out of mind

Things not to say to someone with a mental illness

So, I understand that not everyone knows how to handle someone with a mental illness, rather than a physical one. It's not something a lot of people talk about, and there's not really a definitive "better" for mental illness - it's not like the flu. So, I'm willing to cut people some slack.

Yesterday I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor, who's the one prescribing me anti-depressants. My doctor is pretty awesome, as I've previously mentioned, and his medical assistant, bless her heart, is a doll. (You just know this is going to be interesting, right? "Bless her heart" AND calling her a doll? Oy.) However, I don't think she has much experience with patients who come in with a mental illness. As she's checking me in, getting my vitals etc., she verifies that the appointment is a follow up for depression. I nod, and she responds with "So, how's that going for you?"

Blink. Blink blink.

There's really no good way to answer that. "Oh, great, thanks!" "Pretty horribly, thanks for bringing it up!" I think I just got out an "Uh, OK," before I had to focus on not laughing in her face.

Later, as she was taking my blood pressure, she asked me how long I'd been dealing with depression, and I told her since high school. "And there's no, like, reason for it or anything?"

This one, I admit, kinda made me mad. Depression - actual, clinical depression - isn't something that comes on because of a death in the family or something. That can cause a depressive episode, sure, and it ends up as a valley in the ever-changing landscape of the mind, but it doesn't flat "cause" depression. It's like asking someone what caused their asthma. There may have been a trigger for an attack, but those are the attacks, not the underlying disease.

It was a little harder to laugh that one off, but it made me realize just how hard it is for people to see mental illness as an actual illness. It's one thing if you've got the flu - people know how to take care of their body (or at least, know that their body needs to be taken care of) to make the symptoms go away, and know that the disease will run its course and get out of their system. Depression? Anxiety? Not so much. It feels like all we're doing is treating the symptoms, sometimes, and hoping to suppress an attack.

To keep anyone from worrying, I am doing a bit better. Meds and therapy are helping, and yes, I'm keeping up with both. I think I need to remind myself, though, that some days I'm going to feel like I'm just treading water, and some days I'm going to feel like I'm going under completely, but in the end, I'm just learning how to swim. I'm probably not ever going to get out of the water, but at least I'll be able to swim through it.

(Apologies to anyone who wants to leave a comment anonymously - I had to turn that off, as I was getting more spam comments than anyone should have to deal with. Damned spammers, ruining it for everyone again.)

Changes in perspective, and more health issues

I realized that I never posted about my appointment with my actual gynecologist. Long story short, without surgery, testing, and medication, it's unlikely that I will get pregnant. The surgery and medication would only possibly increase my odds - there's no way to know for certain if it would actually help anything.

Effectively, we can't have kids. It's been hard for me to wrap my head around, especially since there are things that could be done that would possibly increase our odds, and Eric and I are choosing not to go down that path. The fact that I'm not willing to allow myself to be poked and prodded in the intimate manner that would be necessary to take care of the issues tells me that it's probably for the best, and that I probably wouldn't be a very good mother. After all, if I'm not willing to go through this now, doesn't that mean I'd be unlikely to sacrifice myself for a child? At least, that's what it feels like.

In other news, there's an actual term for some of my issues - I apparently have a panic disorder with agoraphobia. I had to do some more research into the agoraphobia bit, because I always thought of that as being something related to wide open spaces, but it also covers things like large crowds and the overall feeling of not being able to get away or get someplace safe. That makes sense. That, plus depression, has made dealing with the news above more difficult that it probably should be. It's like a form of grieving, but I almost feel like I can't go through the entire grief process, because I haven't actually *lost* anyone - just the potential of someone.

I've been trying to make a point to continue doing something creative, but it's been a little difficult to get going. I still want to hold to my original timeline, but I think I'm going to have to push things back a bit.

Overall, it's hard not to feel like a disappointment, especially to myself. I know that it hurts Eric, too, but he's been doing such a great job of trying to hold things together for me that it'd be hard to tell. I don't want us to end up like my family did when Dad died - with everyone spent so much time trying to take care of each other than we didn't let ourselves be taken care of - and I want to make sure Eric is OK, too. It's a rough blow for both of us.

