Why, hello there! (READ: the blog is not dead.)

If you read this whole blog post, this map will make sense. I promise.

No, the blog isn’t dead.  It’s just been on ….. life support, I guess you could say these past several months.  I am so  sorry everyone.  Let me just catch  you up on what has gone on in my life, as succintly as I can, over the last (gulp) 10 months. Read more

Decisions, and other words that start with D

I started writing this post about a month or so ago. It’s funny how some blog posts seem to pour right out of me like a thunderstorm, and others are like so many of the storm clouds I see around where I’m living right now. They hang around and you think something’s going to happen, and you get excited thinking about it all day long (that is, if you like storms like I do), and then at the end of the day, nothing, nada, zip. Just a bunch of dark clouds.

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Dark clouds like this are common during monsoon season.

So… I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. About what I really value in life and what I think is wrong now and what can be fixed, etc.  I think for a bit there, I was fighting a relapse into depression.  I was avoiding going to see a doctor because I was worried the visit would cost me several hundred dollars since I have a $750 deductible with my insurance plan. I’d been rationing my prozac supply so it could last as long as possible. But the 20 mg is just not enough, I know that now. I was beginning to feel more like when I was first officially diagnosed, right after my husband and I split. It was not as severe, but it definitely didn’t feel right, or good. So I started taking 40 mg.

I also decided to go to a nurse practitioner, thinking the office visit would be less than seeing the doc in charge. I also asked for a new prescription for Wellbutrin. Using the two in combination worked for me in the past. I remembered how I used to feel confident about myself, and even happy.  It’s been a few weeks now since I’ve been on the 40 mg and the wellbutrin, and the combo seems to be working well. A few days ago, on a drive home from Flagstaff with a friend, I looked out the window at the nighttime landscape and remembered, “this is what it used to feel like. When I was confident and felt at peace about stuff.” It’s just that it’s different now. Now I’m living that part of my life I was only thinking about doing, then. 

If you’ve never experienced clinical depression, you might wonder how I knew. What were the warning signs? Well, I knew I was relapsing because I’d been starting to feel stressed about one item, and then my mind would let loose and start stressing about other things. It would start what I can only describe as a spiraling effect. Anti-depressants like Prozac help in that they help your mind to take a moment to say “wait, stop, think about what is really going here…think logically, not emotionally.”  The Wellbutrin works with another part of your brain, because sometimes Prozac, in helping you to calm down and think, can also make you feel kind of blah. (At least for some people.) So Wellbutrin helps to counteract that. You can feel more pleasure in your life. It’s not a happy pill, though. You still have to do the work on yourself. I was also finding that I wanted to just go to sleep at night, or I was having problems getting up in the morning. The idea of working out in the am just sounded exhausting. I didn’t see any point in doing anything.

So that is one decision I made. I acknowledged what was going on with me, inside, and decided to do something about it.

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I try to enjoy this view as much as possible. There is an overlook at my apt complex – that’s the southern end of Lake Powell below.

Debt. Well, yes, I have it again. A credit card balance. I did have two – I decided to take some money out of savings and pay off one of them – the one that was accruing interest. And that credit card has gone into the freezer. It is encased in a HUGE block of ice in a mason jar. The other card has a zero percent interest rate for 21 months, so now it’s time to chip away at it. I’ve also put a savings thermometer on my wall so I can track my progress. It’s posted right near the door so I see it everytime I leave for work.

Other decisions have not been so cut and dry and not so much set in stone. Yes, I know I want to leave this area by the time my lease is up, if not before. But as to where I’m going, thas been in flux. When I first started writing this post, I had decided, “that’s it, I’m moving back east.” I was so decided that I even posted about it on facebook. Because, you see, that’s how I hold myself accountable (usually.) I put it out there and then feel like I have to follow through with it. But here’s the thing. That’s the kind of thinking that got me into a lot of trouble with certain decisions in my life. The idea that because I had started law school, I had to finish it, no matter  how miserable it made me. The idea that I needed to stick it out in my marriage when I was so unhappy, because that’s what was expected of me, and what I expected of myself, because that’s what you do. You stick things out and make them work. 

I’m realizing now in life, though, that things don’t have to be set in stone. Decisions can be made and decisions can be changed. I don’t have to have everything always figured out and planned ahead of time.  And just because I decide to change up on things doesn’t mean I am a quitter or a failure. I don’t know why I have always been so hard on myself. I just have.

