Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Wellness

I Believe I Can Fly

I was listening to NPR on my way to taiji on Saturday, and it was in the middle of a story by a guy named Jake who had interviewed his friend, Brian, about his (Brian’s) suicidal tendencies. I was dropped in the middle of the story, so I didn’t have all the background, but it was immediately gripping. Brian’s voice was flat, stripped of all affect. and I immediately recognized it as deeply depressed. I assumed it was recent, but soon found out that it was from 1999. That made more sense with some of what he was saying, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

It was fascinating to me because I think about death a lot, and even though suicide isn’t on the forefront of my mind that much these days, it’s still tucked away in a corner, ready to break its way out. I have never woken up and been glad to be alive. The best I can do is not be sad that I’m not dead. So, Jake’s interview with Brian after the latter tried to kill himself for the second time. Jake simply wanted to try and understand why Brian felt the way he did, so he lets Brian do most of the talking.

The thing that struck me is how rational Brian sounded in his explanation as to why suicide was the answer to his problem. The brain can justify anything, and his brain had honed its justification to perfection. When Jake asked him if he thought suicide was selfish*, he responded by saying that it was selfish in the way going to therapy was selfish. It was a way of solving a problem, he explained in a clinical voice. He wasn’t trying to convince himself or Jake that this was true; he actually believed it. He was convinced that his solution was no different that trying to work it out in therapy.

This is the insidiousness of depression. Listening to Brian, I could say, “What you’re saying doesn’t make sense. Suicide isn’t the same as therapy at all.” But, I understood where he was coming from. When I was deep in my depression, I was able to convince myself that I was toxic to the world and that it would be better off without me. It didn’t matter how many friends I had or what anyone said to me; I was convinced the world would be better off with me dead.


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Baby Steps and a Shimmy

fuck the heat.
I can’t go on. Tell Shadow I love him.

First of all, it’s hot as balls today, which means I’m even grumpier than usual. I’ve griped about the heat before, but it’s frustrating to try to make some people understand why I hate it so much. It’s not just me whining (though I do plenty of that); it’s not me being a delicate snowflake (though I’m that as well). It’s a physical impediment to me being able to do what I want/need to do. When I feel overheated, which is at about 70 degrees for me, I can feel the energy literally drain out of me. It’s akin to depression in that it makes it hard for me to move. My bestie and I used to have a running joke about the heat versus the cold. When we went out during the winter, she’d shiver and say, “Doesn’t the cold make your spine crunch?” I’d reply, “No, it makes me feel ALIVE!” When we went out in the summer, I’d say, “Doesn’t this heat drain you of your will to live?” She’d reply, “I love it! It energizes me!” She’s from Florida, and I’m a born and raised Minnesotan, so that might account for a large part of our different outlooks.

Last Saturday, I was in the co-op parking lot when it was 92 degrees out. I felt the energy drip out my body in a profusion of sweat, and I could barely force myself to go into the co-op. All I wanted to do was sit down where I was and cry. I found myself mentally snapping at everyone in the co-op for the stupidest things. I had to grit my teeth to stop myself from being a bitch, and by the time I got back in my car, I was in tears.

I hate having to defend myself, but I feel it’s necessary because it’s hard to constantly be judged (even if it’s not directly aimed at me) for being almost inert in the summer. It’s a weird disconnect to hear other people talking about how gorgeous the weather is when it’s eighty degrees out and wanting nothing more than to shoot a million ice arrows into the sun. My brain slows down when it’s hot, and that’s the worst part of all. The one thing I pride myself on is that I am a quick thinker. Anything that impedes my ability to think is on my shit list. Valerian is another. I took it once in desperation as a way to sleep, and it slowed my thinking so much, I wanted to kill myself. That’s not hyperbole, by the way. It was bad. Alcohol and drugs are also on the list.

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Different Day, Same Shit

Woke up today and the sun was shining, which means I’m a cranky bitch right now. Well, crankier than normal, which is pretty cranky to begin with. The face-eating aliens are back, and they are having a feast of it lately. An added bonus is that my knees are feeling sore and tender, and I’m blaming it on the weather as well because why the hell not? My head is pounding, and I have no motivation.