I thought I was more resigned than I am, but it's hard to get the thought of Theoretical Future Child out of my mind. The fact that there are things I could do, and am choosing not to, doesn't help.

Blah, blah, whine, whine, whine. Sorry, guys. Hopefully, the two of you that are still reading this don't get too bored with me.

Health updates (again)

So, I went to the doctor (my regular doctor who is made of awesome) yesterday for a follow-up on my meds, etc. I mentioned to him that I'd gotten the results back from the ultrasound but had no idea how to read them. Through the power of technology (and the fact that all my doctors are in the same system), he was able to pull them up and take a look at them.

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So, basically, my doctor thinks pregnancy would be a "steep uphill battle" without help, be that fertility drugs, surgery, or some combination of both. I still have an appointment next week with the gynecologist, and I'm going to get her take on all of this, but...it's not looking good.

At this point, my focus is on doing what I need to in order for me to be healthy. I'm not going to get treatments specifically for the purpose of allowing me to become pregnant - Eric and I had decided that in the beginning, and I still feel it's the right course of action. However, now it's not just about not getting pregnant - it's about my overall health. I need to see what needs to be done, and take things from there. However, it's looking more and more likely that Eric and I aren't going to be parents.

I am...surprisingly at peace. I would have expected to be more upset, but frankly, if this is what it's going to be, I still have a damn fine life. It means that I'll have an even greater obligation to spoil the hell out of my nephews and niece (as well as the kids of my friends, so beware! :) ), and I think I can live with that. It says a lot about how far I've come that something like this, during a week I'd be at my lowest, isn't sending me into a pit of depression. I'm sad, certainly, but...I guess "resigned" is the best way to put it. It's bittersweet, and Eric and I had a long talk about it last night, but I think at this point, we're willing to call the game.

Surviving another year

Welp, the world didn't end. Anyone surprised? Yeah, me, either.

This time last year, I was working in the same group as I am now, getting frustrated that I hadn't been promoted, but still enjoying my work and learning all the whys and wherefores of my particular corner of the business. We were living in an apartment that had seen better days (most of them before we had moved in), and Eric and I were starting to get a little bit sick of both it and the commute. Overall, though, things were pretty good. I...was not. I was having some issues, and scared to death about getting help, but even more scared about what might happen if I didn't.

Since then, I got promoted, we bought a house (!!!), and I got help. I'm not "better", but I'm better. I have a long ways to go, but I'm not quite so scared anymore. I can look toward next year with an idea of what I want to do, and it seems...feasible. There are still going to be obstacles - chronic pain is, well, chronic, and it's going to be an obstacle for a long time, but I'm learning to work my way around and through it as much as possible. It's really hard not to let depression and pain define who I am, but I'm on the road, I think. I know that I'll probably slip back a time or three, but at least I know I can get here. It's possible. And that's something I haven't had in a long time.

So, onwards to 2013. May the road have just enough bumps to make us appreciate the smooth stretches, and may the world not explode. :)

On year's end and plans for the future

So. Things are slowly but surely winding down for the year. Holiday parties are done, we've done Christmas with my mom (many sweaters were acquired, which is fantastic, as most of mine are buried in the Things to Unpack), and gifts for Christmas with Eric's family have been acquired. We saw the Hobbit (which, it's been long enough since I read the book, so I could go into it going "That's so pretty!" as opposed to "That's not how it was in the book!", which I greatly appreciated), and had a lovely visit from Erin. Overall, things are running in a pretty smooth groove.

It's extremely rare that I would wax philosophical about something on Cracked, but one of their articles hit upon something that I haven't really been able to articulate lately. I haven't been creating anything. No writing, no sewing, no...nothing, really. Even if it's crap (and with my writing, "crap" is a distinct possibility), I need to create something. So, that's the plan. I have things that have been written, and need polish or completion, and so that's what I plan to do. I'm always so hesitant to say "I'm going to do X, Y, and Z", because it smacks of I'm gonna-ism. Somehow, saying I'm going to do something is one of the surest ways to make sure it doesn't happen. So, uh, I plan to spend the next two months polishing one of those works up (either cleaning up the NaNo from 2009, or finishing the NaNo from 2011 and cleaning it up), and then...then's the big step. I'll need to let someone else read it.

