I was at the Hematologist’s office the other day getting my weekly iron infusion (yeah, have not written about that yet, sorry) and afterward, I ended up waiting 2 hours for the medical transport to come pick me up.
Sitting across from me were 2 kids, a boy about 10 with an iPad and earbuds in, sitting away from, who I found out later, was his grandmother. Next to grandma was a girl who told me she was 6. She looked bored to tears.
After a few minutes, I invited her over to watch videos with me on my phone. Sheepishly, she crossed the space between us, sitting in the chair next to me. I asked her what we should watch. She shrugged. I suggested baby goat videos; they are always great for a laugh.
We spent the next 20 minutes laughing at the baby goat antics, my asking her questions every once in awhile.
“How old are you?”
“When is your birthday?”
It had just passed, so I asked her if she received any gifts and she excitedly told me…
… something I asked her to repeat several times. Confused, I pleadingly looked at Grandma for help.
I was still clueless, so told the little girl I had to Google it to see what that was. She looked at me, incredulous I could possibly have gone one day without this knowledge.
They are teeny-tiny toys… that revolve around… grocery shopping? Marketing groceries to a 6-year old? Good lord.
Oh, and there’s a whole Shopkins series of cartoons, too. My new friend wanted to watch one. I vetoed that.
My head was swimming after the Shopkins talk, so I decided to show her pictures of my grandkids. She liked that, pointing out various things.
I got to my grandson at a fairy birthday party, wearing wings and a crown. I told her who it was and she said, “But, he’s a BOY! Boys can’t be fairies!” I said there he is, so clearly he could be a fairy. She didn’t believe me.
I scrolled further and found the one with my grandson covered in mud and said, “See? He can be a fairy and covered in mud. Everyone gets to do that if they want to.”
(That turned out to be the kernel I’d hoped I could impart on her young mind.)
Soon after, grandma was called back and the little girl had to go with her (my ride should have been there at any moment anyway) and she ran to go through the door.
But not before she turned around and waved one last time.
The last 2 weeks have sucked even worse than when I wrote on July 13, 2017. Tears. Tears. Never-ending tears. The suicidal ideation is coming more often and is more vivid than when I started the Paxil. And the damn hallucinations are back.
Almost all of my time is in bed, either curled in pain (another post), staring at the ceiling or sleeping. I leave I Love Lucy on in the background. Sometimes Friends. I’m listening to Mists of Avalon (a book I love), but when I listen in bed, I fall right to sleep. I’ve replayed Chapter 6 four times already.
An Odd Sorta Depression
When looking for images about depression lying, I came across several pieces like this one below:
Not sure if I’m just more familiar with my depression than when I was younger or if it has really shifted, but I do not hear the lies the girl in the image does… nothing negative about my body, how alone I am in the world, how fat/ugly/sick I am. I did when I was younger, but not anymore.
I just feel sad. An overwhelming sadness. A pall of melancholia that separates me from the rest of you. I cannot even touch what I am sad about except for the endless distress I have about our country because of 45. But this joylessness is deeper than the fear-for-our-lives kind. I feel like I’m under the thick glass of my Nana’s cake pedestal, so close to others, but unable to penetrate the barrier of dreariness to make a connection.
The psych doc upped the Paxil to 30mg after 2 weeks on 20mg. He said he still might have to increase it when I see him in 2 weeks. For fuck’s sake, can’t this stuff take effect already? I hate this waiting part.
I have weaned off the Cymbalta. Is that the reason for this huge dip? Who knows anymore. He wanted to increase my Risperdal, but I refused; the eating is out of control with more Risperdal… can’t abide by that.
An aside: I despise the new packaging that seems to be taking over the medication world. I am not stupid, can follow directions, but they are incredibly difficult for me to get into. I’ve asked the Pharmacy to open them for me and then I rip the inner blister pack out, throwing the outer box away. If you haven’t see them, let me introduce you.
