Thursday, May 1, 2014

T -5 days and counting.

On May 6th, I have a doctor's appointment.

A while back, I started a(nother) new journey in the hopes of being... well... normal-ish. My psychiatrist, who I'd basically fired because there was nothing new to try for my depression and anxiety, called me. Himself. Not his nurse or a receptionist. HE called me. The long and the short of it? He'd found someone in the state that was willing to do hormonal testing.

Let's back up a little. The theory here is that all those drugs that are supposed to make my brain just a tiny bit happier and feel a little less like dying, don't work for a reason. The thinking is that maybe it's not really a true depression at all. What if it's my hormones that are out of whack, and the depression is just a symptom of that? I've been trying to find someone to take me down this rabbit hole for a while now, but NO ONE was willing to go there. Not one doctor. And the one place in the entire state that does it is completely private pay. It's for rich people only. Apparently not being suicidal all the time is a luxury, and poor people need not worry their little heads about it. But I'm not bitter. *sigh*

So, I get the call from my old psychiatrist. He's excited. There is a doctor who is now specializing in hormones. She takes insurance. And a couple of his own patients have shown great strides in recovery while in this new doctor's care. I made an appointment. A few days later, I was sitting in her office. It went well, I suppose. I explained for the 5,000th time the symptoms I have, their severity, etc. We schedule hormonal blood tests and a follow up appointment. She gives me a book to read. I leave the appointment with a sense that maybe, just maybe it will work. But honestly? I'm certainly not holding my breath.

Thing is, I've done this sort of thing before. I find the new "best" doctor who supposedly knows all about tough cases like mine. I sit across from him or her at a desk. I spill my guts and talk about all the feelings that make me not want to exist any more. He or she nods politely and writes lots of notes. Usually, on a legal pad. I get a new prescription, leave full of hope, and wait. And nothing good ever happens. In fact, typically, only bad things happen. Nights spent puking happen. Vertigo happens. Feeling worse instead of better happens.

But this is different. It's a completely different journey. Hormone treatment is even less of an exact science than psychiatry. Can you imagine that? Another chance to be a guinea pig... but on an even bigger level. And this chance just feels a little different. The road is different. The view is different. And there are absolutely no promises. Just creams that I rub onto my skin every day and a hell of a lot of hope. Wishing and waiting for my body to cooperate.

We'll see. Next Tuesday is simultaneously hurdling towards me and slowly creeping along. I'm scared and excited all at once. The blood tests will be in, and hopefully a treatment plan will be put in place. But when the lights are out, and I'm lying in bed with my thoughts, all I can seem to find is fear of all this. And a million questions swirl around in my already chaotic head. Will this work? Will it fail? If it fails, will it at least give me a clue as to what to do next?

And the answer to all those questions in my head?

"It's hard to tell, smalls. It's hard to tell."

Thursday, March 6, 2014

14,600 Days Old

Today is my 40th birthday.

I have to be honest. I never thought I'd see my 40th birthday. I was pretty sure that depression would claim me as yet another fatality. But, it didn't. I made it to FORTY YEARS. I made it! And at this moment, I'm doing so well. Life is not perfect. It never is. But, it's so, so good right now.

To many, thinking I'd never see this day may seem so very sad. But you know what? I don't see it that way at all. Y'all, it's a huge reason to celebrate. I proved to myself that I can do it... with a little (or a lot) of help from all the people who love me. And ohmygoodness, am I loved!

If you're reading this, there is a big chance that you've contributed to my life in ways that you don't really even know about. A smile here. A kind word there. Celebrating with me when things were AMAAAAAAZING. Holding me tight when things were not so amazing at all. Thank you for all of it. All the things big and small. You are loved and appreciated for it.

So, you know what's next? All sorts of things... big and little. And hopefully at least another 40 years. If I'm really lucky, even more. But mostly? I'm looking forward to the love.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


*deep breath*

A few weeks ago, I was in the hospital again. Admittance #4 of 2013, if we're keeping track.

#1) Gall bladder attack and removal
#2) Severe pancreatitis and liver disfunction
#3) Double pneumonia
#4) Psychiatric unit

Yes. I know what you're probably thinking. I really just told the entire internet that I went to the funny farm. The castle of crazy. The bin of loons. And it's not the first time. But to not say it out loud would send the message that having severe depression and anxiety is shameful. It's not. So, I said it out loud and refuse to be ashamed.

I was having a hard time. Multiple panic attacks every. single. day. Depression that made breathing seem like hard work. Near constant suicidal thoughts. It was pretty brutal. And after a while, it started to feel dangerous. So, I admitted myself.

