In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

I’m not going to lie, this past week was a struggle. For some reason a past trauma popped back into my head, and it was so hard to get it out. Thinking I needed to resolve it, I started thinking and reflecting on it more and more. It proved dangerous though, triggering my binge eating disorder. That’s the thing about trauma — you think you’re over it and then it comes back, making you relive your painful emotions surrounding the it. I’ll get through it, though. I always do.

I had some more blogs published on The Mighty this past week. If you haven’t already, please check that website out. They have such good articles from people who are struggling with mental disorders. Here’s a list of mine that were published:

https://themighty.com/2021/01/mental-health-emotional-pain-food-medication-abuse/ https://themighty.com/2021/01/binge-eating-disorder-body-binge-eating-disorder/
https://themighty.com/2021/01/depression-electroconvulsive-therapy-memory-loss-positives/

I did get some really good news that I can’t quite share yet, relating to my blog, but you’ll just have to stay tuned. I hope your week was great last week, and I hope you have an even better one this coming week.

That’s all for now. Stay in the light, my friends.

Retrograde Amnesia

As many of you know, I have retrograde amnesia, caused by the many ECT treatments I’ve had to do in order to obtain relief from my depression. For the record, I must have these treatments — my depression is treatment resistant, meaning that most medications can’t help alleviate my symptoms. Not much does except the ECTs, which I started in 2019.

During a treatment, I’m anesthetized and electric currents are sent through electrodes that are placed on my forehead, inducing a seizure. It’s not known exactly how the treatments help; I’ve always looked at it as a hard reset of my stubborn brain.

I would be lying if I said I don’t mind the treatments — I actually hate them, because over time I’ve developed a phobia of the anesthesia. And it’s definitely bothersome that I can’t remember some things. My memory loss goes back years, decades even, and it’s very hard to retain information even now. It’s also pretty embarrassing. I’ve forgotten who some people are, their names and how I know them. And when I say I have amnesia, I’m met with blank stares. And then I have to explain ECTs, which sounds unbelievable if you’re not used to it.

When I do try to recall something, I see only a gray wall where the memory once resided. Things aren’t just fuzzy — they’re just not there most of the time.

This must sound awful, but there is one good thing about my memory loss: the memory loss.

That’s not a typo.

I’ve suffered for decades with major depressive disorder, an anxiety disorder and a personality disorder and it’s unbelievably painful. But, just like I can’t remember who I ran into at the grocery store last week, I also can’t remember the most painful, darkest moments of my depression. I only know about it from my husband’s or best friend’s account of it. Or previous blogs.

Even with the ECT treatments, I still suffer with depression, just on a much lighter scale. I’m glad I can’t remember every time I couldn’t get out of bed or every time the pain was so deep that I wanted to end my life. Because if I sit and dwell on just how bad it was or can be, then I might forget that I do want to live — and live happily.

I don’t know if that makes much sense, but I do know that I (likely) will be struggling with depression and anxiety for the rest of my life. That thought alone makes me sad, and I can see how that thought can make me — and others — lose their faith in life and just put their suffering to an end. Mental illness can be so lonely when you’re in such pain all the time. And people still don’t understand it; the stigma of having a mental disorder is still there, too. So, if you do know someone who struggles, please be more understanding and empathetic. It’s just so lonely.

Even if I have to go under anesthesia and have electric currents sent through my brain every eight weeks, it’s not so bad. Not compared to the reality I was living without the treatments.

I just have to remember to take notes anytime I’m awake.

At My Worst

The thing I hate the most about depression is that I can be feeling so good about myself and then — bam — something triggers me or I get into an argument with my husband or best friend. It could be something small, but it can throw me into a downward spiral of despair and pain.

That’s what happened tonight. I was reflecting on my day and how good it was. I made progress with my intuitive eating program (I didn’t overeat at all). I started to put more work into my blog, which excites and drives me.

