Dec 18, 2014

It is so weird when your brain breaks

This afternoon from 4 to 6 was 'Friends and Family' day at Joe's workplace. I went over and said hi to a bunch of people, some I'd met before and others I met for the first time. They had cheese and crackers and crudite, beer and wine for the drinkers and a lot of games and entertainment for the kids. It was nice. I still feel so weird. Will I ever be myself again? It is so weird when your brain breaks.

Nov 26, 2014

Joe's Pumpkin Pie


"Super easy!" 

1 can pumpkin
1 can evaporated milk
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 pie crust (I use graham cracker crust, 'cause I roll that way)

Pre-heat the oven to 425ª. Blend ingredients (except the crust; I've made that mistake before) in a bowl. Add the mixture to the pie crust, and place the pie in the oven. 15 minutes at 425ª, then drop temp to 350ª for another 45 minutes or until knife comes out clean.

It sure smells and looks good!

Oct 24, 2014

The dude abides.
Joe as Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski.
Happy Halloween, everyone.

Oct 3, 2014

Birthday Bowling

The dude abiding.
We went to a bowling birthday party tonite.
Happy birthday, Chris.
Joe and George


Sep 23, 2014

On the Mend

I finally feel more like myself again. I've managed to stop ruminating over the hospital and focus on doing things around the house. I've been using the "act as if" method, faking going through the motions no matter what my mind is telling me it would rather be doing (ruminating, mostly). To my amazement it has been working. I got the kitchen cleaned up and the bathroom and after being stalled for three weeks I finished updating my resume. I even applied for another job. I had my first physical therapy session and it wasn't bad, though I was sore later. Basically he just moved my shoulder around in different directions and then gave me an exercise to do at home. Today I have my second session. I leave in half an hour to walk there. All in all, I'm okay. On the mend, as they say.

Sep 10, 2014

Introspection and an Aching Shoulder

I'm in a mode where I'm very much in my own head. I can't help it, I keep thinking about the hospital. It's as if I'm reliving the days and nights spent locked down in the pysch ward, and I can't seem to un-hitch my brain from thinking of those nurses, mental health workers and other patients. I see the hallway, the rooms, the nurses' station. I smell it.

Sep 2, 2014

Act As If...

Last week my therapist suggested I try something new to get me motivated to get up and do things. She suggested role playing. Change my clothes, change what I do, change where I sit and "play the role" of the person I want to be. She said try it for a few hours a day.

I've been thinking about it all week and I think the problem is that I don't know who I want to be. I don't feel like I'm the same person I was before, and I don't know where I want to go from here.

I didn't get the job in the consignment shop; I stopped in the other week to check and see if they were still interviewing and the owner told me they're all set for the moment. It's okay because I don't even know if I wanted to do that.

I do know that I need to do something.

But what?


Aug 14, 2014

RIP Robin

Today I told my therapist that I couldn't stop thinking about Robin Williams. As one blogger put it, when "one of us" succumbs to the depression, it affects all of us. I'm paraphrasing. The point is that this news, that someone with money and success, would be living so far down inside the hole that he opted out, brought me back to months ago when I was on suicide watch. I thought about the darkest days and how it didn't seem like they would ever end, crying all the time and unable to function.

I'm better now. My therapist pointed out that I'm "high functioning" and that I can live a normal life if I just keep taking the meds. But I keep waiting for the meds to stop working, waiting for another psychotic episode -- I can't relax. This Robin Williams news hit me really hard. I feel like if someone with money and success couldn't beat depression that there is no chance for the rest of us.

Aug 11, 2014

I Applied For a Job

I applied for a part time job at a local consignment shop. I don't even know if they'll contact me (my resume doesn't exactly match the job) but I hope they do; I would love to work in a cool, small place. My mom says I was never cut out for the corporate world and it was killing me, Joe says I gave up everything and put my job first always. I guess I did. Fat lot of good that did me. Wish me luck for a callback from the local consignment shop people.

I've been preoccupied with what happens if they do call me. When do I tell them that I'm being treated for depression and anxiety? How do I get through the interview? What should I say? This is what I've been preoccupied with all weekend. I guess I shouldn't worry about it until there's something to worry about.

They probably won't even call.