I was in the unit for three days. It was not a good experience. Not even a little. Rarely are psychiatric units a place of hope. Truthfully, most units are places where they wait for your medications to start to kick in and the suicidal thoughts to go away. Nothing more than that. Understaffed. Chaotic. Sterile. Humiliating. That about sums it up.

The hardest part was when I met with the psychiatrist. I told him my history, social and psychiatric. I carefully listed as many of my medications as I could possibly remember. Prozac and Lithium and Celexa and Lexapro and... and... and... The list was a mile long. I answered all the usual questions. After a while, he just stared at me with a look of bewilderment and said, "We can't really do anything else for you. At this point, we'll have to rely on just improving your health. You need to try getting one of those..." And then, I stopped listening for a while. And it sunk in. I've tried it all. They are out of options. How can this be? Is my brain really *that* broken? Apparently, yes.

Huh. *long, awkward pause* Well, that sucks.

What did I do after that conversation with the psychiatrist? I kept swimming.

In case you skipped the video above, this would be a good time to watch it. It's worth it. I swear. I'll wait right here.


So. What's next?

Well, I've been fighting this for 25 years and have to come to terms with the fact that nothing has worked over the long haul and probably never will. I have officially been diagnosed as "treatment resistant." I have to figure out exactly what that means and find a way to embrace it. A pill will probably never fix me, and that's that.

What have I been doing since I left the hospital?

Light therapy. Yoga. Occasional sleep deprivation. (Yes, that is actually a recognized treatment for depression.) I'm not sure if any of it is actually working, or if it keeps me busy between panic attacks. Either way, I'm doing it.

I keep telling myself that this is not the end. It's just the beginning. But instead of the beginning of a new treatment plan or approach, it's the beginning of acceptance. I'm going to stock up on metaphorical swimsuits. I'm going to learn to tread water now and again when I'm just too tired. I'm going to do the best I can to keep up my physical health so I can better cope when my mental health goes to shit.

I guess I'm just going to swim.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Off the Rails

A while back, someone (who shall remain nameless but rhymes with Hecki Berod) reminded me that I should write more. Or again, as the case may be. It's been ages since I put fingers to keyboard in order to actually SAY something. So, here is my attempt. But who am I kidding? I get more out of the writing than anyone will ever get out of reading it.

Things here have been... unlucky. I've been taught all my life that with hard work, good things will happen to you. You make your own luck. You can't just expect good things to happen to you. If things go badly, you have to take responsibility for those events. And for a long, long time, I believed it completely, taking it all straight to heart. When things didn't go well for me, I blamed myself and my inadequacies. It had to be all my fault, right? That's what I'd always heard, anyway.

Fast forward to March of this year (2013 in case you're time-challenged.) While driving to my grandmother-in-law's funeral (rest in peace, Grandma Lorraine), something happened. I was in so much pain. I insisted that Rhett immediately take me to the ER, because this amount of pain? NOT NORMAL. My gall bladder was chocked full of stones and about to pop. Great. An hour away from home with 4 kids while in my funeral clothes, and I choose to have my gall bladder nearly burst? Awesome, self. You win at weirdest timing EVER. But, a few good drugs, some emergency surgery, problem solved. Right?

Nope. After surgery, I still had pain and reflux and all sorts of weirdo gastro problems. I'll spare the details because... well... yuck. I was sure that it was my body just getting used to the idea of not having a gall bladder anymore. Wrong. There was something amiss.

In July, I had a full on attack of pain that left me almost unable to speak with my heart racing and my stomach completely revolting. The gall bladder pain? Nothing in comparison. Back to the ER we went, this time while in Topeka. Guess what? I had gall stone(s) left behind after surgery. Apparently, I was passing them. My liver was severely compromised. And worst of all, I had pancreatitis. In a nutshell, that means that your pancreas is inflamed, swollen, and STARTS TO EAT ITSELF. Dear sweet baby Jerome! WHAT. THE. HELL.

While in the hospital, I had an absolutely horrendous experience. My doctors were inconsistent with my care. They gave me the wrong meds. There was a huge host of other problems and mistakes that made it impossible for me to trust them anymore. So, I asked to be discharged. They agreed that would be fine and that I could easily recover at home. Within less than 24 hours after leaving, however, I ended up in another ER, in another town, because they'd forgotten to give me antibiotics and meds to manage my pain. (Pancreas eating itself = hurts like hell and needs antibiotics.) Wow. I really know how to screw the pooch, huh?

I could go on and on about the luck I thought I was making for myself. I could mention the double pneumonia and the countless doctor's appointment and the financial strain that this has put on my family. But, in the end, that's a waste of good words. And instead of wasting words, I'm going to get to the point: sometimes, unlucky just happens. And sometimes, it's not your fault.

