Posts Tagged ‘Depression’

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Baby Steps

Feb 4, 2012

Baby Steps

Changing the theme of my page – and changing it to something more “peppy” and, dare-I-say, “positive” than the gritty looking theme I’d been using since I began this blog – was a very big step for me.  Writing again is an even bigger step.

A surprising side-effect of living a life that deals with chronic illness(es) has crept up behind me and caught me completely off-guard; while my former identity was slowly being siphoned from my new reality and the confusion of determining how a ‘sick’ version of myself looks and behaves has preoccupied most of my waking hours, I have been steadily losing… “my voice”.  Ideas may make it as far as a sentence in my head, but my inner critic – who used to be mostly just annoying – has developed super-human powers and has the ability to paralyze  and silence me.  And it does.  Regularly.

I have been writing for nearly 35 years.  Writing has been a compulsion, a joy, a job, a hobby, and a huge part of my identity for as long as I can remember.  Over the past year, though, the volume of the voice that says, “You have nothing of value or interest to say, just shut up,” has become the loudest and most prominent voice I hear.  And it is so convincing.

A surgery last February that was supposed to give me relief from my Crohn’s symptoms has actually exacerbated them, restricting my life and activities even more than before I went through that particularly hellish experience.  Each month of my recuperation, I was told I would soon feel better, but with the removal of my ileocecal valve (along with a portion of my large intestine), I spend more time IN the bathroom, RUNNING (faster) to the bathroom and praying that I MAKE IT to the bathroom in time. 

Putting so many of my eggs in that surgery basket set me up to plummet into a deeper depression than I’ve known in the past; too many days have been spent swallowing OTC sleeping pills and pulling up the covers after my family has left for work and school, then fantasizing about the relief that sweet sleep will soon bring me before finally surrendering to its numbing, comforting powers.  Funny thing about those OTC sleeping pills, though – they stop working after a while, preventing me from entering the sanctuary of sleep and introducing debilitating insomnia, instead.

Enter: Apathy.

Apathy is frightening.  I really want to feel something other than ‘sorry for myself’, but when I do, I feel nothing at all.  No disgust, no anger, no pain, no happiness, no love.  Apathy sucks.  Do what you can to avoid succumbing to it.

So I’ve been working at eradicating the apathy, primarily by forcing myself to list the things I truly am thankful for.  And, what do you know?  There are actually a good many things to put on that list.  This is not to say that I’m really any better at dealing with my chronic illnesses or the things they have stolen and continue to steal from my life, but even if my gratitude list has items such as: I’m thankful that I’m not also paralyzed, I’m thankful that I don’t live in a third world country, I’m thankful for my home (despite being behind in our mortgage payments), I have decided to give myself a tiny break and appreciate this baby step.

If I were going to wait until I had something I deemed worth saying, or wait until a time when I had the ability to write well enough to pass my own scrutiny, I would not be writing today.  And I wanted to write today, so I’m biting the bullet… then using it to shoot the perfectionist that lives inside of me.

Gotta start somewhere.  And I’m tired of berating myself every day for starting something else (a blog) and not sticking to it. 

I’m thankful that I managed to write 654 words, and I’m thankful I didn’t have to get up and run to the bathroom while doing it.

Baby steps.

Rest Ministries chronic illness support featured site

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When you get mad, what calms you down?

Jun 18, 2011

©2004-2011 ~S-Pan

I have been so angry lately, a trait that has never really been an issue for me in the past, but is becoming more and more difficult to deal with.  Because depression is often defined as “anger turned inward”, I guess I’ve always just opted for the depression thing. I’m better at that.  But the more evident it becomes that I am powerless to change the things that anger me, the more I find my inward filling to capacity and unwanted emotions spilling outward.

So I snap at people. I avoid people. I try to avoid myself. Guilt soon crashes my anger party because I’m a Christian woman who is unable to find or keep the peace that I know God offers and I know is experienced by others. I should know how to do this; I should know how to cope. But I don’t. And then, I become even more angry… at myself.