Jul 23, 2014

The Support of Friends

I've been making an extra effort to get together with people, and it makes me feel better. I get so much out of just sitting in a cafe and chatting about something other than my condition. Depression sucks, and it sucks the joy out of life, but the support of my friends is a panacea like no other. Some I wish lived closer so I could see them, but we have phone conversations and Facebook chats. I never thought I would say this, but thank God for Facebook. It's kept me in touch with a whole crew of supporters without whom I might not even be alive right now, I really mean that.

Jul 22, 2014

Sorry Haven't Written Again

I know I've been quiet. I guess I have good days and bad days. On the bad days, I feel seized by a kind of paralysis that gets me so fully in its grip that I can't seem to function, I mean I can't get myself motivated to get on the exercise bike, to even do the dishes. Those days are a trial because without the motivation, I slip deeper into depression and it's a downward spiral. It's so hard.

Jul 16, 2014

Sorry Haven't Written

I haven't had much to say over the past week. I'm maintaining -- no terrifying bouts of anxiety, no dangerous dips into deep depression -- the routine of my day is keeping me on the same level. I see friends sometimes, I use Facebook to keep in touch with new friends and old ones alike. I go for my walks and I do the exercise bike for a half hour. I'm maintaining. I don't feel "right" yet, but I can see how I can get there.

Jul 11, 2014

Feeling So Low

I don't think this Zoloft is working, doc. I feel so low. It started to set in earlier in the week and now comes Friday and I feel like I'm made out of lead. I had high hopes for the Zoloft. Maybe I was putting too much stock in the label "anti-depressant." I've been doing the exercise bike, I've been going on my walks, I've been trying to write for my freelance assignment -- it's going okay, not great, but okay -- but I'm doing it all from such a low place. This stuff helps people? Are we sure how this all works? I can't believe people around me have been living with this kind of anxiety and depression and I didn't know, not even a little bit, what it's really like. I am so sorry.

Jul 7, 2014

Having a Hard Time

I'm having a hard day. I'm pacing and upset. I went for a long walk but it didn't seem to help.

Joe has noticed a pattern that I can't argue with -- that whenever I break from the routine I have set up, which includes riding the recumbent exercise bike for thirty minutes and writing in my diary, then the next day or day after is a hard day.  Well I did break from my routine, thinking, oh it's a holiday weekend, let me enjoy it like a normal person and hang around and just "be." Not so much hard work.

Jul 6, 2014

Panic

It's an Ativan day. The panic set in early as a kind of paralysis over cleaning the apartment. The place is a mess and my mother is coming to visit me on Sunday. How can I help myself become the person who can keep a place clean and presentable? How did I used to do it? What demons in me right now are making it impossible to get certain things done, what's the blockage I'm experiencing? If I figure it out, I'll let you know. But it was an Ativan day.

Jul 5, 2014

Emotion Regulation: Fear

I'm learning so much about this thing called DBT. It's weird because the woman I was locked up with -- self-admitted with a heroine problem -- told me about DBT.  She was a psych student, and the more we talked she said she could tell that I would respond well to DBT. She happened to have come to the ward with her school books, and I learned that DBT is a modular work exercise-driven approach to un-crimping all of the wonky circuits in your brain. She was right, and now that I'm into it, I can see how DBT and CBT would certainly help the right kinds of people.

Jul 2, 2014

Being Here Now

Mindfulness is, in my opinion, the most important element of the four core parts of DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy). If you think about it, depression is looking backwards and ruminating about all of the past angers, failures, mistakes and regrets. Anxiety is looking ahead towards the what-if's and all of the things that can go wrong. There are days when the combination produces a crippling effect.

Jul 1, 2014

Good News

The worst thing about depression and anxiety is how isolating it is, even if you are doing the work required to reach out and be with people. I am so lucky that I have an army of friends both online and in person who are always sending me support emails and "me too's" about depression and anxiety, a veritable "you are not alone" group that has been keeping my spirits from dropping too far into the chasm. I can't say enough how great it is to have such a wide and caring support group.