I’ve been going down the Gordon Ramsay rabbit hole on YouTube for the past several days, mostly watching clips of him eating horrible food prepared to him by deluded chefs. However, I’ve also watched clips of him cooking, and oh, baby. He could banger my mash any time. Here’s a video of him cooking 5 dishes for winter. I miss winter. *sigh*

Anger and Frustration in the Time of Sinusitis

One of the worst things about being sick is how much it narrows my world. All I can think about is being sick and how much I hate it. When I’m able to write or go to taiji classes, I feel emotionally better, if not physically, but it’s far too easy for me to just let it slide. I also get angry at myself for being sick, as if it’s a judgment on my morality.

I know it’s time for me to practice my mental taiji with a dash of Zen. I can only do so much to get better, and then, I have to just take it as it is. I still haven’t been to the doctor, and one reason is because I’m afraid that she’ll say it’s all in my head. It literally is, all in my head, I mean, but I’m afraid she won’t find anything wrong. It’s the same reason I refused to get on antidepressants for the longest time. What if they didn’t work? I considered them my last resort, and if they failed me, then what? What if I go to the doctor and she can’t find anything wrong with me? Then I’m fucked, and I get to feel terrible about myself for feeling like shit when there’s nothing apparently wrong with me.

To throw a wrench in the works, I have hypothyroidism, and my doctor has been adjusting my dosage. The last time I got checked, my levels were too high, so she decreased my dose. Now, however, I’m feeling so groggy, exhausted, and draggy all the time. I quite expected that my follow-up blood test would reveal she had lowered the dose too much, but my levels were still too high. I don’t know what I’d do if the same thing happened again.

I’m used to feeling tired and not motivated, but this is beyond even my level of tolerance. I want to sleep all the time, but I can’t sleep (another one of my ongoing issues. Sleep). I don’t want to do anything other than sit on the couch. It’s not depression–I know what that feels like. It’s just sheer physical exhaustion.

I know I need to go to the doctor, especially since she requested a second follow-up. I just have to make myself do it.

Here’s the latest Mazzy video. She cheers me up, and that’s a good thing.

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

dark wet cold damp.
Depression as dark as night.

A friend recently asked me how my depression was, and the question stumped me. It’s not something I talk about, and I didn’t know quite how to answer. I said something like, “It’s better than it was before. I’m sleeping more, but I’ll probably have to deal with it all my life.” This is technically accurate, but it’s not the whole truth. I don’t like talking about my depression because it’s boring as fuck–much like the bronchial/sinus shit I’m experiencing right now. Who the hell wants to hear, “I’m depressed. I can’t get off the couch. I want to die.” over and over and over again? I certainly don’t, and it’s how I feel a lot of the time.

It’s tricky because on the one hand, it’s absolutely true that I’m much better than I was twenty years ago. I can sleep more than four hours in one block, and I don’t have the death nightmares that used to pepper my dreams on a weekly basis. I don’t constantly see all the ways I can die as I move along in my daily life, and more importantly, I don’t have to continually fight myself not to ram  my car into a concrete lane divider or anything like that. I don’t spend days catatonic on the couch, curled up in a ball, wishing I had the courage to kill myself. I don’t hate myself or think that other people hate me, either.

These are all good things, of course. In fact, when I think of how far I’ve come, I’m amazed. I’ve done a lot of hard work, including three decades of therapy, medication, and taiji (and writing), but the depression has alleviated despite myself–not because of anything specific I’ve done. I say despite myself even though I’ve worked on it because the lifting of the depression has crept up on me inch by inch. Here’s the thing about being marinated in depression for all my life. It’s my life. It’s what I know. It’s all I’ve known. It’s my norm as oppressive as it is. I got used to it, and I didn’t notice as it changed little by little.