I’m realizing maybe the southwest isn’t so bad after all – maybe it’s just the location where I am now, or the fact that it’s such a small town and such an extremely different from where I spent so much of my life, that has made me feel like a fish out of water. I said to a friend recently, I feel like in this town, I’m just a visitor. I don’t feel like I really, and truly, belong here. So I’m going to try out other places in the southwest, even if it’s just with a few trips. I’m going to road trip to Albuquerque when the season is over (at least that’s the current plan) to check it out. It looks like a city where the cost of living is a lot less expensive, the food is amazing, the winters are a lot milder than back east, the city is surrounded by beautiful mountains, lots of running and hiking trails, there are universities and colleges (and therefore, more options for jobs should I go that route) and a lot of diversity. I know not everyone likes it there (Jen, are you reading this?!) but that doesn’t mean that I won’t.

I’ll be honest, folks. I am SICK and TIRED of living in expensive places where I spend so much time worrying and working to pay rent.  Yes, I know there will be shitty areas of town wherever I look, as there are shitty areas of town in any city in this country. As long as I can afford to not live in a horrible section, and feel safe when I sleep at night, I consider that a positive. In fact, I will look for the smallest place possible, because as you know, I don’t like a bunch of extra crap in my life. If I question getting something, I just ask myself, “Do I want to move this in the future?” That kind of question really helps you to prioritize possessions.

I’ve decided to get back into working out regularly. A friend and I individually used to work out 5-6 days per week, and neither one of us can stand how we feel. I’ve begun running again, and just the other day, bought myself some new Hoka One One Running Shoes (the Clayton model, to be exact.)  And I made sure I could afford them since I’ve worked so much overtime lately. I’m headed to the gym this morning to run on the treadmill a bit, and then do some weights. Tomorrow, I’ve been invited to go canyoneering which is exciting and terrifying at the same time since it involves rappeling and I do have a fear of heights. But I’ve pushed through that kind of fear before when I learned how to do top roping, and I remember the feeling of confidence it gave me afterward. I need to continue pushing myself out of my comfort zone. And I really do want to see other parts of this area where I live. It’s not safe to go hiking by yourself in the desert, which is why I’ve felt constrained and unhappy, not being able to do it before now. So, I’m glad to have the opportunity to do it tomorrow. If you see another blog post from me, you’ll know I’ve survived. 🙂

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I leave you with this pic of Max, one of the loves of my life. He’s a bit of a drama queen, as you can see from this photo. ❤

Anyway, again, sorry for the long delay in posts. I hope I haven’t worried some of you with my silence.

 

 

 

Something Just Hasn’t Been Right

I took this photo today on my walk on a trail close to town. At parts of the trail, it is super quiet and you feel miles away from everything.
I took this photo today on my walk on a trail close to town. At parts of the trail, it is super quiet and you feel miles away from everything.

I’m sure we have all had times in our lives when we have sensed that something just wasn’t right. We might not have been able to put our finger on it at first – maybe it was the look of a stranger that told us to not trust them, or an offhand comment. Maybe it was our gut telling us to not take a job but we ignored it and took the job anyway, only to find out that we were pretty miserable soon thereafter. I’m not saying that is the case with me, I’m just using those as examples. Read more

(Almost) off the Prozac

Image courtesy of Pixabay - sunshine helps everything seem better, doesn't it?
Image courtesy of Pixabay – sunshine helps everything seem better, doesn’t it?

I’m almost there, I’m down to just 1/2 of a tiny pill, and soon I will be down to no anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication! It’s been five years since I got through the day without them.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous to see how things go once my body adjusts to even the dosage that I am on right now. You see, Prozac has a very long half life, of about 5 weeks. What that means is that if I were to stop taking it altogether today, some semblance of it would be in my system for another five weeks. So, even though I have been only taking 10 mg this week, my body still thinks that it has at least 20 mg in it, or one full pill. Read more

My Relationship with Money

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com (public domain image)
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com (public domain image)

I have to admit, even thinking about this post’s topic makes me a little uncomfortable. So that tells me it’s something I need to face and to write to get some clarity for myself.

I’ve started listening to a lot of personal finance and simple living podcasts lately and one of them usually asks the guests what their relationship to money was, growing up. I definitely have an answer for that but it’s longer than just a one-word answer. Read more

Allow Me to Explain

For the longest time, this guy was v. Reminded me, it's ok to just sit and be still.
For the longest time, this guy was v. Reminded me, it’s ok to just sit and be still.