Right now, my anger has made it necessary for me to hide in my bedroom away from everyone, including my brother-in-law who is visiting from Chicago. I get two days notice and then he’s here, at my messy house, for 3 days. We haven’t seen him for about a year, but worse than that, he hasn’t seen me for just as long. During this time, I have become sicker; my ability to keep the house clean has become increasingly hindered; I have lost 2 more teeth – a fact I hope to keep hidden by smiling very little and, if the occasion arises, to laugh politely while covering my mouth  (Think: Geisha Girl ).  Perhaps worst of all, I am so much fatter than the last time he saw me because I continue to gain weight for reasons my doctors cannot identify.  Since I never wear shorts and only wear t-shirts with sleeves that extend down to my elbow, I am always warmer and crankier than everyone else in this hot house that lacks central air.

The bedroom is safe. The bedroom is air-conditioned.  The bedroom is closer to the bathroom – always something I need to be concerned about.  No one can look at me while I’m here in the bedroom and I can’t see all the things that need to be cleaned… and then stress over it. It’s easier to lie to myself about my life and easier to believe some of those lies when I’m in here.

But hiding is not enough; still, I am mad.

Today is the anniversary of the day my husband and I first laid eyes on each other. It is a date we have remembered and celebrated every year, but one that he has apparently forgotten today. Perhaps it’s for the best that he not remember the healthy, much thinner, attractive woman (who still had the majority of her teeth); the woman who was wearing short flouncy skorts, a sports bra, a tan and a broad smile. It’s probably better he not allow himself to think about who I used to be and how much fun we used to have when I was able to participate in the activities we once enjoyed doing together.

He and his brother went on a long bike ride today – something I was once able to do, but now I just glance at my still nearly-new bike in the garage and pretend I believe myself when I think, “someday…”

And the anger intensifies.  No, no, no… it’s not fair!  I throw a little tantrum in my bedroom sanctuary. I cry tears of anger more than sadness and make a mental note of how much uglier I look when I cry. I honestly don’t know what to do to feel calm or break free from this runaway train of thought that always leads to anger. So I resort to my trusty Xanax. It takes the edge off and, at some point soon, I should be asleep. Barring any dreams that mimic reality, I will then be calm and free of any anger… and blissfully unaware that I let it get the best of me again.

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I-dentity Cry-sis

Apr 27, 2011
© gurudesignZ.com 2002

When I was about 14 years old, I had a crush on Shaun Cassidy – for about 2 weeks.  During those two weeks, my best friend and I spent an afternoon babysitting and scrutinizing every word in a celebrity rag sheet (Star Magazine, I think).  And who should be on the cover of this Pulitzer-prize-worthy publication?  Shaun Cassidy.  But wait, who was this woman on his arm – where *I* was supposed to be?  All I remember is that her name was “Debbi”, spelled just like that, without the ‘e’. 

The next day, I began spelling MY name “Debbi” – without the ‘e’.  In my insecure, peer-dependent opinion of myself, I now had something that made me…. interesting.         O, happy day.
 
After about 2 years of writing “Debbi” on my test papers, term papers, and all things school-related, I graduated from high school and began working on Wall Street as a receptionist.  It was just a temporary gig until I started college; I was only 16, I had time.  But a combination of events kept me at my Wall Street job earning money instead of a degree. 
 
And I was so good with money, I still am.  I loved to watch the numbers in my savings account increase each week as I admired myself for such monetary maturity.   When I left home and moved into my own apartment, I needed more than just a savings account, I needed checks to pay bills.  And I needed those checks to tell the world that I spelled my name D-E-B-B-I —  Because at 18 years old, this was still extremely important to me. 
 
I remember gleefully opening my first box of checks and peeling away all the paraphernalia packed with all those booklets, anxious to see my name written across the tops of about 1000 blank checks.  But my excitement quickly turned to disappointment when I saw that the bank had spelled my name WRONG.  One thousand blank checks and my name was spelled “DEBI” on every one of them.
 