It’s a truism, but change usually isn’t a big bang. It’s a minute more of sleep a night, rather than an extra hour. It’s sleeping with only four interruptions rather than six or seven. And, because I have anxiety as well as depression, it’s not freaking out when I say something I perceive as stupid to a complete stranger, or only freaking out for a minute instead of the rest of the day. It’s making a mistake and not berating myself for an hour afterwards, but only for fifteen minutes.

Because the change is so minimal, I don’t notice it at the time. It’s only when I look back that I can see how different I am now than I was even five years ago. I give a lot of credit to taiji, and I’ve recounted the ways it’s helped me in past posts. I’m pleased with my progress. But, and I bet you knew a but was coming.

But.

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Try a Little Tenderness

One of the downsides to being sick is that I get depressed at the same time. It’s understandable, but it’s difficult to handle for someone (me) who has dealt with depression all her life. When I say depression, I don’t mean the blues or feeling a little down. I mean, “There’s no point. It’s all hopeless. I might as well be dead” feelings. The worst part for me is that it makes me not want to write, which is akin to death for me. My brain tells me, “Your writing is shit. No one cares what you have to say.” I read what I’ve written, and it’s horrid.* I’m hard on my writing in general, but I know I’m being extra-hard on myself.

I woke up this morning and thought, “I hate all my writing. I should just stop.” I actually considered quitting for several minutes, and then I stumbled across an article about Mr. Rogers on Facebook (h/t Krista Elliott) that made me feel better. The author, Anthony Breznican, recounts a terrible time in his life when he felt hopeless about his writing and life in general. He’s from Mr. Rogers’ hometown of Pittsburgh, and he (Breznican) caught an episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood on the television in the common room at his college. He watched the whole thing and felt better. Later. he ran into Mr. Rogers and poured his heart out to Mr. Rogers about how hard a time he was having and how watching one of Mr. Rogers’ episodes helped him. Mr. Rogers actually sat down with him and related his own story of grief (losing a grandfather for both of them), and said that it never went away, but the love was always there.

The story really resonated with me because of the writing aspect, and it was exactly what I needed to read at the moment. Writing is a lonely business especially for an intense introvert like me, and it’s hard to see the end of the tunnel when there’s no light along the way. It also reminded me that there is kindness in the world, which is hard to see when things are dark all around.

Breznican wrote this article in response to the Manchester bombings because the quote by Mr. Rogers about always look for the helpers was making the rounds, and he (Breznican) wanted people to know that Mr. Rogers was the kind and gentle soul he appeared to be.

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The Downside of Social Media

I’m a heavy user of social media, at least two of the venues–Twitter and Facebook. I get most of my news from Twitter, which is how I found out about the Manchester bombing this morning. (Tuesday morning). I read up on it, and it broke my heart. All those excited young girls going to the concert of their life (Ariana Grande), only to be terrified and traumatized, and many of them killed. At last count, 22 dead and 59 injured, and I have no doubt the numbers are going to rise. It was a suicide bombing by an Islamic fanatic, and we have to address the elephant in the room. I’ll get to that in a minute, though.

I check my social media right after I wake up, and I’m realizing that’s not the best thing to do for my mental health. I mean, I’ve known it for a while, but it’s really hitting home, especially since this administration has taken over. I’m already a pessimistic person with a negative view on life. The last thing I need is a steady diet of all the things wrong in the world the minute I wake up.

It’s a tricky thing because I believe you should be informed about current events in order to be a productive member of society. However, it doesn’t help to drown yourself in all the negative news, and I don’t know where that line is drawn. The problem for me is that I feel the news as if it’s happened personally to me, and while I’ve worked on erecting a wall between me and other people’s feelings so it’s not as bad as it used to be, I can still feel the pain as if it were my own.

This brings me to one of my pet peeves on social media–pictures/stories of abused children and animals. I know some people believe you have to make people see the ugliness in the world, but I don’t need to see it to feel it. I especially don’t need to see the same picture of a dead kid/animal over and over again on Twitter. It hurts me every time I see it until I eventually am numb, and I don’t think that’s the end result people are looking for. It’s the same as Sarah McLachlan’s SPCA commercials–they just make me feel shitty and helpless because I can’t save all the animals.