A good friend wrote to me after my last post and was worried I would be upset with his response to my last post – that he just finds it hard to picture me as being depressed. Far from being upset with him, I felt very touched by his words, and supported, and it just proved to me how far I’ve come. That’s also how I felt when reading people’s comments on my last post, either here on the blog or in messages sent to me. I think when you share parts of yourself, people know when you’re being real and when you’re not. I hope to be able to do that here on this blog as I wean myself off my anti-depressants. Btw, I take two – Wellbutrin and Prozac. I also take Prozac for anxiety, so that will be the second one I will try to go off of. I’m too scared to try both of them at the same time, and they do different things for you, anyway. So, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who reached out. It means a lot to me.

I currently take 60 mg of Prozac, which I understand is on the higher end. I used to take 80 mg but that dosage had the effect of making me feel very “blah.” I really didn’t care about much. Enter Wellbutrin, as we chopped the Prozac back to 60 mg. It took us a little while to get the dosage right, so I’ve been taking 100 mg of the extended release (or so I thought. I just looked at my prescription tonight and I think it’s actually Sustained Release, which I consider to be a positive.)

So here is what has happened to me in the past when I tried to stop taking Prozac. I was seeing a psychiatrist, who, while she was very smart, didn’t always have the best, shall we say, bedside manner? We tried cutting down my medication to 40 mg, and after a few days, I felt as depressed as I did before I started taking them. I was dating someone long distance then, and remember having a difficult time trying to describe to him how I felt. I was afraid I was going to go back to the person I was a few years before then, and of course wondered, would he still love me?

Sounds irrational, right? You see, this is how coming off of anti-depressants can feel to some. You can feel just as depressed as you were originally, if not more so. Your thoughts start to run together all in a jumble, and it’s very hard to put a stop to them. Everything I ever felt insecure about, well, it all came rushing in at me. When I tried to talk to the psychiatrist about how I was feeling, I remember her saying, in a very snappish sort of tone, “well, Prozac has a long shelf life so if you’re already feeling that way, then no, you’re not ready to come off of them!” I remember feeling like I was a failure. Yes, I was still damaged goods in my mind, I thought. I’m a weak person that can’t be happy without a little help of medication.

Earlier this year, I tried to cut down on my wellbutrin and asthma medication at the same time. I was and am worried about what these medications will cost when the time may come that I don’t have great health insurance. I called my pharmacy to ask what these would each cost if I didn’t have health insurance. Well, Wellbutrin was around $50/month, Prozac was about $15/month, and I forget how much Singulaire is, but I know it was steep. Great, I thought, just one more stress or monthly bill to worry about. So I tried. Unfortunately, I then caught a cold and if you’ve ever taken asthma medication or have been diagnosed, you know how quickly an innocent cold can go into your chest, and how hard it can then be to get rid of it.

Did I also mention that when I tried decreasing my medications, Boston was also have its worst winter, as in EVER?? And that I also suffer from SAD (you know, seasonal affective disorder which a lot of folks get in northern climates where we are always vitamin D deficient.)  Yep, not a smart time to try coming off of any mood-changing medications. I just didn’t like how I was feeling. And that made me feel, again, that there was something wrong about me, something was lacking, because I couldn’t seem to steer past these feelings.  Now, I do understand that if  you have had two or more depressive episodes in your  life, you are that much more likely to suffer a third, or that sometimes you stay on them as maintenance medication. So I gave in to thinking that, that they would be to me as high blood pressure medication is to others. And who knows, maybe I do need them as maintenance medication, but then again, maybe I’ve not tried hard enough in the past. Maybe I really wasn’t ready then, but am ready now.

I’ve been reading up a lot about what to expect as potential withdrawal symptoms, I found this article to be helpful in laying it all out there where coming off of Prozac is concerned. This article about coming off of Wellbutrin was also helpful.

Why do I think this time might be different, you ask? Well, it’s summer, and I always get a mood boost when the days are longer.  I’m starting to read a lot about how the foods you eat can really affect how you feel both inside and out. My diet is cleaner now than it was in the past, with no dairy or meat. I have these several weeks off for recovery from my surgery, and I know that part of that healing is physical but there’s also a mental component to it.  This gives me time to really get in tune with myself and my feelings, and I’m able to spend all day with my furballs, who always make me feel better. I’ve got the reservoir out back that I can go sit at when I need to think, or just be around people (one reason I’ve loved my evening walks lately.)

