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Here Comes the Sun with Side Effects

Well... on to a new medication.  Lexapro is better than Nortriptyline.  It is less sedating and I feel a lot more aware of things around me.   My negative thoughts are abating and I feel more ethusiatic about doing things.   I don't look at the week's calendar and wonder how I will manage. But, of course, there is a problem.  The medication makes me feels speedy.  I sleep very lightly on it and if I wake up, I am up.  So to make this side effect less severe I take less and guess what...negative thoughts are returning but in a clearer way.   Clarity in all things both positive and negative.  I hope the speedyness works it way out and I can go up to the full dose but for now it is, what it is.  There is no magic bullet.

Videotaping...Can it help?

Sometime I just want to zone out, let’s make that most of the time.  When I have something to do with other people, particularily babysitting my granddaughter,  I can pull myself together.  But when I am working on my own stuff I can not make a move without lots of guilt because I have wasted so much time, ice tea and some chocolate.  Now that I am writing it feels ok.  It is just getting started that is so very, very hard.

I have been feeling particularliy useless this week.  I try to write in a diary the things I do in a day.  It is a record of actions not thoughts or feelings.  I started this to let me see that I did not totally waste my time in the pass few weeks.  The fact that I still need to be reminded is like the movie I saw recently where a girl has a head injury that makes it impossible for her to remember anything pass the day of the injury.  In order to have a life her husband makes a video tape that she has to look at every day when she wakes up to tell her about the accident and her memory loss.  Then the tape tells her about what has happened since the accident.  Sometimes I feel like that girl…stuck in an alternate time frame where the grey “I am no good” screen is always up.   Depression is so wonderful that is can make you feel terrible about the past, the present and the future all at the same time.  So maybe I should make a video on my phone that emphasizes the fact that my bleak view is not reality and talk about what is really going on.  It feels abit uncomfortable to have my grey thoughts interrupted first thing in the morning but I’ll give it a try this evening and report back.

Two week report back…talking into a screen gives me a lot more information about what I do with my time.  When I write it, I often am looking at a few days.  Hard to do it everyday.  So sometimes I forget what happened three days ago.  Videotaping is easier and more forgiving.   I even tell jokes to myself.  After I write the facts down in my diary, I delete.


Cry It Away Baby

Last week I was putting my granddaughter to sleep and she cried inconsolably for over an hour. Tonight I was thinking about how a baby had the determination to cry for such a long time. I cried three hours a day when I was a baby (nickname Kyin). I was imagining that when I grew older and could no longer complain by crying that I would put post it notes on my brain with really good glue that would be complaints or what I was sad about. Those notes are still attached to my pyche. How I wish I could just cry them away. Oct. 2, 2013

Medication changes...ya right!

About a month ago I was beginning to change medications. Take a new pill and eliminate an old pill..pretty simple. It would be simple if these drugs were not messing with our brains and have lots and lots of side effects. I was doing ok until I was in the middle of the transfer process. Then I started to feel speedy. There may have been two reasons, the new drug was causing it or the old drug was causing it. I feel like I am in my own mystery story. I decided to take a step back to where it was comfortable with this new drug. Then I took a blood test that may show whether the two drugs are interacting in a bad way. However, the blood test results are not yet available. If I assume that the blood test is inconclusive then what do I do? Go forward and hope for the best or try yet another drug.

The Depession Bubble - How To Burst It?

Depression and Anxiety makes me feel like I am living in a "bubble". Those looking at me do not see the separation between us but I see that there is a "bubble" separating me from them. I do my best to meet there expectations and act like everything is fine. I seemed to have been born with a happy go lucky false face. It is part of me and has turned out to be a powerful survival skill when I deal with others. However, back to my reality and the "bubble". Right now the bubble is thick and I feel distant from the rest of life. It is like I am on an unconscious vacation or nightmare that feels endless. I went to the doctor and explained I am not doing so well. I took the depression test. My score was right in the range of a depressed person. What a surprise! He suggested that we look at my current medication and see if strengthening them would help... a few visit later I reported no improvement. So I am trying a new drug, Lexipro. I decided to take it because I am lawyer and "lex i pro" sounded like it was describing me. I took it as a sign. Given the randomness of trying to find a medication that works and doesn't have unbearable side effect...seeing a drug name as a sign seemed about right. However, I learned something from the last time I tried to change drugs about a year ago and had terrible side effects that took me to hell and back. First, make the change slowly to mitigate the depth of the side effects. Sometimes side effects disappear after a week or two and sometimes they do not. I have been on Lexipro for ten days and am going slowly down on my current drug. I feel abit better. When things are really bad I am so self involved I can't even see my bubble. It is a sign of my improved state of mind that I can see it. I hope this medication works so I can bust the bubble..wishful thing.

Post Traumatic Syndrome -- shock

My husband almost died but was saved by bypass surgery seven weeks ago. Like a delayed earthquake my body is just feeling the post shock trauma. Since the danger has passed I feel out of sink with reality. My mood is heading down. My thoughts are mostly blank but when they surface what they contain is troubling. I am changing my medication around but it does not seem to be helping. Time to take out my Depression/Anxiety Instruction book that lists the things I should do when I get this way. There is tremendous resistance to do this. The further I sink the harder it gets to do things to help myself.

Still Working on Flying Solo

It is difficult to imagine being alone and living a productive independent life. The thought makes me tired and I want to lie down and read a book. However, I might be feeling out of it (poured tea into my granola this morning) because it is 7 weeks since my husband's heart surgery. I could be in the throes of having a post traumatic syndrome moment. It fits my pattern of holding things together and then falling apart after the danger has passed. Actually the two things are related. I do not want to be so dependent so I am trying to do things on my own, taking care of myself. But now I am side tracked by PTSD. I think the first thing to do is take a walk and listen carefully to the sounds around me. My new strategy is to do one independent thing a day. Example: Get my hair cut and get a manicure. That's two.

Flying Solo

Each morning I visualize that I am a separate person from those around me. The difficulty in doing this is that I feel guilty, I am abandoning people. Since this is all going on in my head and not theirs', it is very unclear if I am really abandoning anyone. The other people could be happy I am not so clingy. The real question is can I trust the universe life force to take care of me if I let go and do I have enough faith in myself to fly solo? Right now I am not sure, so I am going to act "as if" I have faith one day at a time...one hour at a time.

Being Alone

Two weeks ago I almost lost my husband to a heart attack. My initial plan if he had died was to go to a monastery for a year and be silent. However, monasteries do not take people in who want to hide from their pain at least for a whole year. Maybe they would let you stay a week or two...but I would still have to emerge. When he did not die but instead had a triple bypass surgery I realized how vulnerable I was to the lose of a key part of my support system. I realized I was clinging to him, to his healthy energy. I was not creating my own healthy space. So now I am exploring how to do it. I know what to do, I have always known what to do. The problem is getting myself to do it. I think I need to first take one baby step at a time. Ease into my Independence. But Independence is a scary word.

What do I do all day...

I woke up this morning wondering what I had done for the last three months beyond being very anxious. Anxiety feels like a real time sink. But I realize I am counting the time when I am doing something useful as wasteful anxious time. I am trying to accept my anxiety as ever present and but nevertheless I am functioning in a reasonable manner. One thing I do to help keep myself in reality is keep a record everyday of what I have done. I have ten categories such as exercise, meditation, learn something useful... I rate myself before I go to bed on a one to ten scale. I also note each day the highlights of the day...walked the dog. My primary purpose in keeping this record is to show myself that even though my Depression/Anxiety disease has been in my head during the day, I actually had a useful day. So this morning after talking about how useless I was for a couple of hours to my husband and myself, I decided to read what I had been doing for the last three months. It turns out I have been rather productive. Doesn't feel that way but that is what the books says. The book notes are real, my feelings in a given moment are generally off the mark.

How Anxiety Works for Me

The textbook case of how anxiety works. Anxious item...for me it is seeing cancer doctors who will want me to go through some horrible test. Three to four weeks before appointments I start having psychosomatic symptoms such as loose bowels, tireness, bad dreams, day dreaming about neurotic obsessions and generalized anxiety so strong I have to lie down and pretend I am someone else. The height of the anxiety is a week before the appointment. Then about 4 days til touchdown I start feeling okay, think it is good that I am seeing the doctor. Thinking how lucky I am to have such great health care. After going through this routine twice a year for the last 30 years you would think I would get a sense of humor about it. However, it is only when the anxiety loosen its grip on me that I see the pattern. I saw a movie where the woman was in an accident and lost her memory going forward. Each day she had to watch a video to show her what was happening in her life. I could do something like that. Unfortunately I do not think it would work. This medical anxiety is hard wired in my body. I wonder if hypnosis would help?