Jun 29, 2014

The Latest On Pharma

They've got me on Zoloft now. I haven't really been on a true anti-depressant. Well I did try Prozac back in the beginning but it didn't seem to be doing anything for me. I have hope for the Zoloft. I'm still taking the Haldol and Depakote, too. The thing is, the team of doctors doesn't seem to agree on what I am actually going through, here. What exactly is wrong with my brain. One doc, the one on staff inside the psych ward, had the thought that at age 43 I've become bi-polar. It's not impossible, there is such a thing called late-onset bi-polar. Bi-polar is usually something diagnosed when you're in your twenties. As for the manic-depressive suggestion, I am not going through any mania. Just depression. The other thought is that it's psychosis with depression and anxiety. The other thought is that it's anxiety and depression. But then there was that one psychotic episode back in February...can that happen again? Was that a one-time thing? Nobody knows.

Jun 26, 2014

Some Conversations

Some conversations come too early, some conversations come too late, and others never happen at all. I came dangerously close to remaining ignorant of what one conversation with my mom would reap, until I called her last night. I cried the whole time, but I believe this is what you call a breakthrough.

Jun 24, 2014

Just don't get in bed.

Just don't get in bed.
Just don't get in bed.
Just don't get in bed.
Just don't get in bed.

Jun 23, 2014

Baseball Therapy

I miss my mom. Every time I try to write about her and the problems we have, I get blocked up and can't do it. I don't know what to say about it except to say that I don't know how to repair our relationship and it's just making me so sad. My attention span is shot. I can't follow any television anymore, except the news, and movies are right out. I think it's all wrapped up in my inability to pick up the phone and talk to my mother. I don't know what to say.

Jun 21, 2014

They Can't All Be Winners

The number of times I say "why isn't this easier" should by now have learned me. It just isn't easy, okay? And I have got to quit whining about it. Other people are undergoing their own trials and tribulations and we have all got our crosses to bear. Today's wake-up this morning wasn't good, and by that I mean the anxiety set in immediately; my feel-good mantra's weren't working. So despite the beautiful weather and the calmness of the day all I did was lay in a porch chair dosed on Klonopin and feel sorry for myself. Today was not my proudest. I did all my "stuff," my routine. Exercise bike, walk. Though I couldn't face the sinkful of dishes. Just could not deal. Joey cleaned the kitchen because he's a rock star. I'm babbling because I'm out of sorts and I need a day to reassemble myself. Sorry guys, they can't all be winners.

Jun 20, 2014

No Joke

Today all I can think about is a friend who is going through a similar hard time, taking care of a relative with Alzheimer's. She wrote something today that resonates with me, about all the times in the past, before it happens to you, when you can breezily joke about a thing. The times when she's forgotten something and said, "oh, Alzheimer's." Now it's no joke and this is probably the hardest thing she and her husband have ever, and hopefully will ever, have to undertake.

I've had friends with depression. I didn't understand the crushing low, the inability to face a sinkful of dishes, the need to take a Klonopin before taking a phone call. To those friends, I'm sorry I ever had any doubts about the serious nature of depression and anxiety. I didn't understand, and I apologize for any "just snap out of it" kinds of thoughts I ever had about what you were going through. I truly am very very sorry. If this blog is going to stand for anything, it's going to show the real pain of depression and anxiety. It's no joke.


Jun 19, 2014

This Morning

For some reason I wake up extremely anxious on the days when I see my therapist. I don't know why Maybe it's because this is a trip to the same facility, it's the one where I stay when I need to be hospitalized. Maybe it's because today it means I have to deal with shit. I don't do well when I get in there, I tend to clam up and say "fine" a lot, when she asks me gentle probing questions that I have no answers for, then I feel stupid for wasting everyone's time. Therapy sounds like it should be easy, but actually participating in therapy is one of the hardest things I have ever done. What do I say? Do I talk about my mother? My unresolved anger towards her? My love for her and deep respect for having raised babies when she was so young? My college years and having been kicked out for not having enough money to stay? Losing my job and the parallels I've found between my boss, my college and my mother? Where do I begin, how do you even do it? In an hour and a half I'll be sitting in the chair again with my anxiety ratcheting up and not knowing what to say. How do you fix a person in fifty minute time slots?

Jun 18, 2014

Today and Later Today

This morning I woke up and put the "half smile" on my face per the group therapy instructions, I said "Birds. Breeze. Be Here Now." In my bed in the morning, "birds, breeze, be here now" have been a kind of mantra to calm myself down when I wake up with anxiety. I hear the birds, feel the breeze and I don't have to worry about anything, is what I mean. It calms me down when I'm anxious.