I’ve had lots of suicidal thoughts. My cub stayed with me one night when they were especially bad, reminding me every few minutes that Depression is a Liar. Hearing that, knowing it for certain, is what kept (keeps) me going. Hearing that so-and-so loves me doesn’t do much for my mindset because I rationalize that away easily. Depression Lies, however, works wonders.
The thoughts of suicide are so enticing. They call to me seductively as if they were sirens on the ocean’s rocks.
“A suicidal person may not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean that help isn’t wanted. People who take their lives don’t want to die—they just want to stop hurting.”
When I had my first serious clinical depression in my late teens, I didn’t understand the “wanting the pain to stop” aspect and teetered really close to the edge of death.
As I got older and had some decent therapy, I was able to verbalize the inner turmoil and excruciating emotional pain that was drawing me towards dying. Understanding that I didn’t really want to die, but just to stop hurting… a pain that went so deep as to injure my soul… I was able to cling to those brief seconds of “medication will help remove the pain… hang on a little bit longer.”
Medication and therapy have not failed me yet.
Work has been nearly impossible the way I feel. I can do one call, then need 2 hours off to regroup. The calls are easy, mostly with regulars, but the energy expenditure exhausts me. Even writing this post has taken 4 days so far. Ugh. I need to be able to work!
Okay, I need to get this out to you all. It is not a cry for help, I promise. I will not hurt myself, have no plans to. It’s just those random thoughts that flow through my mind… sometimes like heavy cinder blocks and others like wafting vapors. As long as they continue moving on the conveyor belt, I think I’m okay and headed towards healing.
My beautiful cub, as you read through this and the articles I’ve shared, one of the most important things is to breathe and let go of any stress/tension you feel building because of the instructions. You do not… WILL not… be doing everything at once, so allowing yourself grace for the learning and ongoing practice (the Be-ing) of Mindfulness is really good for your spirit. Even I work at Mindfulness. Even Buddhist Monks practice (the act of learning a new skill) Mindfulness. There is no “end” to show you have completed the task for the rest of your life, no test at some tangible end. It is an ongoing experience like breathing. Seeing it as the waves in the ocean can help a lot… they come and go, unbidden, but in a rhythm that does not cease.
So it is with Mindfulness.
There are several avenues to Mindfulness. It seems each teacher has a different way of explaining how to do it. What ends up happening is we take bits and pieces from the ones that resonate, creating our own unique style. If one person’s description makes no sense, look at the next and see if that adds to your own need for information.
The Path to Mindfulness…
There is no Mindfulness without Meditation,
nor is there Meditation without Mindfulness.
Even as I said there is no end goal, there are pieces that are required (and that word can be stressful, but you will see in a moment it does not need to be). I could have put any number of these pieces together in another order, but it makes no difference as I explain because they super-impose themselves onto each other. So, in no particular order:
The “Goal” of Meditation (the Definition of Mindfulness)
The purpose of a (Stillness) Meditation session, one path into Mindfulness, is to empty one’s mind, bringing your thoughts directly to your breathing. Sounds like such a simple concept, but takes a lifetime of practice that never ends (like the ocean’s waves).
It is this attention to breath that we do in our private Meditation sessions, that we also do when we are walking down the street, when someone annoys the crap out of us, when we are scared or anxious or angry. Or when we are changing a diaper, showering ourselves or sitting and reading a book.
While it can seem like its own activity at first, taking a lot of concentration while ignoring the actual life activity at hand, it quickly becomes a soft hum in the background of our waking lives.
Even doing it (as we learn) for a very short time gives immense relief from difficulties going on around us. It brings us back to “our Center”; that which is Divine in us all. For you, that might be Allah.
Note: As you read, you will see there are a variety of types of Meditation. Typically, new folks concentrate on Mindfulness Meditation and Stillness Meditation… mostly those two combined. There is another you might find helpful that I love, and that is Guided Meditation. When I struggle with doing a solo practice, Guided Meditation often helps me to let go of the pain. There are an endless supply of Free Guided Meditations both in regular Google searches or on YouTube, Amazon Music, in Amazon Prime (tv) and Netflix. Do not think too hard on the other kinds of Meditation at the moment, just the 3 I mentioned above.