How Easy it is Trigger Depression/Anxiety/The Depression/Anxiety Instruction Book

As I mentioned in my last post I am being genetically tested for future cancers. I have already had three different cancers. Apparently I am in a cancer cluster.  The test should indicate what is up next. and then I can be monitored in a more focused way.  I can not decide if this is going to make me more anxious or less anxious.  I had already concluded at some deep place that my cancer problem was chronic...so will more information help?  Medically the answer is yes.  They will catch it early and my treatment will hopefull  be less physically and mentally challenging. But enough with rational thinking.   The natural anxiety this is producing is enough to throw me back into the void.  My body is atwitter.  I wake up at 6 with anxious thoughts, stomach problems, and  chewing on my clothes to comfort myself.   These are the signs that I am very upset.  Having gone through this pattern several times.  I start writing in this blog and then remember I have a book of instructions of what to do when it gets like this.  Over the years I have put together a book of instructions as to how to deal with painful things.  So I find the book and turn to the Anxiety page.  The first thing it says is "be aware" that there is a problem.  I can check that one off since I am writing this blog about it.  Two, identify the  triggering event, I think I have that one.  Next, be sure to take anxiety medicine and practice mindfulness.  Mindfulness includes meditation and attempting to catch myself thinking anxious thoughts and try to bring myself into the present.  Counting helps me to focus and takes up the space in my brain where I have anxious thoughts. Four, take a walk.  Five, pick a word that represents the reality of the event, and keep repeating it like a mantra when you take the walk. Six, scream to let your negative energy out and imagine the anxiety leaving your body.  Finally, blog or talk it through with your doctor or some other supportive person. Talking or writing about it clears your brain and gives you new insights. What I got out of this blog writing is that I remembered that I had an instruction book with the steps I have taken in the past that have helped me.

Change of Circumstance - Opening the Door

The Depression/Anxiety disease I have has been passed down throught the generations on my father's side of the family.   While there were hints of it when I was young it came on full blast when I began this bizarre journey into bad health in my early 30tys.  I am now embarking on a new journey of being tested for a genetic pattern that will give me some idea of what type of cancer is coming next and and the use of tools to catch it early.   The idea that I will have any understanding of what has happened to me (three different cancers) is rocking my world.  I have had an upset stomach for two weeks because I am so freaked out.   While this is good news I do not know what to do with it.  I am 61 and for most of my adult life I have been firmly convinced that I was going to die in a painful way from cancer and it could happen at  any time.  The possibility that this fate might be avoided is earthshattering.   My whole pychological construct may no longer be in tune with reality.

This construct was to mask or deal with my core belief...I was going to have a painful death at an early age.    My Depression/Anxiety have kept the fear alive even as I have aged.  Additionally reality has kept the dream alive...my last serious cancer was only 4 years ago.  Now that the cancer doctors are going to explain in some way what has been going on.  I can not help but think that knowing about  my health problem would be helpful.  Right now I feel like I have no idea from day to day what my body is up to.

Going back to my first statement that Depression/Anxiety is also inherited, I think I can expect that this disease will do its best to rob me of any new found  safety I might feel from this extraordinary news.

So what to do?  First, welcome the old fear.  Take it out of its hiding place deep in my heart or wherever it is housed and look at what I have learned from it.  At the very least I have learned to live with a great realistic fear.  I have lived in a war zone where I am constantly trying to avoid being shot or killed.  Many of the coping skills I have learned over these last 30 years can be brought to bear in whatever situation I face in the future.

So if there is a ceasefire...I need to retool old skills and learn a few new ones.  I have tried to think back to how I felt before the cancer and depression started. I was 31 and a  new mother.  I actually remember being happy.  The lesson I can take from that time is that it is possible to be hopeful.  I know I can never go back to my feelings in those days because I have gone through a war and those scars are still fresh.   However, hope is flexible and it can fit in just about anywhere if you open the door to it.  Now I just have to figure out how to open the door.  I will keep you posted.


When Shit happens and Keeps Coming

In my last post I was lamenting that my PTSD symptoms were returning because my grandchild had a tough birth.  But all is now well in that area.  On Sunday just as I was about to enter a Christmas music concert my brother called to say that my dear cousin who was like a sister to me was killed by a hit and run driver in Patmos, Greece.   She lives there part time.  Luckily my brother was the one to go to Greece and try to deal with everything.  Nothing is easy or free in Greece.  I offered but he said that he would go and I did not protest.  Now I feel at wits end.  Her family of origin are all jerks and initially they have not been involved.  After the funeral was organized by me in LA two out of three sibling dedided not to attend.  The one who did attend had to because he lives in town and the funeral was at his church.  This where it gets confusing.  She was like my sister because her own sisiter had abandoned her.  We had the bond that Nanette hated us both.  I was hated because I was to together and Kathy was hated because she was not together enough.  Naturally my first inclination is to put a negative spin on why we were close.  Did I really love Kathy or did I  just feel sorry for her?  She was also an alcoholic which complicates things.  I have a history of rescuing disfunctional people as a way to make myself feel better about what a mess I am.

I can not answer this question now.  I realize I need to work my codependent program to get that part of my feelings straightened out.  I suspect or at least hope that I initially got involved because I was trying to rescue her but moved on to a true relationship.  It is confusing.  But I am in real grief.  The funeral was in LA on December 22.  I was suppose to go there for the holidays on Dec. 28.  I cancelled.  I had lots of reason...too much going on.  But I think the strongest reason is that my grief becomes much stronger when I go down there.  Even as I write this I am feeling terrible at the thought of going there.

I realize grief is natural but as a Depressive I have to be careful to separate the two which is not always easy.



When Shit Happens and Post Traumatic Syndrome Rears its Ugly Head

My depression and Anxiety problems were  triggered in the 1980's by a life threating medical emergency that occurred right after my son was born in December 1981.  My life threatening medical problem has gone on for many years.  It is like my physical problem met my anxiety problem and decided to get married.  The marriage has resulted in my suffering from severe anxiety and depression and post traumatic syndrome (PTSD).

So with that backdrop, my son, who is the same age I was when he was born, was due to have his  first baby in December.  Given the similar age and date timing I must admit I thought the fates were either going to give us a pass or not.  WEll "not" is what happened.  My daughter-in-law almost died in childbirth last week and the baby was born early.  Cora, my granddaughter, was in ICU for a week.  They are finally home not quite out of the woods but close.  They have been introduced to "shit happens".    I hope they all have a better reaction to it than I did.

Unfortunately when "shit happens"  I lose my way even when things work out.  I do not know whether to cry,  jump for joy , hide under a blanket or hurt myself.  My first unconscious thought was that it is all my fault.  I provided the faulty genes that caused the problem.  Logic prevails on that one, because my daughter-in-law is the one who got sick.  But I am sure somewhere in the medical drama it must be my fault even if it at the bad karma level.   They were at the same hospital where I suffered so much. However, once again rational thinking prevails as they were saved by the medical staff at the hospital as I was saved 30 years earlier.  But the fact that I went back to the scene of so much suffereing for me (hospital) brought back the PTSD.   I almost did not go but in the end I had to be there for my son.  Motherhood trumps PTSD.

So now I am in PTSD land where pure emotion is Queen and rational thought has no place.   For me the cure for PTSD is to follow a regular routine every day.  Do my best to stay in the present.  When nightmare thoughts of pass medical terrifying moments crop up,  I tells myself that it is "over" and to move on.  Also I am exercising, painting my feelings and writing on this blog. Finally, I am  accepting that I am going to feel the PTSD symtoms for a while.  So I have to watch myself so I do not do anything too crazy or dangerous.  This is serious stuff and should be treated accordingly.

