Sunday, June 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.

Thursday, June 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.

Tuesday, June 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.

Monday, June 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.

Saturday, June 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.

Friday, June 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.

Thursday, June 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?

Wednesday, June 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.

Monday, June 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

December 20, 2018:
Update: It's been four years. I wish I could say I' I was before. I'm not. My brain is a sieve, and all my heroes are dead. I've written an update about "The Frail Male." Trigger is not for the faint of heart. 

Related: The Frail Male At Work (And Everywhere Else)

Thursday, June 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)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Me and the Loony Bin

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)

Sunday, June 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?

Friday, June 6, 2014


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.

Thursday, June 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.

Wednesday, June 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.

Sunday, June 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.

Currently Reading

Forged: Writing in the Name of God
it was amazing
tagged: currently-reading