The brain isn’t designed to deal with repeated negativity that isn’t able to fixed. At least mine isn’t. It just makes me depressed and feel hopeless about the world in general. I know I have to curb my social media intake, and I’ve been doing it incrementally over the past year or so. We’ll see if I can keep on keeping on.

I’m tired. I’m grumpy. I’m still recovering from the crud. I’m sad. Here’s a Maru & Hana video.

(I remember what I said earlier, but I don’t feel like tackling it right now. Maybe in another post.)

Natural Vs. Man-made: The Tension Between

More information has come out about Chris Cornell’s death, which is now officially a suicide.  His wife revealed that in her conversation with him after the concert, he was slurring his words. She said he admitted to having taken too many Ativan, an anti-anxiety medication. Concerned, she asked his bodyguard to check in on him, but the hotel wouldn’t let the bodyguard into Cornell’s room. So, he kicked the door down and found Cornell unresponsive with a belt around his neck.

It’s a tragedy for so many reasons, but I want to focus on a comment I saw on Facebook after this news was revealed. The comment was, “This is why I don’t trust Big Pharma.” It was written by a friend of a FB friend, so I didn’t respond, but it made my hackles raise. There are many reasons not to trust Big Pharma, but this isn’t one of them. The side effects of Ativan are well-known, and it’s pretty basic knowledge not to exceed the recommended dosage without input from your doctor. I want to make it clear I am not saying Cornell deserved what happened because I fully understand wanting desperately to feel normal and grabbing at anything that will do that for you. Our society has become anxiety-producing on its own, and it’s swimming upstream to remain calm in chaotic surroundings. In addition, creative types usually are extra-sensitive to external stimuli, which is one reason they’re so susceptible to self-medicating.

My point is, there is only so much a doctor or anyone can do if the person is determined not to follow the instructions.  Drugs can work for people, but there are so many ways they can be misused. If someone is determined to take twice the dose, there’s nothing anyone can do about it. It’s the same with, say, seat belts. You can put them in the car, but you can’t force people to wear them.

My bigger point is that there is a swath of people who believe in being natural at all costs. They think society is too medicated, and they eschew any kind of pill to help what ails them. Now, there is more than a grain of truth to the idea that pills are not a whole solution, but only part of it, but they think any medication is of the devil. The same people eschew GMOs and many of them are part of the anti-vaxxer crowd. It’s an anathema to me because the same people are using cellphones and driving cars and are on the internet with impunity. I realize there’s a difference between technology you use and things you ingest, but it’s still the same science behind all of it. It’s weird to me to want to roll back time on certain things, but not others.

Back to meds. As someone who’s dealt with chronic and crippling depression all my life, it’s frustrating to hear people disparage antidepressants and saying anyone who uses them is weak. My other favorite, “It’s dealing with the symptoms and not the cause,” in a snobby, smug voice. I think part of the problem is that if you’ve never experienced deep depression, you cannot understand how pervasive it is. If something can alleviate it, just a little bit, you’ll sell your soul for it. It’s the same with anxiety which can be more immediately worse. In the middle of a panic attack, you will do anything to stop it. Yes, you’ll want to deal with the root of the problem, but that can take years if not decades. A temporary stop-gap while in the middle of the pain is a godsend. In addition, there are chemical reasons for depression and/or anxiety, and ain’t no shame in correcting that malfunction with better science. Here is a well-worn comparison, but if you broke your leg, you probably would go to the doctor to get a cast for it. You wouldn’t think, “Oh, it’ll just mend by itself if I drink enough hemp milk and eat enough quinoa.” No, you’d get a cast on that damn thing pretty damn quick. So why when you hear that someone’s brain chemistry is broken do you disparage them using something that will heal that break?