Other People

I live with another person.  Dealing with this person on a daily basis confuses me with regard to my depressive thoughts..   First, it is hard to know when to talk about it.  He tells me he wants to know when I feel bad.  But when I do, I do not think he wants to hear that I am not doing well. Second, when you are working hard to keep your thoughts in the present, an anti depression technique, the fact that non depressives have the freedom to have  more wide ranging thoughts makes it hard to relate to the person.  They want to talk and you are in the process of trying to control your thoughts.  They think you are not communicating and that causes a problem in your relationship.  My husband recently went on a business trip and during the time he was gone I felt I could relax.  I know that being around other people is good for me so I will not isolate but it does have a downside.  I feel abit like I am an alien who looks and acts like a human.  Other people are really much happier when I act upbeat no matter how I actually feel.    I do not know exactly how to deal with this dilemma other then working a program that is good for me and hope that other people will learn to accept it..

How to relate to adult children

I am a mother.  How can I relate to my adult child when I am suffering from Deression/Anxiety? He called and I thought we were talking about inconsequencial things and then wham he hits me verbally.  He has spotted my weakness amid my casual remarks.  I assume he is keenly aware of when I am hiding my problem under a false sense of jollyness because he has the same problems.  However, in his case it is not discussed.  It is the elephant in the living room.  So I just go along as if nothing happened.  I release with love.  I know he blames me for handing down this illness the same way I blamed my father, it is hard for both of us to face our realities.

Finally about the Dog

I decided that my life had no real  structure and this was leading me to act in a way (letting my days drift by) that resulted in my feeling more depressed and anxious.   So I got a puppy. Her name is Josephine and it is amazing how my daily life has changed.  I am up at 7 to let her out and then to feed her.  After that she wants to have love time where we snuggle and I try to get some more sleep.  Next she loves it when I get ready for the day in the bathroom. She lies quietly in the corner and almost expects me to take a bath.   I have started taking a hot bath and my musles do feel better.  Then I put her in her crate to meditate.  Somehow I feel a need to meditate.  Before  Jo Jo a morning meditation was a hit or miss thing.   Next I take her for a walk. I have always resisted taking a walk.  But going out with Jo Jo seems a pleasure.    Having this small creature as a responsibility is inspiring and makes me feel I am not a complete lost case.  I do things that other people think are amazing (I gave a baby shower for my daughter-in-law last Sunday with over 20 people where I served High Tea).  But somehow things like that make me feel confused and do not necessarily translate into me feeling more worthy.  But having this little puppy look up at me as if I am the most important thing in her life (I control the food) makes me feel needed.  Feeling needed is helping me take more control over my life.

The Dog has to Wait

I thought I would write a blog entry today about the benefits of pets for those of us who get too involved with our own negative thoughts to see anything else.  But I realize  I need to say something else.  I am an artist and went to an art residency for two weeks.  While there I put alot of energy out and got alot done.  I did not feel depressed but I realized that after the residency was over my depression would kick in.   I got home a week ago and for the last few days I have been into the "I am a horrible person" scenario.  When I meditated I was asking for forgiveness for my sins.  I guess my depression had kicked in.  Yesterday, it occurred to me also during meditation that my low self esteem was not fact based.  I am not a horrible person as it turns out.  Back to my "thoughts are not my friends" mantra.

But I did get a puppy, more about that in my next post.

Acknowledging the Disease in your Gut

I am always trying to prove to myself that I am okay or to validate that I am a flawed person because I have Depression/Anxiety disease.  Hard to say which..but in the end they are the same thing...denial.  I hate it that my life is at all constricted because of this disease.  So I proceed with a self denial schedule of events.    My go to way of doing this is too over schedule my life with fun and interesting activities.   Of the ten things I have scheduled, each one is fabulous and filled with" do not want to miss" moments.   About 2/3 through the drill I start to fad and towards the end I go into a depressive tailspin.  That has been my summer.  I am now in the tailspin.  Yesterday I had brunch with my son and his wife.  She is six months pregnant with my first grandchild.  I have been gone most of the summer doing my ten fabulous things and I have not seen them in awhile.  I am siting in their living room and talking about my summer and how I was overdoing it when the words " I feel like killing myself" popped out.  I think my daughter- in- law thought I was just being dramatic.  This out burst made me realize that I was truly overwhelmed, and that I had almost exposed the dirty secret that depressives and anxiety stricken people  have..suicide is an option.  It is one thing to tell people you have the disease of Depression/Anxiety and quite another that you think about suicide every once in a while.  I generally reserve knowledge about that to my doctor and my husband so they can talk me out of it.

Now it is Sunday, my husband and I usually go to this very cool Farmer's Market near our home.  This morning when my husband asked if I wanted to go, I said no.  Then I thought what my alternate plan might be..to sit in the house and read a gruesome murder mystery.  So I decided that the healthy thing to do was to go to the very jolly Farmer's Market.  When I got there I felt like I was in a bubble of depression.  But the scene at the market was so pleasing the bubble opened a little bit and gradually as I practiced being present, the bubble sort of burst.  My depression had not gone away but that Sunday morning bubble of depression was gone.  I started to think that my problem was that my brain chemistry was not in balance.   Now that is a big one.   I had finally intregrated into my gut that I have a chemical imbalance that causes me to have depressive thoughts and to get over anxious.  I have said this to myself and others many times.  My brain got it years ago but not until today did I feel it in my gut.   Yes, I am afraid it is true I have a disease that I can not control.   Management is the only tool I have at my disposal.  Just writing this makes me sad.  I so wanted it to be my fault because if it were my fault  I would have control over it.

Between Two Worlds

I am going back on my anti depression medication after getting a perfect score on the "are you depressed" test.  See prior posts for how I got into this position.  I am right in the middle of taking my medication in an effort to build up to take the final dosage.  It feels like I am straddling two worlds.  One minute I feel like something bad is about to happen and the next I tell myself "my thoughts are not my friends".  I have the strong negative thoughts but I am able to talk myself out of them.   It is truly weird.

The whole episode of being off drugs for a month and then getting so sick, rationally shows me that negative thoughts are brought on by a chemical imbalance which medicine corrects.   I feel a strong resistence to beleiving that truth.  Thoughts are so powerful that it just feels like my ego must be generating them.  I like that idea better because then it would be my fault that I have such anxious and depressive thoughts.  In other words, if my ego was running the show I would be able to CONTROL the process.   The idea that I control the whole mess is very attractive.   However, if it is a chemical imbalance, I have no power over the process and only medicine or some other treatment can correct the problem of living with and believing negative and anxious thoughts.  In other words, I am powerless over my depression/anxiety.   It is just like other illnesses that I have such as high blood pressure and a throid imbalance.  Both of which I control through medication.  So while I really hate being powerless over my depression/anxiety illness, I just have to work on accepting the reality that it is a treatable illness in most cases.  Doing that is not easy.   Even putting this reality into words is hard.



Be Good To Yourself

As I write this it is hard to imagine how I could be "Good to Myself".  What would that look like?  My current status is that I was on a anti depression medication that was working but I decided to try something else.  I did it 4 weeks before I was leaving on a 6 week trip.  It took me 4 weeks to get totally off the first drug and on to a minimum dose of the second.  During the end of the transition, I had two terrible days when I could not get off the couch.  It felt like I was having chemo therapy, totally drugged feeling.  I could taste the drugs.

Then off I went to Greece to see family.  Like a good girl I continued to take the new drug up to the full dosage even though it gave me insominia.  It was like my body was on speed.  I thought the side effects might go away.  Finally after ten days on the full dosage, as I sat looking at the moon over the water in the middle of the night on the island of Patmos, I decided to go off the drug. On the plus side it would give a chance to see what it would be like to not be on any medication.  So it was  another three weeks before I was drug free.  During that time I started to act a bit manic, I bought a very expenseive rug in Istanbul's Grand Bazzar that I could not afford in 20 minutes.  To pay for it I have to take money out of my retirement account.  I have a firm rule not to touch that account except for real emergencies.  A rug is not an emergency.  I bought a lot of other things but nothing so out of line.

Next I was staying in Amsterdam  also visiting family.  There I bought a very expensive necklace on impulse.  The retirement account was hit again.  It did occur to me I was acting in a manic manner and the great fall to depression would soon follow.  I have used manic buying historically to stave off depression.     But I so wanted to be medication free.

