just letting it go, or taking a breath, or getting more exercise, then yeah, I wouldn’t need the artificial assistance of medication.  If those things work for you, great!  You don’t need an SSRI to help balance the delicate flow of serotonin in your noggin.  More power to ya’.  Medication is not for everyone, and I would never make a blanket statement or recommend that every person who struggles with their mood should be on it.

I don’t relish taking a pill every day.  Medication has side effects, such as making it difficult for me to lose weight, or numbing my libido just slightly.  And then there are the gastro side effects. I knew someone who called SSRIs the “Cranial/Rectal Shunt,” because they take all the shit out of your head and pump it out the other end. But I’ll take the very manageable side effects over the crappy sense of failure brought on by unbalanced serotonin.

I know when I’ve gotten to the point where I need that little boost so I can go about my life.  On a very low dose (which some would even consider sub-therapeutic), things just tighten up in my brain.  The dreadful thoughts don’t have free reign to scamper around in my noggin.  The moods and worries are not as expansive and there is a tremendous relief in that for me.

Before having a family to care for, a marriage to nurture, or a home to pay for, it was easier to shake off anxiety and depression. Staying in bed all weekend wasn’t an issue, and there was a little more freedom to “work on myself.”

But for many of us, as parents, there are so many pressures coming from so many areas of our lives and it can be hard to bounce back from a dip in our emotional state. Hormones that fluctuate with pregnancy, childbearing, and menopause, and bring sometimes debilitating instability, are topics for a post of its own.

I know there are thousands, maybe even millions of moms in the same predicament as me, given the statistical prevalence of anxiety and depression.  

Some of them have found help and support, and others are suffering in silence.

We are beginning to study and know more about how maternal depression affects children, so at the end of the day, this may be the most important reason I have for making sure I am appropriately treating my emotional state.

I’ve been on the higher dose for about three weeks now, and I’m starting to feel the difference.  Just in time for the spring thaw, so I can have a little psychic space to enjoy looking at daffodils and playing outside with my kids.

Life Affirming

Standard

Today’s theme was Life Affirming.

You might have read yesterday’s post about my near death experience when an avalanche of snow fell onto my car from a cathedral roof about 200 feet up.  The windshield and front end of my vehicle was pulverized by the weight of the snow.  

Thankfully, I was not.  I was in the car, and the windshield shattered but held in place.  I emerged from my vehicle unscathed.

Physically, that is.

Not so unscathed emotionally, as it turns out.

Yesterday I tried to go to work and should have taken the day off.  I was mentally in orbit.  Physically, I kept having chest pains, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations.

There was other stuff too.

It would be dishonest to say I nearly lost my shit on the guy from the YMCA aftercare program who called at 1:30 to tell me the program had been cancelled for the afternoon due to snow.  I completely lost my shit on this poor kid, who was just doing his job.  

“It is re-goddam-diculous you are calling me this late in the day to tell me this,” I shouted.

“Well we have been broadcasting it on TV and Facebook,” the kid stuttered.

“Dude!” I yelled.  “The reason I need your services is because I work!  I am not at home surfing the Facebook or watching TV!  I am going to hang up on you now so I can figure out what I am going to do about getting my son who gets out of school in an hour.”  And I hung up.

No sooner had I arranged for my in-laws to pick up my son, I realized my reaction was totally out of line and completely uncharacteristic for me.  

I was being trauma-reactive.  My cortisol and adrenaline levels were out of whack and I was interpreting even minor inconveniences as threats.  I had done the same thing with the children that morning while we were getting ready for school.  I’m both cases, I felt like an ass.

I arranged to take a day off.

So, today, after my kids went to their respective places.  I went to my doctor and had her listen to my chest to make sure I was not having a heart attack.  She was in shock of my story and prescribed some medications to help me relax.

Her embrace was life affirming.

After that, I went out to lunch by myself.  I thought about different career paths I could take.  Maybe I would volunteer for La Leche League and work towards becoming a lactation consultant.  Maybe I would go back to school and get certified to be a Montessori teacher.  These are possibilities!  And having possibilities is life affirming.

Eating poached eggs smothered in hollandaise on a bed of spinach and artichoke hearts was life affirming.

I drove to the beach and got out of my car.  The freezing air was life affirming.  I plodded through three feet of snow and walked in the sand right up to the water.  I picked up a shell.  I held some rocks.  I looked at my foot prints.  I am here, I chanted.  I am here.