Non-Judgment is a main cornerstone of Mindfulness. Being in a high stress profession, I am sure you have a certain definition in your mind about what non-judgment entails. With Meditation, it takes on a broader meaning.
As you Meditate (which I will elaborate on in a moment), you’ll find your head filled with thoughts. THIS IS NORMAL! We all have our heads just stuffed full of thoughts, feelings and plans. Do not ever ever ever berate yourself for having random thoughts floating through your mind as you learn, try and practice meditation. We all have them! Forever. There is never a time thoughts are not flowing through our heads. Not even for the most practiced of Monks, ALL of us have this experience when Meditating.
Especially in the beginning, people can get very frustrated with this phenomenon, this “intrusion” of thoughts, disturbing our practice of Meditation.
The opposite, however, is true; without the thoughts, one would not have the Meditation to practice. Recognizing them is exactly what is supposed to happen! The moment you recognize a stray thought, that is the exact moment you have become Mindful. It might only last that second, but you have, for that fleeting moment, been Mindful. So beautiful!
When you recognize the random thought in your mind, instead of seeing them as annoying or terribly distracting, it serves us much more to… see the thought/feeling… say hello to it… even hold it for a moment if you need to… and then set it free to float away once again. I see the thoughts as clouds or soap bubbles floating around, some coming closer, others stay far away. As they come into my direct attention, those are the ones I admire, then release, returning to my breath.
You will, as all of us have, sometimes spend your entire Meditation session in thought. Thinking, planning, saying, “When is this over!?” to yourself. I encourage just shaking your head and laughing about how intrusive your thoughts have been and try again in a awhile.
It is the ebb and flow of thoughts, their presentation, your recognition, then their release, moving back to breath, that is the very definition of Mindfulness Meditation.
Time to Practice
You will read in most places that your Meditation should be at least 20 minutes long. 20 minutes can seem extremely daunting at first, so just shoot for 2-3 minutes and gradually, at your own pace, work your way up to 20 minutes. It could take a year to get there. Who cares!? This is your walk, no one else’s.
At least once each day, you will set aside a minimum of 10 minutes, even if you are only doing 3 minutes, setting the scene in your body and mind walks you towards the actual breathing. Those minutes are without the tv on, without answering your phone and hoping you have no one knocking at the door. If there are interruptions you have no control over, just start again when you can. No judgment, no getting angry at the interruption or person who knocked. A gentle thought of love towards them moves your practice forward.
Making time for Meditation can seem daunting at first, but if you are able to recognize the ritual as a great few minutes of Self-Love, you will soon grow to welcome the time apart from your harried life.
Timing Your Session
I’ve found several wonderful free apps for Meditation Timers. Most are bells, chimes or gongs, but there are some with music as well. Googling “Meditation Timers” brings up many choices. I have one on my computer and one on my phone.
An amusing, pretty universal, action seems to happen, especially as we are learning our way around these practices. We all seem to be intensely curious about 1) how long we have been doing the Mindfulness (thereby dragging us right out of it!) and 2) how much more time we have before we are finished. Time either flies or is interminably long. While non-judgment is important, do your best to recognize the urge to open your eyes to see the time as one of those stray and passing thoughts. This does get easier with time.
I found removing my watch and turning the clock around helpful at first, depending only on the timer. Otherwise I was half inside and half with one eye on the clock. Not so peaceful.
Where Are the Benefits Already?
In the beginning, many, many, if not most, of us find great resistance to practicing Meditation. We often look for any distraction we can find to avoid it. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY NORMAL and, I believe, a required part of the process.
Recognizing the resistance, chuckling to yourself, then doing the Meditation, is an enormous success and one to be very proud of. Each time you cross this hurdle, you remove some of the future struggle towards practicing.