I got home and cancelled my doctor's appointment until the next week.  Manic people do not necessary want to see doctors.  I did have a bad cold but you would think my mind was more important.  Then over the weekend I went to Portland on business for a few days.  There was a sale at one of my favorite clothing stores, I do not have to tell you what happened.

So finally I am home and the depression descended one night when I woke up at 1AM.  Every day since then I have moments when I just want to crawl into a ball and hide.  I did not want to leave the house.  I finally went to my doctor.  Depressive symptoms are so scary it did prompt me to see the doctor.  I was so disappointed that I could not make it without drugs I cried on my way over there.  At the doctor (I came at the wrong time but luckily he had time for me) I took the depression test and got a perfect score.  I was really depressed.  So we decided I needed to go back to my old medication.  I am in the process of going back on it.  This will take a few weeks.  I feel just ok today.  It does seem possible that I can function.

So back to the idea of being "Good to Yourself".   As I write this, I realize that finally going to the doctor was being "Good to Myself".   Accepting that I have a disease that can only be controlled by medication is a real being "Good To Myself" event.  It was a hard way to be "Good to Myself" but in the scheme of things it was a major step.


Medication - good or evil

I have been off anti depressives and strong anxiety medication, as I mentioned in my last post, for almost 4 weeks. It was not my plan to go off drugs but I was changing medications and had such horrible side effects from Vryriid. The problem developed because I was traveling for over 6 weeks and away from my doctor when I went off the new medication. I HAVE BEEN ON MEDS SO LONG I WAS A BIT EXCITED TO SEE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN. I hoped I could handle it. I was going to meditate and do all the things I have been taught to do to chase away bad thoughts. Four weeks into this experiment I am so anxious and can not sleep well. I even feel lousy when I do get a good night's sleep. I can hardly stand any tension. I can not meditate or even think straight. We just had friends here for a few days and I thought I would go crazy. I treated the tension by keeping very busy and taking tranquilizers. But when I got home from showing my friends the sights of our city I just wanted to sleep and not talk to them. I was even really rude to them, something I never am with friends. I was going crazy. Also last week I spent a lot of money in a manic fashion. I bought books in a city I do not live in and made my suitcases really heavy even though I have a bad back, when the books are available for the same price down the street from where I live. Last night I woke up at 1am and started to get the classic symptoms that characterize my depression, desire to hide in a small space, angry with my son when he has not done anything to deserve it, and a general sense that am a worthless person and do not deserve to live. So I guess I am not doing so well without medication either on the anxiety or depression side of the fence. Up to last night I had just been very, very anxious. The depression symptoms are new but undoubtedly now a continuing feature of my day. I see the doctor today and do not know what we will decide to do. Going on like this is not an option. I have to stabilize my life. on with my life in the next few months. I am scheduled to go out of town to see family in August and then go on a two week business trip in September. Working is not possible in this state of mind. Luckily I am self employed but even that doesn't mean I can just vegetate for the next few months to see if I get better. The depression attack last night really scared me. If I do go back to my old anti depressive medication, I am going to feel like changing to anything different is not worth it anytime soon. Frankly I am scared of trying anything new because of my terrible experience with V... On the other hand this is a window to be experimental. I will let you know what I decide to do.

Life between Medication

It is the middle of the night in Amsterdam where I am visiting my family, I am still away on a 5 week trip as I mentioned in my last post. I have been through hell these last three months. First, as I said in my last post I decided to go off my anti depression drug Noratriptaline even though it was working and go on Viibryd to get rid of some unpleasant but not serious side effects. Everything was fine as I started to make the switch. Initially it was great but then the side effects of Viibryd came roaring through. I did some research and it turns out that only 5 percent of users get these side effects. They are primarily insomnia, body ache and brain saps. Also, at first it felt like I was on chemo therapy....drug mania for about two weeks at the height of the transition. It was highly uncomfortable. Like a trooper I stayed on the drug for 4 weeks hoping the side effects would go away. In the middle of this period I was scheduled to go on a 5 week trip to Europe. I thought I would be through this drug transition by the time the trip rolled around. For the first few days of the trip I stayed on the drug full strength. One night after only a few hours of sleep I decided this was just not working and decided to slowly go Viibryd. Not sleeping was getting to me. But these drugs are so powerful it took me three weeks to get off it. But it does not end there...I am still getting the body ache and having problems sleeping. It is like the drug does not want to leave my body. So now I am off my primary anti depressive. What to do? I am in a foreign country so I can not run to my doctor and scream, help me. So I decided to take advantage of this drug free and doctor free moment and see if all the non drug techniques, meditation and prayer, cognitive therapy (questioning myself three times a day) if I am getting into a negative thought pattern...it can sneak up on you. I also have to address in a real way my money mania. I have to start really committing to debtors anonymous. This is where my mania shows it's face. I need a structured program to face it and takes concrete steps to control it. I would not be taking these steps if I had not just shown that my mania was alive and well...buying a rug and jewelry on this trip that I really can not afford and do not need with credit. Update before I post...I am home and recovering from jet lag and a cold. My next step is to see if I can function well using non drug depression/anxiety techniques. I am going to do this under a doctor's care. It is too hard to stay on track alone. In the end actions will speak louder than words.

Changing Medications for Depression/Anxiety - Brave Souls

Changing depression meds is one of the toughest and most miserable medical pain experiences ( medicial sytem induced pain) I have ever experienced.  I know what I am talking about because I have had chemotherapy, nuclear medicine treatments plus several serious operations.

But before I go into my story I just want to say that Depression/Anxiety medication has made it possible for me to have a life.   I even asked to make this change to go on a better drug.

Here are the details:

I was on Serezone for a number of years and it worked well.  Then came the "liver failure" scare side effect for Serzone.  Even though it was unlikely that I would have this side effect because I was doing well on the drug, it just seemed prudent to move on to another drug.  I have GI problems with alot of drugs so my doctor said I should try Nortriptyline.  Going on that was hard and  I had to work less at my office for about two months as my system got used to the drug.   But a few months passed, the worst side effects passed and the drug started to work well and I have been on it for a number of years.  However, I thought that there might be a better drug that was not so sedating and did not make me sweat so much.    I was dripping throughout my son's wedding.

I had about six weeks free this spring to make a transition.   Off I went down the  Viibryd (new drug) garden path.  I was attracted to Viibryd because it is in the same family as Serezone without  the liver failure side effect.  At lower doses with some Nortriptyline it was fine. but as I got to a maintenance dose and the Nortriptlyline was being tampered off things got strange.  I started to feel really unnerved, could not sleep, had stomach upset.  I started taking a little Nortriptyline and that helped the unnerved feeling, and when I started taking the drug while I was eating dinner., the GI problems got better.  But now I was left with the sleep problem.  I can fall asleep easily around 10:30 but  wake up at 4:30 A.M.   I first tried a sleeping pill. This was not enough.   Next I tried benadril and a sleeping pill.  I still woke up at 4:30 but was able to get back to sleep until 6. A.M.  So that is what I am doing for the moment.   I have been getting 7 hours sleep for the last few days.   I do best with 8 or 9 hours of sleep.  I don't feel great but can function in a low grade sort of way on seven hours.  Obviously I can not go on with this sleep cocktail forever and hope the sleep problem will get better.

However, I am going out of the country for a month on Wednesday and it is too late to change anything .  So I will just have to hope for the best.

The pychological impact of this experience is that I feel less than.  I am just sitting around waiting for the side effects that are making it hard for me to operate to go away...sleeping is so important to good mental health.    So as to not to fall into the rabbit hole of  thinking "I am no good", I decided to make positive signs to put around the house and in books that I am reading about how brave I am to try to get better from this miserable disease.    I will report back in July when I return.  Just remember that all of us who are working to get better are BRAVE SOULS!!!!!!!!!!!

Accepting Powerlessness

I feel like I have been brought to my knees by my anxiety/depression. I feel like I am truly powerless over it. I also know that if I just accept my powerlessness that I will be calmer. Fighting anxiety is exhausting. Today my mottos are "Easy Does It" and "Be Good to Yourself".