Jun 16, 2014

Behind Three Doors (part 2)

(continued from part 1)

Seven Days

With the winter Olympics on the small overhead TV every night, my first stay on the psych ward was imbued with an eerie sense of monumental circumstance. The Olympics, this universal worldwide event that interrupts all normal broadcasting and takes over everything, was happening at the same time as this catastrophic storm in my head. My normal broadcasting was interrupted too. I was in this strange place with strange people and at night they checked on me with a flashlight every fifteen minutes. I found out later that's suicide watch. That's what they mean by "suicide watch," a term whose literal meaning has skated right past me all these years. I get it now.

The nurses push around dollies with computers on them, these rolling workstations they use to find you and dole out meds, which they do by scanning the bar code on my bracelet first and then scanning each pill. They had me on Risperidol at first, an anti-psychotic. I must have looked aghast when they said that, because they called it "just a baby dose." As if to say, "Oh, you're psychotic, but only a little bit, we think." They were more used to people with ongoing mental health issues. They didn't seem to know what to do with my bewilderment. I didn't drink, I didn't take any drugs, I hadn't had any previous problems with depression or anxiety, and now they're giving me this anti-psychotic? 

The people in charge of the psych ward work out of the cluttered nurses' station in the middle of the floor, but these people aren't all nurses. There are also the Mental Health Workers, who wear scrubs but don't dole out meds but they are in charge of everything else, such as bed checks and group sessions. Nurses and Mental Health Workers have different jobs, and I would spend the first few days utterly confused about who to ask for what information, and I was bewildered at how I'd arrived in this strange place, and I was paranoid so I thought that they were all deliberately trying to confuse me. When my dinner tray contained food that I couldn't eat because of my diabetes I thought they were testing me to see if I would eat it anyway. I was suspicious and distrustful and confused.

The nurses' station was located in the middle of a common area they called a "milieu." At the end of that hall, another common room. Compared to the milieu, that end-of-the-hall common room was too bright and too echoey. There was a small TV in each common area, encased in Plexiglas and you had to ask at the nurses' station for the remote.

Patient rooms flanked the milieu area closest to the nurse's station. Adjacent to the nurses' station, a set of double doors led down a long hallway, where there were more rooms. While it wasn't explicit, the implication was that those rooms were occupied by the more violent people. Some had a Mental Health Worker seated in the doorway, reading or doing a crossword puzzle. No phones were allowed. Whenever the occupant wanted to leave his or her room, the Mental Health Worker went with, everywhere. I was told those workers were on "one on one" duty because it was possible that their lone ward would freak out.

Though there were enough chairs for all of the people, the chairs were never where they needed to be. If a meal was being served in the milieu with everyone seated in front of a gray tray, chairs needed to be brought all the whole long way down the hall from the common room. Then if  there was a group session being held in the far common room, chairs needed to be brought all the whole long way down the hall from the milieu. The chairs were heavy wooden things, blocky and worn. They looked as though they'd been hewn by mountain men. These chairs, too heavy to carry, everyone just pushed them, the stronger people pushing two or more like a little chair train. Back and forth all day. Each chair makes a scraping sound the whole way. I still hear it in my head.

There is no other group dynamic quite like a psych ward. There you are, with your own set of events that got you there, that you can't even begin to explain, and there are twenty-something other people that you have no idea how to interact with; I found it helped just to keep an open mind whenever someone spoke to me. I tried not to "guess" what anyone's problem was, especially since at that time I didn't even know yet what mine was, or how long I would be broken. Or when, or if, I would ever be fixed.

It's been eight months. ∎

Thank you for your positive feedback. I'll write more about 
how the days go in future entries. Tags are "Anxiety" and "Depression." - md

Jun 12, 2014

Behind Three Doors

I went into the psych ward three times, under three different circumstances. The first time I have little recollection of, but the bits I do remember are supercharged. Being handcuffed to a gurney in an ambulance, running naked down my front stairs. A collage of images all mixed together in some slick roundabout in my memory was actually a prolonged psychotic episode that took place over a week, but in my mind it was one night. I don't know how I got from the ambulance to the psych ward that time, I don't know how many doors.