Just like there is no end to practicing, no end to the intrusion of thoughts, so too is there no delineation between practicing and Mindfulness having an effect on your behavior and life. The first time you sit quietly, breathing, you have already created a monumental shift in your Universe. There may be moments of recognition (“Oh! I breathed instead of wanting to throw a book at the wall!”), but more often, the effects are subtle and cumulative. One day, you will realize things have shifted and you will probably think, “Wow! When did that happen?”
It happened when you sat quietly that first day. It’s happening this very second as you read through what I have written!
I will share a couple of articles about HOW to actually do the breathing and practice Meditation. Those are the technical parts. I wanted to share with you my own learning curve specifically so you could see what the possibilities were, but mostly, that this is an amorphous experience and to not expect any concrete outcome. Ah, but those things along with monumental changes in your life.
Does this make sense? I would be shocked if any of it did!
I love you so very much. Have fun with your new activity, your new thoughts, your changes in behavior and allow utter confusion to wash over you at times. It is absolutely normal… you are absolutely normal… well, actually, I think you are absolutely amazing!
If you ever have questions or want to share your thoughts or experiences, feel free to talk or write to me.
I feel like cutting my tongue out. I swear someone is using a course-grit sandpaper, rubbing it over and over and over, while I sleep.
What’s sucky, too, is the Tardive Dyskinesia is doing overtime even while I am awake. Unless I am purposefully monitoring my tongue and jaw action, my tongue is scraping across my molars or my front teeth. Continuously.
Thank the Universe no one is noticing (probably because I am in the freakin’ house!), but even working on the phone, talking sexy, no one has noticed a difference. After a call longer than 30 minutes though, my jaw and tongue are sore (muscle sore) from trying to do two things at once: trying to keep getting the guy off and try not to make it sound like I am licking the phone. (Whereas upon reflection, that might not be such a bad idea.)
I am lost over what to do about the TD. I would need to cut down or quit the Wellbutrin and I feel so, so much better on it. The prospect of stopping it terrifies me. (And the TD might not go away after stopping the medication anyway!) I see the Psych in a week and will talk to him about it, but the decision is 100% mine about what to do: stay on it OR go off of it and try yet another medication that might cause TD even worse, and possibly permanent symptoms, than this.
Last night I was talking to my cublet, we were ranting a lot about that Hitlerian President-Elect, sharing our thoughts, our fears… our terror… with each other and then I needed to write.
So I went to work on Stunned, Shocked & Saddened and right as I got to the end, I began to feel crappy, then worse, my heart started racing, my stomach was in knots, I began sweating like a piglaletta and finally I told my cub, “I feel like shit! I need to go lay down.”
Once I was on laying on my bed feeling horrid, I began breathing deep to try and lessen the distress.
Then I thought, “Oh, I recognize this. This is an Anxiety Attack.”
I situated myself on the bed, laying down, feeling my body’s frantic fight to keep control over my mind, but I strong-armed the panic so I could do my Mindfulness exercises.
I felt the sheets under my arms and legs… listened to the air conditioner’s humming… smelled the scent of cinnamon from the witch’s broom I have in the corner.
Working Through the Experience
When I could, I texted my cub that it was an Anxiety Attack so he wouldn’t worry. He then asked if I had meds for that.
My cub is under 30-years old and has zero experience with mental illness, so his frame of reference is me. On meds. Getting new meds, getting them adjusted, and making sure I take them properly. While he knows I do Mindfulness Meditationand that I use it at times of stress, he doesn’t know Anxiety would have been one of those times.
Later, when I could explain better, I shared that I grew up in a Pill-for-Every-Ailment kind of family, so I have always seen meds as a free-for-all. My mom, sister and I have all been addicted to pills of one kind or another… my sister dying of an overdose of pain meds, mainly the 4 Fentanyl patches she had on when they found her. I am now about 2.5 years clean from Opiates (Percocet & Norco). I then shared that while acknowledging my forever-need for Psych meds, I do try to minimize other meds where I can.