Considering my long held belief that everything WAS my fault, I had to change my thinking completely. No one deserves or can cause this many things to go wrong in a 6 month period. NO ONE. Personal responsibility for your part in your own life is one thing. But all this business? The chaos and craziness? Utter bullshit that the Universe handed to me on a platter? No. And when I finally came to terms with the idea that I wasn't to blame, I found a little piece of peace. Proof positive that all I can do is my best and hold on for the ride.

In case you're wondering, I feel about 1,000 times better than I did a couple of months ago. Thankfully, my body has largely healed itself. Tests have been done, and it's believed that I don't have anymore bastard gall stones hiding out in my liver or lying in wait in my bile ducts. I've been deemed mostly "cured." But am I? Now, my life has been turned on end in the realization that I'm not in charge. Whoa. That's a bit of a shock to the system.

I'll eventually get over the shock, but I'm still knee deep in it at the moment. If I've learned nothing else in my 39 years, I've learned that life is messy and chaotic and CRAZY. Shock is normal. But, it will go away one of these days. Maybe.

Dear Self,

Life isn't fair. Don't take it personally. Don't (always) blame yourself. Just hold on because sometimes, the ride gets bumpy. And sometimes, it goes completely off the rails. Hang in there.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Two swears and some underwear.

While wandering around the interwebs today, I ran across a blog post by the pretty darn famous Bloggess. Here's the link if you're so inclined as to read it: Go ahead and read it if you'd like. I'll wait.

Before we go any further, I absolutely have to share the video she featured today. It speaks to me on so many levels. But, a word of warning: there are exactly two swears and some underwear. Oh, and two hairy armpits. I think it's absolutely worth watching, though. Unembarrassed, I will admit that I watched it no less than five times. I said it spoke to me, remember?

So, the point of all this? Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. As someone whose blog is called "Grabbing My Happy," you can probably appreciate the fact that happiness is not something that has ever come easily to me. I've lived with depression and anxiety for decades. DEC. ADES. Not exactly what I had in mind for the grand plan that was to be my life, that's for sure. While in the midst of all this mental illness crap, I've been looking for happiness like a lost contact lens. I've closely examined every square inch of myself and my life in order to locate it. Sometimes, I've had to push and shove my way into it. It's a little like having a "fake it until you make it" attitude. I take a shower, put on my favorite outfit, a little makeup, and plaster on a smile. Before I know it, that smile doesn't feel nearly so fake. And sometimes, it just sneaks up on me. A hot cup of coffee. My favorite pair of jeans. A silly joke. Sneaky happy is my favorite kind.

If you're finding yourself so lost that happiness is only a memory, please reach out. Pick up the phone. Shoot off an email. Do something so you don't have to feel so damn alone. Because you're not alone. Not at all. In fact, not by a long shot.

Depression is a big, fat liar, liar pants on fire. It tells you that the world, and everyone in it, is better off without you. But, it is so very wrong. Your life is worth something. YOU are worth something. Just hang on.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

I have something to say.

It's been a really, REALLY long time since I posted on this blog. There's been so much going on. In fact, there's so much, that I'm not entirely sure where to start. So, for now, I'm not going to catch anybody up. Instead, I'm going to blog about something that's been in my heart for a while. It's something that I've wanted to say for so long, but needed to find the words for. So, here goes nothing.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."  

- John Watson

Some days, this world disappoints me on an epic level.

I was raised to believe that I was no better than anyone else. I was raised to be compassionate and fair. I was raised to try to do the right thing... even if it wasn't easy or popular.

Unfortunately, lately, I'm finding it harder and harder to believe in human kind. Sometimes, it seems as if empathy is nowhere to be found.

Several months ago, it started with some folks who didn't believe in birth control. And because they didn't believe in it, they wanted it to become harder to get and pay for. And, of course, it should never be covered by insurance.

A little later, the abortion issues came back into public view. We don't believe in abortions under any circumstances. Not at all. Even if you're raped. But since we're unable to completely outlaw them at the moment, we're going to make you suffer if you choose one. Even if your baby has died in your belly or is horribly deformed, we're going to make you jump through hoops. There must be a waiting period. You must have an ultrasound. And during that ultrasound, a technician must tell you all about the fetus's body parts... or lack of them. And if you're getting an abortion because you already have too many mouths to feed and no way to pay for that baby? We want you to further suffer with that decision.

And then, it came around to the discussion of general healthcare. Affordability. Individual insurance mandates. Obamacare. We don't want to pay for anyone's healthcare. Period. Unhealthy? No insurance? Tough shit.