Then it hit — self doubt, self loathing and despair after an argument with a loved one. All of these things were lurking in the shadows of my obstinate brain, and it didn’t take much to pull them out of hiding. It scared me. I began having intrusive thoughts that I should kill myself* and that my family didn’t need me. I tried to sort through my thoughts, desperately trying to determine which were true and which were lies. Normally, I don’t entertain my intrusive thoughts; as soon as they enter my head I stop the thought and release it, thinking of something happier. But I didn’t have the strength to stop them this time. It was a barrage of darkness and sadness. And I’ll just stop there, because this is making me sad.

All the progress that I had made during the day was gone, so it seemed. I got ice cream and binged on a couple servings, even though I didn’t really want it.

I didn’t have much time to wallow after that because both of my kids came into the room claiming they couldn’t sleep. It was several more hours of coaxing them and threatening before they finally went down. I felt depleted and frustrated.

The argument I had was inconsequential, forgotten by morning. But what stayed with me was the idea that this — me and my mental health — is probably as good as it’s going to get. I don’t mean that like I’m giving up and in to depression — I mean that I don’t know if I’ll ever feel better than I do right now. Every day, I hustle to stay on top of my depression. I take my meds, I got to weekly therapy appointments, I do ECT treatments, I avoid sleeping during the day, I stay busy with the kids, writing, hobbies, etc. And there is always room for improvement, but I think I need to be OK with the fact that this may be as good as it gets.

It’s not so bad. I’ll probably always live with these demons, but what I need more than to accept that this is my fate and life is that everybody else accepts it, too. That they love and support me at my worst, which is kind of scary sometimes. But in the same breath, it’s taught me to be grateful for all the good in my life and happy moments. And there are many.

It’s hard for me to talk about the dark or bad side of my depression (is there a good side, lol), because it’s hard for people who don’t suffer with a mental disorder to understand. It’s unknown and scary to them. But if you have a loved one who does suffer, love and accept them at their worst. And let them know that you do.

It makes this “journey” a lot easier.

*Please note that I am not in crisis or suicidal. Intrusive thoughts are just thoughts — not desire. I am safe.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

I’m coming off a very happy weekend. My parents drove down on Thursday to visit and it was so good to see them. I usually see them a lot more often but the pandemic has halted our travel. The kids were so excited and my parents were very happy with the new house.

It was also a good week. One of my blogs was published on The Mighty website! I have submitted two other blogs that they’ve decided to publish, so maybe it can be a regular thing. And because of that, my friend who’s a TV news producer said she’d like to do a story on my blog getting published and how important body positivity is to children, especially girls.

That’s really all for now. I hope you have a safe and healthy week. Stay in the light!

My Body, Myself

I love the bird tattoo just below my shoulder on my chest.

The tattoo I have on my left arm, a bird on a typewriter, makes me feel so sexy. And strong.

I love the Phoenix on my back that reminds me that I will always rise.

The Hebrew on my side tells the story of Ruth, the first convert, and reminds me why I’m Jewish.

I love the color of my eyes, green with a bit of brown circling my pupils. Green eyes are rare, and I enjoy being rare.

I love my curly, wild hair, because it never looks the same from one day to another.

I love my boobs, which I had surgically reduced and that’s OK. I acknowledge and appreciate that they fed and nourished both my babies.

I love my legs, which are shapely and sexy.

Sadly, I don’t love all of me. I look at my stomach in the mirror and frown. It’s swollen and puffy from weight gain and eating poorly since the pandemic started. I tell myself that I’ve carried two babies and try to appreciate my womb as much as I appreciate other parts of my body.

I ignore the guilty feeling that’s spurred when my thighs uncomfortably touch when I walk.

I also try to ignore my chins when I take a selfie and the fact that I probably “need” Botox.

I avoid jeans and opt for leggings or sweats. I pick sweatshirts and baggy shirts to hide my insecurities, but I’m pretty sure my uncertain gait gives me away.