Maybe that's why I counted the doors the second time I went to the psych ward, just to gain some sense of place. That time going in was voluntarily. I wanted to go after waking up one rainy Saturday in a a fit of crying and shaking panic, I wanted to go back because I recognized some of the same anxiety and strange, twisted thoughts from the first time, and so my husband called a cab and I went to the ER. Even though I wanted to go, still the ER is a blur. First the long triage process, Joe doing most of the talking. "My wife...her boss...she's been..." He said anxiety, depression, psychotic episode last February. Questions. Answers. What did they give her, what does she take. Thoughts of suicide? Young doctor, old doctor. How do we feel. Check for signs of heart and other conditions. Psychiatrist on call. More questions. Let's take her upstairs. Have a bed, a shower, stay with us for a few days and see. I cried and shook the whole time. Broken.

They brought a wheelchair. The last door is through the outer room of the Occupational Therapy room where there are several offices flanking a scattering of scratched and scribbled tables and a kitchenette. Through a short hallway, then you're back behind the safety of one, two, three secure sets of double doors before you reach the lockdown ward. You need a staff member with a special code to let you out. And no people who had hurt you can get in. No one.

The psych ward is smaller than you might think. It's no more than ten or twelve rooms, two people to a room. There is a central area with tables and chairs that they refer to as "the milieu.," Such an elegant term for such a sad gathering of troubled misfits. Everything is muted and also too loud. The lighting is both dim and bright at the same time, somehow. The windows overlook roof and air supply intake equipment. You don't know where you are, it could be anywhere. There is no sense of place.

The winter Olympics were on TV every day. I stayed for seven days.

Next: Behind Three Doors (Part 2)

Jun 11, 2014

Me and the Loony Bin


Self-Portrait
The first time I went into the mental hospital was in early 2014. I'd been fired from my job at the end of November, which sent me spiraling into depression with bouts of anxiety. By the new year, I'd been unable to sleep at all, and that's when I began to experience the beginnings of what later would be called a psychotic break.

The night of February 14th, when Joey called the ambulance, I had begun hallucinating. I was running around naked and then I tried to run outside. It had snowed, maybe it was still snowing, my recollection is a blur. But when I ran downstairs to unlock the door and get out, in my mind I had to...HAD to...get outside. There was some compelling reason and I was determined. Joey had to wrestle me to the floor. I remember thinking "he is using all his strength. He's so strong, I'll never make it." But in general I don't remember a lot of it.

Nothing like this has ever happened to me and I am still not sure how to process it all. In that shattered state, I had been convinced that everyone was involved in a massive plot against me. I thought it was the only explanation for everything. When I think back to what was ping-ponging around in my head, it was terrifying and I never, ever want to go back to that nightmare place. I remember racing thoughts of paranoia and persecution. I thought some of my friends were gods. I thought others were demons. We were all doomed. I ended up in handcuffs on a gurney. Joey rode in the front of the ambulance. Poor Joe. He'd been by my side for the whole fall from inside the frying pan into the fire. My rock.

So I spent seven days in the psych ward that first time, where they had me on suicide watch. They let me go home with the caveat that I attend a women's group therapy program. So I went every day, 10am to 3pm. I learned so much there at that women's group therapy program. I learned a great deal about how violently continued stress and anxiety can impact a person. I hadn't realized how my job had started pressing so hard on me that I'd actually been battling a downward spiral into depression and anxiety. I hadn't understood the severity of what was happening to me. The women there were incredible. Everyone had a totally different story that brought her there, but yet we had all the same story, somehow. The world had rolled us. We shared hot tears over iced coffee.

I would end up in the psych ward two more times. This most recent visit was in early May. The psych ward is not a place I ever want to go back to again. Whenever I feel exhausted from the sheer effort that this is all taking, this newfound black depression weighing on me like the proverbial ton of bricks, whenever I think about giving up, it's the thought that, short term, "giving up" probably means I go back to the ward. I can't do that. Sheer terror of going back helps keep me on track with my routine. And learning about how a person's mind can also become broken, in addition to her heart. And how PTSD isn't only exhibited by soldiers, but by other people who've been through a terribly fraught situation. And how lucky I was to have such a strong, supportive network of friends constantly encouraging me.

I'm considering writing more about my experience if people are interested. ∎

Related: Behind Three Doors (Part 1)

Jun 8, 2014

Where Is Lexi Kahn?