My dilemma was excruciating, as dilemmas only can be for a teenager: Do I return to the bank and have them correct the mistake, which would take another several weeks?  Or do I just drop one of the “b”s from my name, too? 

For the last 30 years, I have spelled my name “DEBI”, and that is exactly what is written across the tops of my checks today.  I no longer need an ‘interesting’ or differently spelled name, but it is quite easy to scribble on the bottoms of all the many checks that pay all the many bills now. 

But no matter how it is spelled, the important thing has always been – and is – that it’s not “DEBRA”.  It is not the name my parents insisted I use while growing up and, to my horror, even corrected my friends when they overheard them call me Debi.  (or Debbi, or Debbie :-/)  “Her name is Debra.”
 
 
If only the teenage angst over how to spell my name was the identity crisis I now experience.  As a person with more than one chronic illness, I don’t know who I will be from one day to the next.  Will I be bed-ridden?  Will I feel well enough to do laundry or grocery shopping?  Will I be so depressed that I hide in my bedroom until I have to come out and behave ‘normally’ for my husband and children?  Will I awake to discover that my pain is manageable and I barely feel sick at all, then become engrossed in one of my many untended projects… only to be punished with multiplied pain the next day?
 
I am not the vital, healthy, attractive woman I once was.  I can’t even hold down a job.  There is no savings account to watch with glee or pride and there are fewer and fewer activities available for me to enjoy. 
 
I’ve always thought the name “Debi” brought to mind the vision of a youthful, fun-loving, adventurous girl.  And I always thought it was a good fit for me.  But not anymore.  Now I feel like a fraud, like I should change my name to fit who I have become… something more like Ethel or Gertrude (no offense meant to those bearing these names).
 
Whenever I’m at the grocery store and a young check-out girl looks down at my check and then up at me, I feel certain that she’s thinking: “Debi”?  Really??
 
No, not really.  The bank just made a mistake.
 
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Practicing for Thanksgiving

Nov 14, 2010

The sicker I feel, the easier it is to [metaphorically] throw my fists in the air and scream “why me??” (which most often metaphorically happens in the shower, where no one can see me or hear me cry.)  During yesterday’s pity-party/shower-for-one, I tried my damnest to find things to be thankful for. In my overcrowded mind, full of valid complaints and fears, a voice full of anguish and anger screamed at me through gritted teeth that there are, in fact, things to be thankful for. And if I don’t start to focus on some of them very soon, regardless of how minute some of them might be, I am going to lose it.

So, here is what I’m thankful for today:
I am oh-so-VERY-thankful that I do not live in Thailand and that we do not have squat toilets here in the U.S. And I mean that!

courtesy: hobotraveler.com

Uh, uh. Nooooo, noooo, noooo… SO not happening.

Even without Crohn’s Disease, using a squat toilet is something I DO NOT want to think about, but with the amount of time I spend on the freakin’ thing, I want something I can actually sit on. And I want something that flushes! And, just to make things more interesting, with my Fibromyalgia, I would topple over within a minute or – maybe – two :-/

So, in review: Thankful I don’t live in Thailand; thankful for toilets I can sit on here in the U.S.  It’s a start.

Other people always start with “I’m thankful for my health”, right? …and nobody gives them sh*t.



See? Thankful AND happy

 

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I’m Not Invisible

Sep 15, 2010

courtesy: Photobucket/kiashee

But most of the time
I feel like I am,
Or feel like people wish I was,
Or *I* just wish I was…

invisible 


Well, this is no way to celebrate Invisible Illness Week, now is it? :-/  Sadly, this week that acknowledges those of us with Invisible/Chronic Illnesses, who most people don’t understand and find it easier just to make assumptions about and/or mock, did not fall during a particularly “Daisies-and-Butterflies / My-life-has-purpose-despite-my-illnesses / Everything-is-going-to-be-dandy / I’m-beautiful-on-the-inside (and other lies fat people tell themselves) 7-day span.  Sorry, everyone.