It's so much easier for me to just keep all my writing to myself, so I'll never know exactly how bad it actually is. If I don't let anyone else read it, then I won't have my worst fears confirmed, and I can pretend that it isn't really as bad as I think it is. So, the plan:

Now-February - clean up/finish up SOMETHING
March 1-15 - complete freak out/convincing myself to let someone else read my work
March 15 - send it out to a few readers (incidentally, if you want in on this, let me know)
March 15-31 - complete freak out about what people are going to say about what I wrote
April 1-whenever I get all the feedback back (preferably by end of June) - read the feedback, see what can be fixed
July - edit edit edit
August - round 2 of reviews
Keep up the cycle of July and August until either a) I feel comfortable calling it "done enough" or b) (more likely) someone takes it away from me because I'm editing it to death
Publish on KDP.

Am I going to hit all of these milestones? Maybe. The important thing is that I'm trying. I'm working toward creating something. If it's crap? At least I know not to do that next time.

So, that's 2013, as of right now. How about you guys?

Health updates and spoon deficiencies

(Before I start, in case you've not heard of this before, you can read about the Spoon Theory here.)

It's been a hell of a last couple of weeks. Work has been kicking my butt, and I don't think I'd quite realized just how much it had been affecting me physically until today. It should have been a bit more obvious - I've had some very long and very busy days and nights the last few weeks. The Headaches of Doom suck, obviously, but it's the pain I know. Lately, the pain is just finding new and more interesting ways to make life difficult. My right hand (naturally), my hips, my back, my shoulders...everything just HURTS. I was supposed to have an appointment with my doctor yesterday (a check-in on the medication, which is still doing reasonably well, though I've had trouble remembering to take it and have taken to carrying it with me just in case), but due to a last-minute meeting that I had to go to, I had to reschedule the doctor's appointment. The next time I can get in to see him will be January. If my hand hasn't improved by then, I'll probably have to go to the walk-in clinic or something. I don't think that I'll be able to get much help for it, honestly, but it would be good to make sure I didn't manage to fracture something somehow.

I had an ultrasound regarding the whole PCOS thing, and while I got the results back, I have no earthly idea what they mean. I have an appointment with the OB/GYN next month to check in on things, and figure out what the devil's going on and what our next steps need to be. The doctor's office confirmed that I would have received a phone call if there had been something "seriously wrong", so now I just have to worry about all the things that could just be "moderately wrong" that wouldn't merit a phone call. Because, y'know, I'm me.

I think the worst thing about the pain and how badly it's draining me is that I don't feel like I can say anything, because I don't want to sound like I'm complaining. People who don't have chronic pain or chronic illness don't really understand that "just a headache" can be a perfectly viable reason for being completely unresponsive for a day, and because of how my work situation is, everyone's stressed and underwater. It's something that my first mentor here told me that's been hard to forget - Everybody's busy, and no one needs to hear about how busy you are, when they're probably just as busy, if not more so. It does tend to turn into a game of "who's got it worse?", and I've always hated that game. On the personal front, I just feel like I'm letting everyone down if I can't live up to my obligations. I know I end up disappointing people, even though they understand (because my friends are made of awesome), and I've never done very well with that idea. At the same time, the combination of work stress and physical stress and emotional stress is not great. It makes me feel like I'm running on fumes, and won't have a chance to recover for a bit. At least I have a visit from Erin to look forward to, and I get Christmas and New Year's Day off. With luck, I'll be able to stay unplugged both of those days, and no one will need anything from me work-wise.

Now that I've gotten my whining out of the way...how are you guys doing? Ready for the holidays, or trying desperately to pretend they don't exist? Come, have some tea, let's chat. :)
Calvin & Hobbes hug

Reason #8,763 why I love my husband

Posting this here so I don't lose it.