No matter how much I try to stop ruminating, there come the thoughts again. Why didn't I do this, why did I pick that, why have I made these choices. I'm 44 years old and I feel like I'm starting over again. I haven't got a job and I haven't got the mindset to get nor keep one, I have no income and the bills are piling up. I feel like a total failure. These are the thoughts that won't stop today, despite the sunny day and the music playing and my loving husband doing everything possible to hold me together. I feel so hopeless. I sat out on the porch to gather my positive affirmations and deep breathe "in the moment" and stop the ruminations, but all that happened was I fell asleep. It was a nice nap in the Sunday afternoon, but sleep only goes so far to help. Where is my strength, where is my resolve, where are my power tools to break down this wall? Where is Lexi Kahn?

Jun 6, 2014

Pass/Fail


I flunked Thursday. It was raining, I was PMSy, then the power went out at around three. Nstar said it was the whole neighborhood (a damaged wire, no doubt waterlogged) and wouldn't be back on until 5:30. All I'd been doing was watching The Ghost Whisperer, and only halfway paying attention anyway. So I gave up. Forget it, I said. There's no point. I got into bed and didn't get up again until 8:15. My bedtime -- or at least the time when I take my night meds - is 9. I was back asleep again by 9:30. So basically I slept away the latter half of the day. I just couldn't cope. Even with all the CBT and DBT and books, not all the days are good. This one wasn't. Maybe it gets easier to have more good days in a row. I hope it gets easier because living this way is a drag.

Jun 5, 2014

Outside and Inside Rain

It's raining outside, and it's raining in my head, and I'm afraid that no amount of deep breathing is going to help me today. I'm using all of the positive affirmation emails and blog comments from so many people, absorbing the words and taking them deep into my soul all to keep me bolstered with hope that anyone can get through depression.

As long as one keeps busy.

Despite the urge to go back to bed forever.

Jun 4, 2014

Point Me Towards Tomorrow

Over-the-fence spontaneous chat with kindly neighbor who empathizes makes for a good distraction on a day when I'm feeling the jitters. This is a guy who drove me to the psych ward the second time I went, when I was in a state of tearful despair and couldn't even cope. I thanked him again. "What are friends for?" he said. If you can give a ride to the loony bin on five minutes' notice, you are a friend for life.

Baby Steps

Yesterday I needed a Klonopin to get through it. The day, I mean.

The problem is that life doesn't stop for depression and anxiety issues. You still have to deal with shit. For example, I have this student loan that's due, $122 every month, and I'm out of money in my bank account. It's just down to pennies. The well is dry. The $122 is the bucket that's going to reach mud in the bottom of the well. For that, I just have to make a phone call to the student loan people and figure out if I can get a deferment or forbearance, only every time I do I get completely wigged out and can't function. This is the anxiety.

Jun 1, 2014

Thank You

I got this book from the library called "The Mindful Way Through Depression," and it's been very helpful. It's even got a CD for mindful meditation exercises.

May 30, 2014

The ANTs Ruin the Picnic

ANTs are "Automatic Negative Thoughts" and the phenomenon works something like this according to the founder of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Dr. Beck. Beck wrote that basically you can't help this army of negative thoughts from entering your brain, they just do. You find yourself saying "I'm a failure" and "I can't do this" and "I suck." These thoughts influence what you then actually do, which is to beat yourself up over the thoughts and then you get depressed. The behavior follows, which includes things like wanting to sleep twelve hours a day and isolate from the world, then that feeds back even more into a rumination mood where all you can think about is how bad you feel. It's depression and it's a vicious cycle. Add anxiety and it's essentially unlive-able. You can't function.

May 29, 2014

Racing Myself Down A Hole

I spent part of yesterday in the ER, because my heart was racing and I felt jittery all over like a rubber band that someone was constantly thwanging. I thought I was going to have a heart attack. They gave me an EKG. I was amazed to find that I was fine and all my vitals checked out. So my physical symptoms, it was all just the anxiety. Amazing what anxiety can cause, physically. They gave me an Atavan to calm me and watched me for two hours and then I came home.

Jan 16, 2014

Lizard Lounge, Cambridge MA
Joe played bass with Gato Malo tonite.