And that’s the key word, isn’t it?  For me, anyway: “Sorry…”  Sorry I’m sick; Sorry I cost so much money; Sorry I can’t work; Sorry I can’t go do that thing with you guys; Sorry I’m depressed today; Sorry you have to work a second job [because of me]; sorry I’m not thin and beautiful anymore.  I’m one sorry piece of work.  But you know what? 

I’m the sick one

I’m the one who takes 18 pills a day and is dealing with dueling side-effects (sans the banjo :-/ ).  I’m the one who gained weight, despite having Crohn’s with the diarrhea and the nausea, yet I still have to look at me.  And I’m the one who wakes up feeling like I’m encased in cement and I have to break free each new day and then hobble to, where else?  THE BATHROOM to see what new adventure awaits me.  I never know how bad or how good a day is going to be, but I know my good is never going to be what it used to be – and never as good as yours – so what the hell is YOUR excuse?

I’m sorry… did I say all of that out loud?

I received my first comment yesterday; short and sweet and appreciated.  The last 3 words keep repeating in my head: “Keep telling truth.”  I was reminded that this was my intent from the beginning, to be completely honest.  This is why I won’t show my picture or use my real name or tell anyone I know my blog address; the idea being that anonymity promotes candor.  Yet, it has been more difficult than I anticipated, probably because I have been ‘trained’ to be more considerate of everyone else’s feelings (and have done a really good job at it – though often times, have been a complete phony).

Do people want the real “us” or do the prefer the phony version?  Sadly, the latter has been my experience all too often.  With chronic illness, the ability to ‘fake people out’ is all but removed and we are left exposed… “warts and all” as they say.  The rejection flies like never before if our audience wants the old us and we can no longer deliver.

There are a few more days left of Invisible Illness Week.  I may wear a lampshade and sing “Louie, Louie” yet.  Or I may just hide under the lampshade and turn the music up loud because that’s what makes everyone else happy.  I don’t actually have to sing, as long as they think I am… that should suffice.

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Final Jeopardy

Sep 8, 2010

Uh…. “What is ‘Oklahoma’?”

Boy did I look smart in front of my über-educated husband who always beats me at Jeopardy and my 9-year-old daughter who always talks when *I* actually know the answer to one of the questions.  Not this time, my friends.  This time, Final Jeopardy just so happened to be about a subject I had been mocking in my blog earlier in the day to illustrate an oh-so-important point about chronic illness and the fear I have of becoming overly dramatic about it.

So, Boo-yah!  I was right this time!  And, yes, I did the sit-in-my-seat victory dance (not to be confused with the “shit-in-my-seat victory dance” :-/) because I didn’t feel well enough to do the stand-up-jig version.  I DO enjoy being right, I admit it.  I guess it’s ok to be a little dramatic sometimes :-)

But today, with last night’s victory quickly fading, I am parked at a desk that is about 10 feet from my bathroom for the sake of convenience, yet thankful that it faces a window so I can sort of feel like I am outside.  I can almost touch the branches of the huge, lopsided tree on my front lawn and like to imagine I am in a tree house while a balmy, yet steady breeze blows into my bedroom… warm enough to warrant a ponytail, but not so warm that I need to turn on the air-conditioner.  Between me and the bathroom is my son’s empty bedroom with a treadmill that stares accusingly at me whenever I pass by, and a clean floor that reminds me he’s away at college now.

As if I don’t have enough to think about, we are 2 months behind on our mortgage and I daily feel the pressure of being “unable to work”.  Sure, I bring in beaucoup bucks in disability money, but still :-/ – – my husband now works two jobs because I’m too sick to work even one, and we always live with the fear of wondering if we’ve paid our bills creatively enough so that none of our checks bounce.

So, I’m thinking about all the pricey medications I take and all the expenses I incur by being sick and it dawns on me:  I cost my family so much money because I’m sick , AND I can’t work for the same reason.  If I’m going to be home because I’m sick, I might as well stop taking all these expensive meds and just be home… sicker.  As I mentioned yesterday, I think in a logical, methodical sort of way (but I suppose I could sing this idea and tap my foot simultaneously); we are in debt up to our collective eyeballs and unable to spend money on other, important things because of me and my medical costs.  I am dragging this family down financially (and in other ways, too).