It's been a super-stressball of a week. We got back from GenCon on Monday night, and I took Tuesday off to recuperate/actually get a bit of rest for once. So, naturally, Wednesday, Thursday and today have all be slammed, mostly with back to back (to back to back) meetings. My mother is coming into town, which is its own brand of stress (in that "Yay, Mom gets to see the new house and I get to see Mom! CLEAN ALL THE THINGS!" kind of way). And yesterday we noticed that the car was sounding like a small jet engine when we were driving.

Through one thing and five others, our plans for this evening got all shades of wonky, which lead to more stress on top of everything else. I did my best not to snap at anyone, especially Eric, because it's one of those things where it's not anyone's fault - it's just a bunch of stuff piled up on each other and my crap tolerance is not very high right now. I started to get panicky, which is always awesome, and ended up having to take an anxiety med to keep myself functional through the rest of the day.

Eric, being Eric, was able to tell how on edge I was, and sent me this email:

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What I love is that it's not enough for him to protect me - he also wants to make sure I can protect myself at the same time. One of the many reasons why our relationship works is because we can trust each other to be able to handle ourselves, with or without help (though help is nearly always appreciated).

In conclusion, my husband > your husband.

Blue Angels

Just got back from an office "event", going to a business manager's house on Mercer Island to watch the Blue Angels practice. It was...interesting. It's been a long time since I saw an air show, and I'd forgotten a few things. Such as, I'm not a huge fan of air shows. They're too loud, it's nerve-racking, especially when they get super close, and...they were one of my father's favorite things.

I grew up on military bases, because my father was career Air Force. Military bases looooove air shows. LOVE. So, every summer, at least once (often twice), out would come the planes, and everyone would ooh and aah and stand out in the sun staring up. I wasn't a huge fan even then, but my dad loved it so much, watching the planes fly in formation and talking about this kind or that, that I was happy to go, just to see him act like an excited little kid.

It's been 14 years since he passed, and every now and then, something like this will come up and I'll think, "Man, I wish Dad could see this." And then it hits me again like it just happened yesterday. I start imagining what life would be like if he were here - how would he get along with Eric? Would he like Seattle? We never lived on the West Coast as a family - we were in Maryland when he passed. Would I even be here if he hadn't died then?

It's a pointless exercise, and yet I find myself doing it over and over. It's not exactly the best mindset to be in when going back to work. At the same time, it makes me feel a little, tiny bit like he's still here. I'm terrified that someday, even that little bit will be gone.

So, now that I've depressed the hell out of everyone, what are you doing this weekend? :)

Becoming an adult, and ending childhood

scarlettina posted an interesting question on her journal the other day, which got me thinking. On KUOW, there was a call-in show asking the question, "When did you realize you were an adult?" Some of the answers sounded pretty interesting, and it made me think.

To be fair, I'm pretty sure I'm not really an adult, but I think I can pinpoint the time when I was no longer a child. When my father passed away, my mother and I were visiting her family in another state. My older brother (who had come home to find my father dead of a heart attack) had called my aunt's house to tell us what had happened, and my mother sort of broke. The part I distinctly remember was sitting downstairs with her, while her sisters and nieces and nephews milled about upstairs, and having to convince her that it was true - she's always been a very practical person, but there was something about this news that she just couldn't handle, and she kept insisting that it wasn't true, that "God wouldn't do that to us." I had to convince her that no, Rich wouldn't have called and told us Dad was gone unless he was - Rich was already an EMT at that point, and the fire department had already come and confirmed what he'd found. The only thing I wanted to do was cry until I couldn't cry anymore and have Mom hold me and tell me everything was going to be all right, but instead I was holding her and telling her we were going to be all right, even though I didn't believe it.

On the more frivolous side, the first time I actually felt like a grown-up was when I was able to make Mom's flour tortillas myself, and have them turn out edible. The fact that I could do something I'd watched my mother do so often, and not screw it up? Hell, that wasn't just being a grown-up, that was being AWESOME.

So, what about you guys? When did you feel like you'd become an adult/stopped being a kid?