I try to give myself some grace. Be kind and do my best but I’ve been in autopilot for months, attempting to fill whatever void I feel at the moment. It never works. It’s always there and unless I do some real, hard work it will continue to be there.

My progress is not linear; some days are better than others. But I want to love all of me.

I think I’m pretty amazing (most of the time). I fight depression, anxiety, an eating disorder and a personality disorder every single day. I’ve suffered a mental break, having to go to a psychiatric hospital for six weeks. I do ECT treatments, shock therapy, every six to eight weeks just so I can feel OK and get by. And I do it all for my family. And me, of course. I am a fighter, a survivor and advocate.

My heart, my strong yet tender heart, swells with pride when I think about it all. And how I’m setting an example to my kids by taking care of my mental health and making myself a priority. They’ll see my perseverance and resilience. They’ll also see my flaws and I’m OK with that. They need to see them, see me.

I want them to see how much I love and appreciate my body and self and I’ll continue to work on that. Even though I’m almost 40. It’s never too late to try. To love yourself.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

Emotional Pain

Hanukkah, Christmas and New Years are over. And we’ve moved into our house. There are no big events looming, nothing I need to focus on at the moment. I’ve been so busy packing up the house and getting ready for the holidays, I haven’t had time to think about much else.

Now that I’m not in overdrive (as much as a girl with no serotonin can be in), my brain idles and I feel it — old, familiar pain. It’s like a TV show on repeat, constantly playing in the background, grating my nerves and triggering bad habits. I can’t turn it off, I don’t even know how.

Emotional pain is more painful than anything I’ve ever felt, and in my case, I don’t even know how it got there. I don’t know if that even matters.

For all I know, it’s been lodged deep inside me for decades, manifesting as anxiety, depression, irritability and loneliness. Just to name a few.

I’ve tried a number of ways to distract myself — piercings, tattoos, binge eating, dieting, writing and compulsive shopping. Just a name a few. You would think that I would turn to other methods, as those have clearly not worked. But I don’t.

It’s like my brain shouts, “This is painful! I must feel something else!” Then remembers that one time two years ago that eating a package of candy tasted so good and made me feel better. Then I proceed to binge on that candy, hoping to recreate that happy feeling but I don’t ever find it.

And I will keep eating it until I am literally sick. It’s no different with pills. If I take a pill and feel sedated or loopy, I’ll continue taking the pill. I’ll abuse that medication, taking more to chase that initial feeling to the point where I’m dangerously close to taking too much.

That’s the thing about compulsions — you just can’t stop. My therapist constantly tells me I’d be a fantastic drug addict. And she’s not wrong.

I wonder if I squandered my time at The Menninger Clinic. Shouldn’t I have learned to curtail these bad habits and compulsions? I am much better than I was, so I’m not sure. I bought three books on dealing with emotional pain today. Will they work? Can I afford not to read them?

At my last therapy appointment, my therapist read me her notes from our very first session eight years ago. In it she quoted me saying, “I have everything I’ve ever wanted. And have it so good. Why am I so sad?”

Today I asked myself the same question, and it makes me feel worse that I’m no closer to the answer than I was almost a decade earlier.

I’m grateful for what I am. I appreciate both the big and small in my life. I thank God everyday. It’s almost like I’m embarrassed for feeling depression and anxiety because I have so much. But being grateful won’t prevent me from being depressed and anxious. Not much does.

Tears are threatening because I just can’t stand the thought of being stuck with my defective, asshole brain for the rest of my life. I don’t want to binge or abuse medication. I just want to feel good because I feel good, not because I’m chasing a high.

I’m hopeful that I’ll find the answers, eventually. That’s one thing my brain can’t take from me — my hope.

Edit: Please note that this blog was written at an earlier date, while I was feeling blue. Even though I’m feeling better, I think it’s important to document all the moods and feelings that go along with major depression and anxiety — because there are a lot.