Tomorrow I go for an annual physical with my Primary Care Physician, whom I have known for about 22 years and who may know me better than anyone – at least health-wise.  Part of my visit will be a series of blood tests to try to determine why I am itchy everywhere but have a rash NOWHERE :-/  (make it stop!!)  Liver disease?  Remicade side effect?  Entocort side effect?  Two drugs interacting? 

This is crazy! 

I want her opinion about how much effort is being put into trying to avoid bowel resection surgery for my Crohn’s, which is the reason for most of my meds.  As much as I trust and admire my gastroenterologist, I have begun to believe that this is his goal and not mine.  My goal must be to try to attain and preserve a quality of life that is worth the work, the expense, the poisons, the side effects and to consider the effect on my family.   If that means having surgery, then so be it.  My GI keeps saying “you’re too young to have surgery,” and, being between 45 and 50 years old, I never pay attention to anything he says after “you’re too young…”  I feel like that Three Bears episode of Bugs Bunny when Mama Bear says, “Tell me more about my eyes….”  (But there I go, aging myself again).

 

People say you have to be your own advocate when you have a chronic illness (or any illness, really), but how many people realize just how exhausting this can be? 

I feel like I am confronting my own version of a real-life Final Jeopardy question as I try to decide whether to fight the status quo or succumb to the consequences of the inability to pay for it. 

Dramatic?  Maybe :-/  And not nearly as much fun.

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i hate drama

Sep 7, 2010
People are too happy in Oklahoma

If I ever skip down a dirt road with a big goofy smile on my face, singing about anything, when the only sane method of communication is to logically express what I wish to say using words that DO NOT rhyme…
Just pretend you don’t know me.

And if I am guilty of the skipping, singing and smiling while with a man wearing cowhide chaps, a pretty neckerchief and a ridiculous grin…
Please feel free to shoot me :-/

As mentioned in the title, I HATE DRAMA (and obviously, by extension, Musicals :-/ ), which is why I only feel worse if I ever catch myself whining or being dramatic.  And although I try to do my best to regulate what those around me hear, see – and to a certain extent ‘believe’ about how sick I’m feeling – I cannot control these things within the confines of my own body and mind.

Today, the words: Oh, God… I feel like I’m dying keep repeating in my head; sometimes it sounds like: Oh, God… I feel like I’m dying again, which is why I’m pretty sure I’m not really dying.  That, and the fact that I am able to sit here and write about it, has served as reassurance.  Truthfully, writing about it is more of a compulsion than a luxury because to actually tell someone how I feel would be the very definition of drama.  Or at least that’s how it seems around here.

Courtesy: TheFrumpGazette.com

Those with Fibromyalgia know the all-encompassing, inexplicable pain of this mostly mocked and disregarded disease and the fatigue that envelops us like a soaking wet blanket.  We know we will, no doubt, pay a price if we dare to do something crazy like, say… sit in a car for 75 minutes to bring my son back to college and [barely] help him switch dorm rooms, then stand for a long time and lift something moderately heavy (to me, but not to normal people), then sit in the car for another 75 minutes to come home (not even drive, just sit). 

Those with Crohn’s Disease know the unmistakable urgency that demands nearness to a bathroom; that feeling like one’s blood is being drained from their body, along with any and all nutrients, but really, it’s something much more embarrassing than that.  Maybe some with Crohn’s/IBD know the panic of leaving the house for a “road trip” after spending the whole morning in the bathroom and bringing a change of clothing, just in case.  I never knew that terror until yesterday, since I usually just stay home, close to my toilet.  But I won’t see my son again for a month and I was missing him before he even left, so I defied my Crohn’s AND my Fibromyalgia.

Yeah, they fought back, but I lived to tell the tale, didn’t I?  :-)


That’s “tell” the tale… no singing or dancing – even if I could get up and do any of that  :-/

Courtesy: Dailymail.co.uk