Angels to the rescue

When I get so consumed with anxiety as I have been recently, the anxiety state becomes my reality. A relative was visiting and having an anxiety attack. After she left I started to have a rather severe attack. Anxiety is catching. For people like me it is as catching as the flu. I couldn't sleep, I felt shaky and was in a downward slide into the negative thought world. By Sunday I really felt desperate. My body felt like it was on natural speed. I needed to do something to pull myself out of it. I tried anti anxiety medicine and it did not even touch it. When it gets this bad, I play a mind trick...I mentally retire from the world and let an angel named Therese take over my body. I give her a real personality. My husband plays along and talks to Therese. While generally multiple personalities is not a helpful route to take, I find it useful as a way to calm myself down. After a few hours of giving myself a chance to get out of the fray, I could feel my body start to relax. Now Sara could wake up and begin to deal with her anxiety problem. Anxiety 101 begins: When I get like this, it helps me to look at a book where I have written down the steps I should take when I get this way. It is like not remembering someone's telephone number and having to look it up. The problem is that I forget that the book exists. I was thinking of putting a note next to my bed which will say " are you having an anxiety attack, if so, go and look at the anxiety prevention list". Currently I have a drawing of anxiety in action next to my bed. Unfortunately looking at that just confirms that I am having an anxiety attack. Art is great to show you where you are but words are necessary to move yourself off the anxiety dime. What helped this week was talking to a doctor who knows me well. After hearing me talk for a bit, he said "your thoughts are not your friends". After the session I felt more relaxed and admitted to myself that I was thinking very negative thoughts that were not connected to reality. But I have to admit that some of my anxiety scenarios engage me, so it is hard to give them up. However, the anxiety is making me feel so lousy that I remembered the list of what to do to stop believing my "stinking thinking". I am not over the anxiety attack but following my list which includes meditation, focusing exercises, reading self help books, and generally trying to separate my thoughts from my reality. This is hard work but the black clouds are breaking up and I can see some blue sky. I never did figure out how to attach photos of my art to this site so I refer you to saratarvin.org. Where I have posted my rendition of what anxiety looks like in my body with this post.

Using the Serenity Prayer to Find Reality

This morning I woke up and felt like I did not want to move. My husband took the car because I did not want to drive him to the mass transit center. I also told him to turn in the tickets to the ballet tonight (I really like ballet). An hour later I roused myself and all of a sudden I wanted to be part of the day. This means I am the one that has take the bus to go to the ballet and to get my allergy shot. So what happened there. I am not really sure. If I use the term "me" as the Depressed/Anxiety person and "I" as that indefinable part that promotes reasoned and sound thoughts, I can then try to write about it. The "I" understands that most of my thoughts are crap, but if I am so very involved in my "me" dialogue that "I" can not surface. So how can I tap into the "I". First, what is bothering me? Well, one of my children is visiting and is in the midst of a very serious anxiety attack. She can not sleep. In reality, the changes in her life are very good. But that has not sunk in and is not calming her down yet. She is too far into the vortex. I am feeling that my genetic code for this disease was handed down by me to her. I have spend years blaming my father for this. I am afraid she will get angry at me for the same reason. After all, when you are feeling terrible it is convenient to blame your mother. So that is the first thing. Second, I am genuinely concerned about her and want to help. Third, her mood is catching. My "me" is in full swing. So what magical steps can I take to deal with my mood. First, it is very arrogant of me to assume I have any control over the genetic code. So that brings we to the first part of the Serenity prayer for Depressives, "God (or Higher Power) give me the serenity to accept my own Depression/Anxiety disease and my child's anxiety attack and any feelings of resentment she may have towards me". Next, I want to use my experience to help her so then comes the second part of the Serenity prayer, "and have the courage to deal with my own feelings in a healthy way". As I write this I am realizing that if I have no control over the genetic code, my daughter's anxiety attack belongs to her and not me. That is the "I" at work. How can I help someone when I feel so intertwined with her problem? The first thing is I have to realize that I can not help her when I am so emotionally involved and a bit confused about who is really having the anxiety attack. So do I walk away? The answer is "yes" if my "me" is running the show. But if I can get in touch with my "I" then it is from that place that I can be helpful. So now the third part of the Serenity pray comes into play, I will pray for the "wisdom to know the difference between my "me" state of mind and my "I" state of mind". Going to the ballet tonight is part of getting the "me" state of mind to quiet down and let the "I" state of mind shine through.

Freakin' out

I am just coming out (hopefully) of an anxiety attack. I am an artist and I am in the middle of a big project. I was feeling like my whole being was being transferred to the canvas. Very scary stuff!!!!!! I went out to run some errands and I thought I was going to fall apart. So I went home and asked my husband to stop working and focus on how I could calm down. We both went out and looked at the painting and he said it was great but clearly not done. He locked the studio and told me to take 4 days off from the painting. I immediately relaxed. I was scared to stop because in the past I have done some great work and then not done much for months at a time. I once did not paint for 5 years. I never paint when I feel depressed. Right now I am trying to work on art or art related matters at least 4 days a week. I am trying to build a work routine. So even thought this painting is off limits I can draw to give some place for my artistic energy to go that is non threatening. I always worry that depression will rear it's ugly head.

Computers and changing medicine

I just was writing this blog and my computer crashed. It is currently going through some attempted repairs that will take several minutes. But as I was waiting I discovered is that I can blog on my IPAD. This is so much easier to use. But back to the substantive topic of what drugs to take. I am currently thinking of changing. A bit scared because it is so disturbing physically to change. It took me a month to get on my current drug. But I have a quiet period for a few months, so if I am going to do it this year, it should be now. I guess I will dive in to anti depression pharmacology maddness. My current drug works but has some irritating side effects. So it is not crucial that I change. It is so annoying that they do not understand this disease better. I had my mammogram last week and this reignited my medical test phobia. It has unsettled me for several days. Now I am in the waiting for results phase of my phobia. In reality I have no reasonable expectation that there is any problem but phobias do not pay attention to reason. They take on a life of their own. This phobia makes me crazy. I know that you are suppose to wait for the postcard in the mail. But I will probably bug my doctor who gets the results earlier. She knows I have the phobia and is understanding.

Doing amazing things and then crashing

In my last post which I just reread I was sailing through life having given my anger to a higher power. Well, it did help get me through the next thing I wanted to do with my art. For a month before I went to an art retreat center I wanted to use anxiety to make clear that I could not manage it and depression to just hideaway. But as it is generally the case with anxiety, the closer I get to an event the anxiety lessens. So off I went to Vermont. When I made the plane reservation I got the dates mixed up. So I was arriving a day early and leaving a day late. This meant I had to stay in Burlington, Vermont for the first day. It was okay to have a quiet day by myself. Then I jumped into the 2 week art residency with lots of energy. Where that energy came from is a mystery. I worked harder on my paintings then I had for a very long time. I had brought two pieces I had given up that I would ever finish because they were big and it took alot of physical strength to deal with them. I finished one and got half way through the other. It is now done enough that I can finish it at home. As the two week period was coming to a close, I started getting really tired even when I had enough sleep. But not wanting the merry-go- round to stop, when I got to Burlington for my one day there, I rented a car. I then proceeded to drive to a store over a hundred miles away. This is a store with a big internet business and I knew exactly what I wanted. So why the mad dash when I was so tired???? I got back to Burlington just in time to go to a jazz show in the evening. The next morning I decided to go for a ride to the ski area since the plane left at 2. However, to keep the excitement going I just got to the airport in time to check my bag. I was very stressed. Cut to the chase I was so crazed that I allowed myself to be bumped from the plane for a family that was going on a cruise. The next 24 hours were a nightmare. First the airline sent me to New Hampshire and then the next day to Boston. When I got on the plane in Boston, I was convinced the plane would crash because I was in a bad kharma moment. Well the plane made it but the bag containing all my art was missing. I was about as freaked out as I have ever gotten. The bag came 24 hours later. It has taken me about 5 days to come back to earth with any sense of comfort from my mishandling of my exit from this intensive working period. Lessons learned. On the positive side I did get myself there and I was productive. But as for the leaving part I was adrift. I did not use any of the tools I have to calm down. Instead I sought out stressful situations to keep the mania going to prevent the natural come down that comes after so much effort. I was in a trance. As so many things went wrong at the airport I went into catastrophic thinking mode as I traveled home. And more importantly I started believing the negative scenario. Once I got home I felt terrible. Should I just stay in bed or run a marathon? I avoided talking to friends. My son was home for a night, and I picked a fight. After the fight with my son, I realized I needed to slowly get back into the rhythm of my life and all would be better. And of course, that fact that I can write this post is evidence that R and R is working and was needed. Next time I will plan for a let down period and try to avoid manic behavior.