New Year, Same Me, Old (Bad) Habits Dead

The new year is approaching, and in the past I’ve always attempted to make new year’s resolutions, usually related to weight loss. And while that’s all fine and good for some, I will not be making any resolutions, weight-related or otherwise.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to bidding this year adieu (because of COVID-19), but this year was transforming for me. I no longer feel the need to place restrictions or punish myself because I don’t look certain way. It’s good to have goals and I will always strive to improve and challenge myself, but I just can’t continue my obsession with my weight.

This year was so shitty in so many ways, and I’m surprised I haven’t suffered a mental break, to be honest. Instead I have risen to the occasion and been strong mentally, because damn, I had to. The added stress and uncertainty pushed me to my limits, and I started writing more as a release. I’ve had this blog for two years, and I’ve always tried to be candid, but the pandemic made me show my ass, about everything.

And I have loved every minute, even when I’ve been embarrassed or shamed. Writing about my eating disorder, depression, anxiety and a hospital stay has liberated me.

I’m free now.

I’ve pushed past the shame and have started to love myself. And I’ve also discovered that I’m kind of a bad ass. I’m proud of myself, which includes my mental disorders. I’ve even written articles for the local paper admitting my depression and my stay at a psychiatric hospital. The whole city knows, and that’s OK with me.

I’m free from the bondage of other people’s opinions I’m starting to free myself from obsessing about my weight and my appearance. It’s so damn hard, but I’m trying.

The goals I will make for myself in the coming days will focused on self-care. To be healthy, physically and mentally, you must practice self-care and make yourself a priority. Like everyone says, you can’t fill from an empty cup. And it’s not selfish to put yourself first. It’s actually really hard work to do so, but it’s rewarding — not just for you but those around you.

I wear a bracelet at all times that says, “GRIT,” as a reminder to do the necessary hard work, that I have what it takes and not to give up.

2020 was a terrible year for so many, but I’m so grateful that this different self of mine emerged and helped liberate me from all the bullshit.

I’ve called myself a black sheep all my life because of my differences among family, and even friends, but the black wool suits me now instead of reminds me that I’m an outcast.

Edit: I don’t mean this post to sound like a brag about how much I’ve achieved this year. Surviving this pandemic (no matter what coping mechanisms you used) is achievement alone.

Happy New Year. I wish y’all well

Stay in the light.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

My family and I had a wonderful Christmas, despite not being up in Dallas with my family like we usually are. But it was kind of a blessing in disguise. I usually don’t decorate for Christmas, get a real tree, or bake cookies with the kids but this year I did and I absolutely loved it. I’m grateful that I was feeling OK and able to keep up with the kids.

Christmas morning was my favorite. I awoke before the kids and went to check on my daughter first. She was stirring until I said that Santa had come then she hightailed it to her brother’s room and they came bounding into the great room. I grabbed my husband and the kids started opening their gifts and looking at everything Santa left. They were so giddy, so excited. There wasn’t a trace of disappointment or discouragement that this year had seemed to bring out in all of us.

I made breakfast while the kids continued to play and counted my blessings. For I have many.

While I am exhausted from planning and executing Christmas plans, I don’t feel depressed or in a bad head space whatsoever. Again, I’m so grateful.

I hope you all had good holidays and I wish you a happy New Year.

Stay in the light.

“Wow, you’re taking too many medications!”

One day I went to urgent care for an intractable migraine that just wouldn’t let up. Sometimes it can be tricky to treat them because I can’t have NSAIDS (due to gastric sleeve and taking Lithium). I was going over the meds I take and the nurse said, “Wow, you are on too much medication.”

Immediately my body went hot, I started to sweat and tears came to my eyes. I waiting until he left the room and then I cried. It was bad enough I had a severe migraine, I didn’t need to hear that. There was so much judgement there. And I went to one of the best psychiatric hospitals in the country, so I was confident that I was taking the right amount of meds. When the doctor came in later I was still crying but managed to pull it together to tell him that it was inappropriate for that nurse to say something about how many meds I was on. That I felt attacked because I am on a number of psychiatric drugs. In between tears and hiccups, I continued. I told him that judgement just adds to the stigma of depression and keeps people from seeking treatment because of it. 