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Health and My State of Mind

I went to taiji for the first time in a week, and I was going to take it easy. Honest! I know that the worst thing to do when I’m sick is overdo it, but it’s easier said than done. “Don’t overdo it.” OK. The problem is, I don’t know what that is in the moment. Let me explain. I have the capacity to put off the pain/discomfort/exhaustion in the moment (to a certain extent. I have a very high pain threshold), but it’s not an end, only a means. I’ll feel it later, much to my chagrin. My teacher is very sensitive to my health issues and to making sure I don’t do more than I’m able. Her guide is, “If you break out in a sweat, stop.” The problem with that is that I sweat profusely at the drop of a hat, so it’s not always easy to discern what is illness-sweat and what is exertion-sweat.

In addition, my endorphins kick in whenever I’m out and about, plus, I tend to put on a happy (happier) face when I’m around other people, so I don’t appear as sick/tired/depressed as I am. I can laugh and chat brightly, then feel the hit later. Again, if I’m really sick, this goes away, but that has to be a very bad illness (as I had a month ago). I hate to say it, but I’m a complete bitch when I’m sick. I’m not proud of it, but I have to accept that’s how I am right now.

I can tell when I reach that point because my ability to can completely disappears. It happened a few days ago. I had to run to Cub to stock up on groceries, and my patience was already thin when I entered the store. Then, I had an interaction with an employee that stretched my patience to the limit until it snapped. I raised my voice at him (not yelled, but definitely put force behind it), and then immediately felt shitty for it. Yes, he was making things more difficult, but he was only trying to help. If I had been at optimal health, it would have irritated me, but I would have shrugged it off. That’s when I renewed my vow to not interact with people when I’m at my worst.

Anyway, back to taiji. We did some warm-ups and then the kick section of the second section of the Solo Form. It’s my favorite section of the form, and it’s fairly short. It’s a workout, though, because it’s filled with kicks (obvs). I like to joke that it’s my favorite section because it’s the hardest section, but that’s not far from wrong. My twelve years of dance lessons pays off in this section, and there’s something that just sings to me in this section. By the end of it, however, I was shaky. Taiji is deceptive in that it looks and feels easy to do. It’s slow and smooth with no obvious exertion. However, if you do it correctly, it is a real workout, and I was feeling it in my legs by the end of the kick section (which makes sense. The kick section works the legs really hard).

I stopped at the co-op on the way home, and my brain was in a fog. The cashier asked me what my cat’s name was (I bought cat food), and my mind went blank. Cat? What? When I realized what he was asking, I felt a momentary pang of sadness. Normally, my answer would be, “Raven and Shadow. They’re brothers, and black.” Instead, I said, “Shadow. He’s a black cat.” It turned out that he also had a black cat named Snowball. Which made me laugh.

My legs were trembling by the time I got home. I had my oranges which helped, but my legs still ached. I’m doing ginger honey lemon tea and chill today, and I’ll probably see the doctor soon  because I want to know what the hell this is. I also have to get my thyroid levels checked, anyway, so might as well do both.

Anyway. Enjoy the newest Mazzy video. She and a friend are making Earl Grey cookies. Yum!

Netflix and Chill Ferreals

Hey, y’all. Feeling better in general, but had a bit of a slide today. Dunno if it’s because I overdid it in taiji class yesterday or what, but I’m just gonna take it easy today. I cannot tell you how sick and tired I am of being sick and tired. I’m sure you’re as sick of reading about it as I am of experiencing it. I’m glad I’m feeling better in general, but it’s frustrating when I have a set-back.

My coughing is almost non-existent, but my effluvia is WAY up. I’m hoping it’s just my body adjusting to my new diet, but it might also be allergies. It could be the drastic change in weather–we went from 30s to high 60s in a day, but whatever it is, I’m tired of the effluvia* constantly running down the back of my throat.

I’m also really grumpy today for whatever reason. Probably best to stay off social media. Here’s a video of Baby Mazzy making nachos. She’s guaranteed to bring a smile to my face.

 

*Snot. It’s snot. Effluvia just sounds much classier.