Anger at being disabled by Depression/Anxiety - a 12 Step Solution

The last few days I have come to realize that I am very angry that I inherited this disease and that it is making it difficult for me to go forward with my life. Hard to be mad at ancestors since they suffered from this without the help that 21st century medicine offers. So who to be mad at...my favorite person is myself and then God. I am doing all the things I have talked about in this blog to relieve the symptoms of Depression/Anxiety (anti depressives, meditation etc.) but the anger is different. I am powerless around it. My father was an alcoholic and a depressed anxiety ridden person. For many years I went to Alanon and Adult Children of Alcoholics to deal with the family issues that come up when your parent is an Alcoholic. The classic child of an alcoholic idea that it was my fault that my Dad drank was always center stage. I used the 12 steps to guide my life for many years. Then I got Depressed and walked away from it. Naturally, my lifelong tape that it is all my fault has moved its focus from my Dad to my Depression/Anxiety. As I write this it is so obvious that the 12 Step Program would help me deal with my angry feelings about Depression/Anxiety. I went online and found a group back east (I am in California) that has a meeting about depression using the 12 steps as a guide. It fits very nicely. The first step is "I am powerless over alcohol". For me it is "I am powerless over Depression/Anxiety and my anger around it." The second step is "a power greater than myself can restore me to sanity". That is as far as I can go right now. I know at a very gut level that I am powerless but the problem has been to believe that a power greater than myself restore me to sanity. So to break through this spiritual blockade I am using a trick called "acting as if". I imagine that I live in a state of "grace" and when I meditate I imagine myself being filled with a yellow light that is "love and kindness." I can not bring myself to go to church (Catholic). So for the last two weeks I have gone to noon mass on Tuesday. Going to Sunday mass is just too much like a commitment. Today was one of those mass days. During mass somehow a door opened to the third step "Turn over your disease to your higher power." So I imagined that my anger was no longer my problem. My Higher Power has to deal with it. When I did that I had this moment of feeling like a great weight was lifted. Of course, the feeling did not last but I know now that there is something to using the 12 Steps around my Depression/Anxiety. I am still very much at the "acting as if" stage but it seems to be working.

How Depression/Anxiety Have a Life of Their Own

I rationally realize I have a physical disease like heart disease. I can image that people with that disease have bad days. But they always can see the disease for what it is...bad health that may limit them but not define them. Their sense of self hood is still alive. Depression/Anxiety disease is different because the disease attacks your self hood. It is so easy to believe the Depression/Anxiety story line because it feels so very real. It is a bit like having Alzheimer disease, you believe a different reality then the one that is actually before you. So what to do???? One option is to write everyday what you did. This is not a diary where you talk about how you feel. This is a factual diary. For example, "I went to work, had tacos for lunch, went to a movie, etc, etc." When I am having a bad day and I think what is the point of going on, RED LIGHT ALERT! I have written instructions of what to do. First, I have to recognize it is a bad day and not a new reality. Then I go to the diary and look at the activities I have been up to in the past week. Even though it is the last thing I want to do, I make a daily schedule of activity. I try to keep busy and follow it but I know it won't be perfect. I am doing good if I buy into this idea at whatever level. Then move forward...if I think this would last for 12 hours I could certainly do it. It is the fear that it will last forever that is so scary. It is the old one day at a time, one hour at a time or one minute at a time concept. All tools to stay in the present and feel the pain and then move on. So yesterday was a bad day. I knew it when I woke up. I was fine the day before so what happened. I do not know. But I have a disease that no know really understands and I have to accept that the disease will act up and I will not understand on a rational level what happened. So RED ALERT kicks in. I wrote out a schedule and decided that I had time in my work schedule (I work for myself at home)to go to a movie. I had not been to one in awhile. So I followed my written schedule in the morning and then went to see "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy". It was no where as good as the PBS episodes with Alex Guiness. SO I was disappointed. But I went right to the movie store and got the version I liked and started to watch it when I got home. My husband called and wanted me to come out in the rain and pick him up about 30 minutes away. At first I said take a cab but then he offered to take me out for dinner at my favorite restaurant. Reluctantly I agreed. The dinner was great and I had to admit I was glad I went out. Then I wrote the facts of the day in my diary. So today I am better, no clue why. It is a day to day thing.

Depression/Anxiety during the Holidays

It is January 11 and I am just coming down from the holidays  I had alot of fun seeing my family and friends but I abandoned my anti depression/anxiety game plan. So now that the sugar, unhealthy food, parties, presents and religious aspects of the season are over, I am depressed. Now to be fair I have had the January blues most of my life, even pre depression. But depression is beyond the blues.  I am having negative thoughts that are unrelated to reality and I want to hide in the house.  Also if I do go out I want to spend money on credit and eat sugar, great ways to keep the worst of the depression at bay for a short time. Of course, the problem with going that route is that you end up with debt and having to get off sugar. So what should I do? First, since I wake up in a fog each morning I make myself sit down and put together a schedule for the day.  This is my third day of being on the schedule and I am feeling better.  I am slowly finding my center. The schedule goes like this, first I meditate, then do body stretches. Next I spend some time getting all the holiday stuff put away.  For example, I took the lights off the tree yesterday. I do not do too much around the Christmas stuff because it makes me feel anxious.  However, having all this Christmas stuff around also makes me feel anxious. So I am trying to find a balance.  Next, my bedroom was a mess with lots of clothes and other junk all around, so I cleaned that up yesterday. It is hard to calm down when you immediate space is in chaos.  But hard to clean up chaos when you are down. Today is business day.  I have opened my mail and realize I need to respond to some things but have not focused on it yet. My first job is to get my medications changed over to the new medicine provider.  I just found the sheet that tells me what to do.  Hopefully I will do something around this today. As I write this I am formally reminding myself that I need some refills on my anti-depression medications soon.  I like to wait until I am close to being out and then act in a crisis mode.  I also need to spend an hour on a painting that will be linked to this post.  I am working on setting that link up, another job.  Finally I need to exercise today.  I have an organized class I am going to at 4.  As I write this I am dreading leaving the house and going to the class. The class is small and I am expected.  Duty usually works as a motivator for me. So tha my story for now.

Jet Lag and Depression/Anxiety

I am in Europe for both business and pleasure for a few weeks.   I arrived in Berlin yesterday afternoon and got to my hotel room and wondered what anti depressive and anxiety drugs I should take.  I fell asleep before taking anything.  At about 5 in the evening I woke up and wondered if I should take the morning pills which I had skipped because of the time change or the evening ones.   I went with the evening ones on the theory that I had to get on the right time.

Today I awoke really early and spent a number of hours having an intense talk with my son in my head.  It is a conversation I never plan to actually have with him.  So what a waste of time.  Additionally, it activated my negative thought process.   I need to remind myself that "my thoughts are not my friends."  When I am awake in the middle of the night I should occupy my mind with a book or I will start to ruminate and ruminating always take me to a bad place.

How to Help a Friend in Need...


An old dear friend has had a relapse of his prostate cancer this fall, and there are no further treatments.  So he is waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Initially, I spoke to him on the phone and said I would come to his job, so we could have a quiet lunch and talk about what it feels like to be in his situation.  But I never did it.  The reason I offered to see him was that I have been in the same situation . . . around skin cancer, melanoma, etc.   In fact,  it was this diagnosis that pushed me into my 25-year-long battle with Depression/Anxiety.   I was told in 1985 that I was going to die soon.  The good news is that I survived.  The bad news is that I did not know I was going to survive, and for about 15 years, I kept waiting for something to happen, hence the Depression/Anxiety.  For reasons that not even the doctors understand, the cancer went into remission.  The Depression/Anxiety has chosen to hang on.

So back to my friend.  I am going to see him on Thanksgiving, and  I wonder why I have not called him for our one-on-one.   First, I have been going through a bad patch with my Depressive/Anxiety, and I am reluctant to get involved in anything that would  be  upsetting. Second,  while I can commiserate with him about how hard it is to wait around to find out which day you are going to die on, the problem is that I did not die.  I know that my storyis used by my doctors with melanoma patients as a ray of hope.  I will undoubtedly do the same with him.  "I survived against the odds, so will you."   But I will also have to tell him the awful truth that being so violently anxious about how long I was going to remain on earth required me to live hour-by-hour for years.