Anti-Anxiety meds (Benzodiazepines) are one of those types of meds I would rather not be using. I tried them when I had the Agoraphobia and hated them; I was doped into a stupor. I was on a dozen other meds including the opiates, so probably to be expected, but still. So I made the choice to not use the Benzos, but Mindfulness and Mindfulness Meditation instead.
Back for Good?
The picture above is so accurate, showing the electrical currents zapping the brain and heart, sending them surging into overdrive… often for no apparent reason. Mental ones that are short circuiting, sure, but often for nothing we can pinpoint.
I was confused why the Panic Attack even hit in the first place, but my cublet reminded me (lovingly and gently) that the (fucking) Election has brought out intense emotions and then I spent a lot of time writing the previous post. Then the Panic consumed me.
Now that I remember what they feel like, I am on alert (not HIGH alert, though) for when/if it comes a’callin’ again.
Of course, I hope I don’t have another, but if I do, I am ready…
I was going to see President Obama on Friday, October 28, 2016. Strategic obstacles left me out of the crowd (another post), but lots of feelings of anxiety crept up that I needed to write about.
I was extremely excited, but I was also terrified. I was scared there would being a bombing, an assassination, a mass shooting, a stampede… you name it, my mind could create a scenario for its occurring during in any public function and in any space where people congregate.
I had agoraphobia (the fear of the marketplace aka the fear of leaving the house), a form of an anxiety and panic disorder, for an 18-month period about 4-5 years ago. I only left home when I could go with my then-partner Zack; he was my talisman against freaking out. I was even able to go to Costco (the most open marketplace ever invented!) with Zack in attendance. Alone, I could not even get to the car in the driveway without a panic attack.
Only in the distant retrospect am I able to see the agoraphobia was in response to 1) being ostracized from my midwifery community and 2) Zack’s coming out transgender. The stress of the two kicked my anxiety level into overdrive.
My least favorite memory was when I laid on the floor of Target, after the registers, before the doors (in front of god and everybody) and EMS tried to talk me into getting up and sitting on the Starbuck’s couch. I was so immobilized it took many minutes for me to even hear the requests/commands to move already. It was after that I didn’t leave the house alone for over a year.
Panic & Generalized Anxiety Disorders
So, GAD isn’t a label I wear, but have worn for a short time in my psych history. It came right after the agoraphobia, before the depression, during my opiate addiction. The Panic Disorder came with the agoraphobia.
Despite being on Norco and Percocet, along with a (literal) handful of other psych meds taken 3x a day, I was prescribed Benzos -anti-anxiety pills. Benzodiazepines are highly addictive. I took a few of the pills over the next few days, but they put me in a stupor (not surprising at all considering what else I was on) and decided they were not for me. However, I knew I would turn to them when/if I ran out of my opiates, so had Zack lock them up from me. I do not recall ever wanting them again. Over the years, I have met so many benzo addicts I am so glad I never got into them.
I have written about Mindfulness Mediation before in relation to getting clean from opiates. It was also responsible for my climbing out of agoraphobia eventually. I went to a class at UCSD on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)… it taking extraordinary effort to get there each time… but the new skills helped tremendously and I was able to gradually let go of the anxiety and resume a life of going to the store without Zack again.
Anxiety in My Life Today
The state of the world makes me very nervous when my family and friends go out to festivals, restaurants, concerts, etc. I am able to stay safe for the most part, being disabled, but the fear of violence (which does not have a “phobia” name that I can find) nearly paralyzes me at times. I think twice, three, four times before heading out to even the store. I have to breathe, remind myself: It is on the news, that’s how rare it is.
But Pulse was a few miles from my home. And that made the news. Those 49 Doves gone in a matter of hours. It could happen again, right? And, to be honest, we all know it will happen again one day. Worse even.
So when things tangled into such a mess that I could not go see the President, I was able to exhale and sit in a small out-of-the-way restaurant with my mama instead.
I don’t know if I will ever be totally free of anxiety… it seems not… but I just keep breathing.