After that, it seemed that the conversation shifted to public programs to help those who are generally less fortunate. "I don't want to pay to let lazy people sit on their asses while I work hard." It doesn't matter how hard you're working to look for a job in an absolutely terrible economy. If you're not working, it's all your own fault. And we don't want to give you a red cent. And if you ARE working, let's say a minimum wage job, we don't want to help you either. Because if you just worked harder, you wouldn't need any help.

Most recently, the focus has changed to Chick-fil-A, gay rights, and the fact that a fairly large portion of our population still can't wrap their brains around homosexuality. Homosexuality is a danger to our society. And giving gay people the right to marry? Absolutely not. Because marrying someone of the same sex is going to devalue all marriage. Of course.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a liberal. One look at my Facebook timeline will tell you exactly where I stand on just about all of the above issues... as well as a few that I didn't mention.

Thing is, I'm tired. I'm tired of people not loving each other. I'm tired of fighting. I'm tired of the judgment and the blame and the hurt. I'm tired of a nation that claims to be predominantly Christian, but rarely follows even the most basic principles of loving your neighbor or leaving the judgment to God... which are pretty darn good ideas even if you throw the subject of religion completely out the window. The whole thing, quite honestly, has me completely baffled.

I seriously doubt that my views will change those of anyone else. I can talk about it until my throat is hoarse and my heart is broken. But, nothing will really change.

But, I do have a challenge. I challenge you to go out into this world that often seems full of anger and hate and frustration and put a tiny bit more love into it. Smile at a stranger. Hold open a door. Drop a $5 bill on purpose so that someone might find it. And if you really want to shake your life to its core, consider for just a moment that everyone is fighting a hard battle. No one is perfect. Bad shit sometimes happens. And maybe finding a tiny bit more compassion, kindess and tolerance in your heart could truly change your life. Yes. It truly could.

Monday, April 30, 2012

My moment.

"There came a moment in my life when I realized that I had stepped into another part of my life. I used to walk into a room full of people and think, do they like me? And one day I walk in and I thought, do I like them?"- Victoria Principal

I had that moment this weekend at a pottery convention. Yes, I did.

Some folks may or may not know that my cousins own a pottery store. Each year, they put on a mini convention in which pottery store owners from across the country come to learn about new techniques and products, socialize, share information, etc. My cousins are always generous enough to invite me to join them because overall, it's a GREAT time. And while these conventions are fun, they tend to be NERVE WRACKING for me. Creative types can be intimidating. I would be so worried about whether I was good enough to be there. I would think about my hair and my clothes and my weight. Was I smart enough? Was I worldly enough? Was I successful enough? Was I artist enough? All my answers would normally be a quiet-as-a-mouse, "no."

But this weekend, I felt differently. This weekend, I walked into the room feeling as if I was every bit as good as those creative types who manage to make a living doing what they love. Just. As. GOOD. Different, but equal. And that was okay with me.

Each year that I attend, I offer to bring cupcakes for the meal that they serve on Saturday night. I love doing it, and was eager to get a chance to flex my baking muscles.

When I proudly presented my cupcakes to the group of people, most people were enthusiastic and offered many kind remarks about my baking abilities. It was nice to be appreciated and recognized. Who doesn't like a good pat on the back now and then?

A bit later, as a woman was standing in front of the cupcakes, trying to decide which one to take, another woman walked over to advise her. This cupcake authority blurted out, "Oh, don't take that 'breakfast for dinner' cupcake. It wasn't very good at all." She knew that I'd made those cupcakes, and still proceeded to explain that it didn't knock her socks off and that it wasn't worth the calories. I was a little taken aback at the comment, truth be told. But, I managed to grin wide and reply, "Well, that cupcake is a bit of an acquired taste." Thankfully, she walked away as quickly as she'd approached the table. 

In years past, I would have melted into a pile of depression on the floor in the face of such a criticism. I would have quickly left the room, had a good cry, and taken every single word to heart. 

But this year was different. This year, I truly let it roll right off my back. It was still rude and annoying, but I didn't care about her point of view. Perhaps it was because there were other people eating that exact same cupcake and raving about how delicious it was. Perhaps it was because she isn't exactly the most diplomatic person I've ever met. Either way, I didn't care. I DID NOT CARE.

At that very moment, I knew that I'd turned a corner. Will I always be able to brush things like that off? Probably not. But for once, I didn't give a shit what she thought about me or my cupcakes. For today, it just didn't matter. She was irrelevant to me, and that felt good. 

Way to go,me. Way. To. Go.