Now I should add that I am a much deeper and richer person for this experience.  I think that is why I am able to portray the human heart in my art.  So, some good has come from it all.

But moving towards the seemingly unstoppable death experience is really scary.   In 1985, I got very close to death and was surprised how really dreadful it was to have pain and see my body fall apart.  I was miraculously pulled back from the brink.  But it was a haunting experience.

As I write this,  I realize that there is a big difference beyween then and now, which I know he will appreciate.  I was young and only 31, and now, we are both in our 60's.  Our children are grown, and we have had interesting lives so far.   I guess I want to say that plus 60 is when people start getting sick and dying in the natural course of things . . . it will happen to us all.  So it is not such a big deal.  Easy to say but hard to go through.

I know that on Thanksgiving I will screw up my courage after having  several pieces of chocolate with some red wine and take him to a quiet corner and tell him I am available to listen.  He knows I am one of the few people who understand what he is going through.  I want to be his listener as he go through it.   25 years ago my mother was my listener and I am so grateful she had the courage to hear me out.  I want to return the favor.  Maybe the Depression/Anxiety experience has opened up my heart to be available for this moment.  I hope so.

Too Many People and Too Much Going On...Turning the Voice Off that Says I can't Handle it.

As the holidays approach I am freaking out.  It is not about anything in particular but just all the people including new babies (great aunt by three), parties (dear friend is celebrating 100th birthday, son turning 30), and travel (going to family for Christmas holidays).   Additionally this is a big religious holiday for me (not my family) and I do not want that to get lost in the shuffle.  So rationally all these things are good but it seems impossible to imagine participating in any of the holiday events.

So what should I do??????  Option one is to hide in my closet and hope they do not find me.  Well that is a bit unrealistic but a nice thought.

Option two is to take it a day or even an hour at a time.  None of the things I am scared of are so terrible when they are broken into small time parts.   So today I wrote 4 Christmas cards.  I did not put in a note I just signed our names.  I want to wish everyone a happy holidays and let them know we arefine.  Last year we did not send out anything and by June people were calling me asking if I was ok.  Then I had to send out a mass email letting my family and friends know that I was alive and well.  To avoid such drama I am trying to send out these simple cards.  I have gone through the address book to H.  When I think of the whole project I want to put my head under the desk.   But if I only have to do one letter of the alphabet each day, at least today I could handle it.  A further report about whether the cards actually get sent in December blog.

Why is this blog so helpful?  The idea of reporting back to whoever is reading this blog that I failed to send out the already addressed and stamped Christmas cards will hopefully prompt me into action.  We shall see.  Last week I spoke about a box I had failed to send for a month.  Well after discussing it here, I went to the post office and in a slightly choatic way (hard to describe but it was a slapstick comedy moment) I sent it off.

Thanksgiving pies.   I have been assigned the task of making the pies.  So this is my battle plan - I need to have four pies.  I will bake two - apple and blueberry because fruit pies are easier and I already know how to do it.  But for the pumpkin pie and pecan pie I am going to order them from a great pie shop.  Most importantly I am NOT going to go on and on about it in my head.  That all too familiar voice in my head that loves to tell me what a failure I am, will have to take Thanksgiving off.  However, turning that voice off will be an hour by hour project.

TURNING THE VOICE OFF.   Whenever I sense the voice is about to appear I am going to count in random numbers.  This is a focusing technique that breaks the negative thoughts up.  I have been trying it over the last week and it works.  1,5,7,3,9,4,6,7,2,....

Wouldn't it be funny if Depression/Anxiety could be fully managed by reciting random numbers.   I say do whatever works so you can live each day aware of nature, sounds, other people...whatever...there is so much we are missing locked in our heads.

Further report on posting art pieces attached to this blog.  Well I have done two things.  I wrote to the people who handle this blog and asked them how to do it.  So obvious but naturally not my first choice.  My first choice was to create my own blog as a place to put the art.  Well that is okay, I guess..  So this week I have gotten both emails and phone messages from the people running my own site asking if they help me set it up.  Freak out!!!!!!!!!   In the past I have been told by IT people that I am terrible around computers.  So my solution is to force my husband to sit with me while I talk to these helpful people.  I am afraid that I will miss half of what they tell me because I am so worried that I will miss half of what they tell me.  So having another person there will hopefullly calm me down.  Further reports on this topic.

Managing the Details of Everyday Life in a Timely Manner

It  is fall and I am just focusing on chores from the summer.   I have a fabulous gate and fence in my front yard that keeps the busy street away.  But it gets really dirty.   I have viewed this fence everyday for months and noted it needed to be cleaned.  I have tried  to get my husband to do it but he keeps saying it is my job.  This weekend from a deep spot in my soul I mustered the pychic energy to go out and do it!  Which brings me to my topic of the week.  How to get the daily chores of life done in a timely manner.

Let's talk about mail.  There are two aspects to mail, incoming mail and outgoing mail.  First,  I will tackle incoming mail.  Why do people or organization send me so much mail.  For example, Vanity Fair can not let me go as a subscriber.  I am of two minds about getting the magazine.  I think if I read it I will know about the latest celebrity and I will not be so ignorant of the current culture.   However, in the past when it has come, I did not read it.  It goes into the pile of books and magazine I should read.   Also, I have made the decision that I can't afford it.  But still everytime they send me another subscription request, I keep the request in my 'to do' file instead of throwing it away.  The subscription request sits in my 'to do' file as I write this blog.

In addition to unwanted mail, there is the legitimate mail that asks me to do something, like fill out a form. On my dining room table there are two medical documents that need to be completed.  The medical systems for my doctors are going electronic and they need information from me to put in the system.  I support what they are doing because it means all my doctors will have my full medical file and I can also look at it.  They need the information this week, so I have to screw up my courage and fill the papers out.  Finally, sending a box. I promised a friend over sixweeks ago I would send her a few things.  I boxed the things up about four weeks ago and even got the address out.  It is still sitting there.

So what is the trick to getting these necessary jobs done?  First, find a staging area where all these outgoing tasks can be set out. Second, proceed in steps, so doing the job does not seem so daunting.  Most importantly be gentle with yourself.  Once you do get something taken care of, you have taken a courageous step by not letting your depression keep you immobilized.  Remember "Courage is fear that said its prays".  Also, give yourself a treat.  Finally,  NEVER JUDGE YOURSELF OR COMPARE YOURSELF TO PEOPLE WHO ARE SO-CALLED"NORMAL".

When I started this blog I wanted to attached a painting a week that showed my "depression pulse".   Art is one of the ways I keep in touch with myself.  For awhile I was not doing any art and I was getting lost.  So I wanted this blog to get me to do an art piece a week to express where I was around my depression/anxiety.   However, I can not attach pieces of art to the blog directly.  So I have gotten a web page to put the art on.  Now that I have the web page, I have to attach the art.  Another thing to do.....  My web address is saratarvin.org.  I commit to having something up there by next week.

The New Door is Opening...

I am in the midst of a life changing event - retirement (or as one friend put it " the beginning of my community activism period").  As a person with a depressive/anxiety disorder I know that life changing events which in the normal scheme of things involve serious grief would have as its first station stop the depression/anxiety station.  I could not go through the grief cycle without an overlay of my disease.  Past experience (when my mother died) have taught me that I was going to go through grief at a more intense level. Feelings of hopelessness and longing to join the dead would be strong.

For me retirement is the end of my public life as a lawyer.  This brings up alot of anger because it had become hard for me to work because of health issues.  I am now dealing with my third new type of cancer.  (I seem to grow things)   The first cancer (melanoma) was in the early 1980's.  I was told to wind up my affairs and prepare to die.  For reasons no one understands I have lived.  However, the tension during the first ten years after I was given the dealth sentence triggered my now lifelong companion - depression/anxiety disease.  The new cancers are highly treatable but still I go into a serious anxiety period right before cancer checkups and thenafter them.  Couple this with guilt around surviving melanoma.  It makes for a messy cocktail.  When I was younger I used to say "you have it all" cancer, depression/anxiety, children, marriage and a success career. But at 60 I can no longer hold it together.  So the kid got married and the public law career had to go.