I thought about all of this a lot tonight as I sat on a bench at the reservoir and just watched the daytime slip away and darkness’ approach. I listened to the wind in the trees, and the water lapping up on the shore, with the occasional runner or walker passing by me. I felt more at peace than I have in a while. I know I’m NOT damaged goods anymore. I know I’m in a better place. I know that I’ve got dreams now and am not just sleepwalking my way through life. And I know I’ve got people who love and support me and care for me, both online and off. I know that some of you reading this may have gone through this before, or something similar and I know that some of you will understand. It’s ok if you don’t comment, as it just helps me to get these things out there. And I now know that some of what I might eventually feel is just my brain and body resetting itself. I know now that it will be temporary and not a statement about who I am, and will be, permanently.

Those of you who are runners will understand that it’s like when you’re a runner, and the weather suddenly starts to get disgustingly hot or humid and all of a sudden, your runs all turn to complete crap. You know it’s only temporary and that it’ll suck while you are slogging through it, but eventually your body and mind adjusts and you push through it. You know that eventually the cooler temps will return, and then you’re simply gonna FLY!

A complete stranger told me the other day (as I helped her get a baby turtle off the running path and to the safety of a rock near the water) that I had good energy around me. I choose to take that as a sign.

As always, thank you for reading and if this has helped you out, or you think it might help someone else, please feel free to share it. Thank you, and have a great start to the work week.

One of my favorite spots on earth.
One of my favorite spots on earth.

Yes, I Can (fight my way out of depression). No More A Victim.

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First off, I am finding this break to be such a  blessing. It’s allowing me to get more in touch with myself and find out why I let some things bother me and the ways I’ve coped with them in the past, vs. ways I can cope with them in the future. It’s allowing me time away from a job that, quite honestly, I was feeling really burnt out on. I was finding myself falling into negativity pretty easily, letting the thoughts of others sometimes overcome my own and shape the way I looked at some things. I I hadn’t taken time off in a long time because I’m trying to save up as much vacation time as possible for later this summer. Needless to say, I’m hoping my attitude changes when I go back.

Still not allowed to run yet, so this morning, I listened to the Rich Roll Podcast while doing my three loops around the reservoir (for a bit over 4.7 miles in total!) (By the way, I just saw a few minutes ago that he interviewed Gene Baur of Farm Sanctuary!) He now has a book out called the Plant Power Way, which I plan on reading. Eight years ago, he was overweight and didn’t have much motivation or enthusiasm for life. Now he’s an elite ultra runner and athlete. So much of his change is due to a change in attitude and also his diet. His podcasts tend to run a bit long but I found the one from this morning really, really inspiring.

I’ve been talking with a friend lately about how I would like to wean myself off of my antidepressants, but that a part of me is scared. I’m worried about the withdrawal symptoms that can come with that. How will I know what is a withdrawal or discontinuance symptom and what is not? I’m very happy with my life right now and how I feel about myself for the most part, so a small part of me questions, is that really the true new me, or is the meds creating that feeling of goodness?

Here’s what hit me this morning. I think I’ve been allowing myself to think about the whole weaning off of antidepressants, in a victim type of way. In the past when I’ve tried to do so, I’ve really paid close attention to any supposed “withdrawal/discontinuance symptoms.” Maybe too close. Who says I have to be one of those folks who suffers from them? Not everyone does. Maybe it’s literally mind over matter that I need to use. Isn’t all of it or a large portion of how you heal from any illness or medical (or otherwise) problem how you face it? With a positive attitude?  I mean, I was able to give up coffee cold turkey and I always felt like that was a drug that I absolutely needed.  I was able to change to vegetarian overnight. And I was able to, once I finally put my mind to it, turn vegan, pretty quickly as well. (I was able to come home one night and just get rid of all of my clothes that included wool without a second thought.)  So why not this, as well?  I definitely didn’t think I would be up to walking almost five miles at a pop after just two and a half weeks after major abdominal surgery! 

When I was walking this morning, this hit me like a lightning bolt. I found myself smiling at a lot of people (some were returned, others not), and i found myself feeling as excited as the day when I decided to go vegan. I’ll be honest, though, it’s excitement mixed with fear. But if there’s one thing I have learned over the past few years, it’s that I need to push myself beyond my comfort zone if I’m going to continue growing. If I just settle for what feels safe, I’ll look back at my life (much) later on and wonder where it all went. I’m not willing to do that. Not anymore. And that is totally within my power.

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