The doctor assured me that’s not what he meant. That the nurse was not being judgmental, blah blah blah. But the damage had been done. How is there no judgement when a man says, “Wow, you’re on too much medication.” What was the point in that comment? How is that helpful?

I wanted to leave, but I needed pain relief badly. As soon as the meds they gave me for the migraine started to work, I told them I was better (which I sort of was) and left. 

I was embarrassed that I cried and made a big deal out of things. And the doctor, of course, told that man that I was upset. He did apologize but I just didn’t feel better about it. 

Looking back, I can’t believe I was embarrassed, because the truth is that I NEED those meds to fight depression. They help me function, be productive and help me be a better wife, mom and friend. Those medications (along with ECT and therapy) changed and saved my life. So fuck that guy. 

I’m proud that I sought help for my depression and that I take meds. And because I’m proud, I’m going to list my meds with no fear or shame. 

Synthroid- hypothyroidism
Rexulti – antipsychotic 
Lithium – mood stabilizer 
Nortriptyline- antidepressant 
Emgality – preventative med for migraines 
Trazodone – helps with sleep
Gabapentin – anti-anxiety 
Imitrex – abortive migraine med

I hope that none of you ever faces that kind of judgement and shame. There is absolutely no shame in seeking help to fight such a debilitating illness. One that steals your joy, makes you so fatigued you can’t get out of bed and one that causes so much mental anguish that sometimes you feel you’d rather die. 

Not a damn thing wrong with that. 

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and enjoy your family. I’m going to because my meds help me to do so. 

Stay in the light, friends. 

A Great Miracle Happened There

So tonight is the sixth night of Hanukkah, and because my family is Jewish, I feel the need to talk about miracles. That’s what Hanukkah is all about, celebrating miracles, and I have a lot to celebrate. They may not seem like grand miracles to others, but it doesn’t really matter what other people think, right?

First, and most important, is that my family has stayed healthy and safe this year, which I’m so grateful for. 

It’s also a great feat that I haven’t had a “breakdown.” I’ve stayed strong this year, despite the pitfalls and obstacles this dreadful year has created. It wasn’t easy for me — or anyone — to have two young kids at home for three months. It was really hard not going to therapy for awhile. Hell, it’s been hard for me not to go anywhere at all. I know that I’m not alone in this;  every one of my nerves has been frayed. Every limitation has been reached, and I’ll be honest, I have a lot of limitations. I have to rest more, take breaks. I have to practice self care every day and get a lot of sleep. I have to verbalize when I’m struggling, so I can get the help I need. I have fought my depression and I’ve fought suicidal thoughts. I fight my own brain on a daily basis. It’s exhausting and my depression is relentless. 

I have to constantly monitor it so I can prevent a depressive episode. It’s annoying and even though I know what to do to make myself feel better, my brain tells me not to take care of myself. 

It’s also hard when you have to prioritize your health over others, especially your children. As a mom you want to make sure your kids have everything they need and I don’t mean this in a bad way, but they suck the life out of you. So much of me goes to them and there’s not much left for me. 

It’s a balancing act and it’s tricky as hell. It’s one that I haven’t mastered, even six years in as a mom. 

I’ve lost my cool and expelled many a curse word. But I’ve survived. My children have survived. I haven’t done much else this year but survive and that’s OK. Yes, I’ve gained 20 pounds and I probably have gray hairs sprouting — also OK. Obviously, I’m utilizing some not-so-helpful coping skills but damn, I’m coping and that’s what counts. In my book, anyway.

So, surviving is my miracle. Avoiding a depressive episode is my miracle. Keeping my children and husband happy and healthy is my miracle. 

As I light the Hanukkah candles tonight I will remember my miracles, God’s miracles. 

There is great divinity in finding light when it is dark. 

Happy Hanukkah, my friends.