For the last 10 months I have been in serious grief for the life I had and the life that I wanted (more children (a girl to talk to0)). I was not able to have any children after the melanoma cancer.  Luckily I had a son already.   He does his best to give his parents attention but his wife's family comes first.  I can hardly complain because it was that way in my own marriage.  But it is still not great to come in second.

Also I longed for a more fun career.  While my career was very sucessful, it was in a quiet way.  I had wanted to be a trial lawyer but that became too hard when I was dealing with everything.  Also I could not leave my job because I would lose my health insurance.  Without that I was uninsurable.  I know objectively my story is not sad but depression/anxiety knows how to twist every event into a negative tale.

So now it is ten months in and I am slowly dealing with the SOS (some old shit) and looking at ways to have a new and interesting life.  I retired on December 31, 2010 and I am hoping and praying that I will have a life I have bought into in place to start the new year.    That is depression/anxiety management in action.

Interaction between Depression/Anxiety and other Harmful Behaviors

This weekend I have faced that it is not ok to eat too much or spend money in a reckless way as a treat because I am depressed/anxious.   I also  realized that some of the same techniques I use to treat my depression/anxiety condition such as mediation and other focusing tools can be used to quench my thirst for extra food and that dress I do not need.

Also, there is a new app that can be used on some cell phones and ipad that is a focusing system.   I have only tried it a couple of times but it seems to help me focus on the present moment.

Meditation as a tool to combat depression/anxiety

My mind/thought process is naturally set to "google" search.  Or to put it another way I can spend much of my free" thought" time ruminating about things that have not happened yet and usually never happened.

About eight years ago my doctor suggested the a way to combat future depessive/anxiety thoughts and to stay in the present was through "meditation".   So I took a meditation course.  Initially I thought I would never be able to quiet my mind even for a short time.   Mediating is difficult.   During the actual classroom mediation I could do a body scan meditation.  A body scan involves going through each part of your body and paying attention to your breath while you are doing it.  I tried doing it at home and I had a hard time clearing the ruminating thoughts from my head.  I took the meditation course again and came up with some ways to quiet my thought so that I could mediate.  Gradually, when I started to mediate, I would imagine my brain as a computer and then I would push the off button.  But most of the time I would have to go a step further and launch the computer into space...imaging that I was cutting the cord to my thought process.  Over time I added the mantra "MY THOUGHTS ARE NOT MY FRIENDS".

I wanted to mediate to quiet my brain and because there is data that suggests that meditation actually affects the depressive brain function in a positive way.  So I try to meditate (usually doing the body scan) right after I wake up in the morning.  It is a good time for me because my depressive/anxiety thoughts have not gone into full throttle yet.   I use a tape to keep focused.  It takes about a half hour.

So after doing this for eight years I now have more control over my thoughts.  When I start ruminating about the future, or holding conversations with other people in my imagination I usually can catch myself.  Regarding the thoughts, I repeat the mantra 'MY THOUGHTS ARE NOT MY FRIENDS".   When I start one sided conversations I say to myself the person I am having the conversation with is not present.   The one sided conversations usually happen when Iam driving.

Meditation is a tool to get through the day with a minimum of depressive/anxiety driven thoughts.  While meditationt takes both time and alot of effort it does work.

I am still working on how to attach pictures of art.  Maybe next week.

Meditation as a tool to combat depression/anxiety

My mind/thought process is naturally set to "google" search.  Or to put it another way I can spend much of my free" thought" time ruminating about things that have not happened yet and usually never happened.

About eight years ago my doctor suggested the a way to combat future depessive/anxiety thoughts and to stay in the present was through "meditation".   So I took a meditation course.  Initially I thought I would never be able to quiet my mind even for a short time.   Mediating is difficult.   During the actual classroom mediation I could do a body scan meditation.  A body scan involves going through each part of your body and paying attention to your breath while you are doing it.  I tried doing it at home and I had a hard time clearing the ruminating thoughts from my head.  I took the meditation course again and came up with some ways to quiet my thought so that I could mediate.  Gradually, when I started to mediate, I would imagine my brain as a computer and then I would push the off button.  But most of the time I would have to go a step further and launch the computer into space...imaging that I was cutting the cord to my thought process.  Over time I added the mantra "MY THOUGHTS ARE NOT MY FRIENDS".

I wanted to mediate to quiet my brain and because there is data that suggests that meditation actually affects the depressive brain function in a positive way.  So I try to meditate (usually doing the body scan) right after I wake up in the morning.  It is a good time for me because my depressive/anxiety thoughts have not gone into full throttle yet.   I use a tape to keep focused.  It takes about a half hour.

So after doing this for eight years I now have more control over my thoughts.  When I start ruminating about the future, or holding conversations with other people in my imagination I usually can catch myself.  Regarding the thoughts, I repeat the mantra 'MY THOUGHTS ARE NOT MY FRIENDS".   When I start one sided conversations I say to myself the person I am having the conversation with is not present.   The one sided conversations usually happen when Iam driving.

Meditation is a tool to get through the day with a minimum of depressive/anxiety driven thoughts.  While meditationt takes both time and alot of effort it does work.

I am still working on how to attach pictures of art.  Maybe next week.

Taking Your Depression Pulse

One of the things that I find the most helpful is to take a reading of my depression/anxiety by using a scale of one through ten.  One being I am cauitonic and ten means  that I am normal.  However, since I have not gone to one or ten in recent history I am not really sure what either feels like.   During a good period I am a six or seven and bad times I am a three or four.  Taking my pulse on a daily basis keeps me honest about why I am acting in a certain way.  For example, if  I am not doing so good I have developed certain coping skills that are less than helpful.   I may still act out but at least I can mitigate the damage because I know is what is happening.   The hardest place to be is in the 5 zone.   Not bad enough to call an all points alert but not good enough to feel like times are good.  The confusing part is sometimes I think I feel better than I am (I think I am a six or seven).  I have spent so much of my life acting like things are great to other people (one therapist took six months before he actually realized how depressed Iwas because I acted so upbeat),  I fool myself with my happy act.

One thing I do to take my pulse is to paint or draw a picture.  I just let my hand make the images it wants on the drawing paper and I try not to interpret it until I am almost done.  I usually have some music, TV or book on tape on to distract my thinking mind.   I can get really absorbed in what my hands are doing.  Then as all the surfaces are covered with colors I take a look at what I made. The pictures never lie.  Generally the honesty in the pictures makes it clear that I am not doing as well as I would like to be doing or even think I am doing.  This reality check is important because I need to use tools to combat my depression/anxiety and I will not use them if I think I am doing ok (for example, physical exercise).

This is why I am going to put up a picture each Sunday that I made during the week.   I am going to try to attach this week's offering.  Take care yourself and have a good week. Sara  P.S.  If there is no picture attached it because I am still trying to figure out how to attach photos.

You can have it all..???

My motto has been "management, management, and then if that does not work more management.   I am starting this blog to record on a weekly basis how I am managing  with lots of anxiety and depression.   Well today it is not too bad.   That, of course, is why I have started a blog.  On a bad day "forget about it"!!!!!!

For the last month it has been very bleak.  At one point  I thought I was having a heart attack and went to the emergency room.  It was kind of a  fun experience because I did not have a heart attack and I got lots of positive attention.  Instead I had a very bad anxiety attack.  They sort present themselves like heart attacks.

For the next few weeks I thought I was just getting very depressed but then it occurred to me yesterday that maybe the problem was anxiety with my current position in life.  I retired about 9 months ago after a 33 year career as a successful consumer interest lawyer.  I retired early because it seemed like I just could not handle working and being depressed and anxious.   Now it seems like I can not handle being retired and being depressed and anxious.  So when I had this moment of clarity yesterday, I decided that I needed to embrace my new life.  After all, it gave me more time to do all the things I need to to alleviate my symptoms....you know, it is a fulltime job.

So I am starting this blog to record for myself and whoever reads this all the things I am doing.  First,  I have started tapping my legs.  It  is calming and disconnects something in my brain that wants to connect an anxious feeling with an anxious thought.  I hear that soon they are going to have focusing apps for yourcell phone...123...124..etc.  Can't wait for it.

In addition to writing this blog I am going to post works of art I have done during the week as one of my anti depression strategy.  so this will also be an art gallery of depression/anxiety induced art.   See you all next week.   Sara

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