I stood like a super hero with my hands on my hips, my feet wide apart and my chin high in the air.

Thank you, I whispered into the wind.  Thank you, Universe.  Beautiful Universe.  I am so happy I am here.  

Walking down the beach was amazing.  For so many weeks I have felt claustrophobic from the snow.  But on the beach, there was just wide open, snow-free space.  And over my head there was the endless blue sky.  Nothing was going to fall on me.

Drinking coffee was life affirming.  Pooping was life affirming.  Getting a mani/pedi/and 20 minute chair massage was life affirming.  

Putting my hair in a bun.  Texting my husband “luv u” and getting his “luv u 2 :* text back.  Shuttling laundry up and down the stairs in my house.  Opening envelopes.  Paying and mailing bills.  Crossing a street.  Shifting the gears in the rental car.  Liberating a Buddha from Home Goods for $14.

All life affirming.

It sounds hokey and is almost as uncharacteristic of me as yelling at that poor YMCA kid on the phone.

It also sounds kind of fraudulent to be waxing about my life affirming gratitude for the frustration of waiting in line at CVS, when 20 minutes later I am flipping out over traffic.  45 seconds after placing my beautiful, serene $14 Buddha in a sacred corner and bowing to him, I am swearing under my breath because I’ve dropped my keys.

I kind of think this is how my trauma response is going to go for the foreseeable future.  

One moment I am marveling at the tenderness with which my daughter strokes my cheek in the middle of the night, and the next I am screaming at her to get a sweater for school.  One moment I am awe-struck at the beauty of an icicle and the next I am terrified because the trees are covered in snow and something might fall on me.

Truth is, if I weren’t ridiculously hyper-focused on just how freaking precious every motion is, I would be out of my mind with fear at the realization of how small and short and fragile life really is.  So, trying to make every move a joyful reminder I am alive is preferable to the bone-grinding reality of what I’m really feeling.

I’ve got to call that dude from the Y and apologize or something.

And I’ve go to chill the fuck out with my kids.

This winter has been so hard.  Ever since my client’s suicide a couple months ago, I have been fighting a much stronger depression and anxiety than I usually do, even at this time of year.  This trauma was a wake up call, but it also complicates things for me a bit more because of all the chemical/physiological crap involved with trauma.

So, I’m going to drink some water.  And order pizza.  These things are mundane, but they will be life affirming.

I am here.  I am here.  I am here.  I am so here.  

IMG_7283

Boston Strong

Standard

Anyone who knows me can tell you I am not a sports fan. But the Boston Red Sox just won the World Series and I think it is freaking brilliant.

Boston had a lot at stake this year after the Marathon bombings in April, and the subsequent manhunt, lockdown of the city, and shoot outs with the bombers. 

I remember how cool I thought it was when Neil Diamond surprised the crowd at  their first game after the bombings to sing the song, “Sweet Caroline,” which in my very limited knowledge of baseball and the Red Sox, I know is one of their anthems.  I remember thinking that this would be THE season for the Sox, because they had to win for Boston. 

My dad taught me and my brother to play baseball when we were very little, on our weekend visitations with him.  So, I know the basics of the game.  The sounds of baseball on TV or the radio immediately bring up memories that are not all together great, or all together awful, but poingnent nonetheless.  To me, the sports casters’ voices all sound the same calling out plays that I remember from my youth.  A swing and a miss.  Foul tip.  Line drive into left field.  Or stuff like that. 

But this isn’t a post about baseball.  Not really.  I don’t know all that much about the game, and don’t really care about it one way or the other.  So, I have no place writing about baseball. 

This is a post about an awesome celebration of humanity, the strenght of community I feel knowing Boston pulled it off on our home field for the first time in nearly a century.  What I write about here, is the power of courage and joy and hope. 

The marathon bombings hit me hard.  I love Boston.  We live less than an hour away from the city and have spent a lot of time there in museums, shops, parks, and theaters.  The bombings shook my sense of safety in my own community, scared me that something so random and destructive could happen so close to home. 

But Boston was amazing, even in the face of danger and despair.  The people of Boston rallied, showing off their hard core, bad ass New England attitudes.  There were strangers showing kindness in the streets, and the police who inspired the nation by restoring safety to Boston and the surrounding communities.  The Red Sox victory seems like so much more than simply a win for the home team.  It seems like the ultamite validation that we are a fierce, tight community that will keep our heads up, eyes focused on a horizion that brightens increasingly, even after a very dark hour.  20131031-111035.jpg