Here Comes the Sun

My Mental health NP tells me that I need sunlight. She wants me to get a UV lamp for my desk. She says about 10,000 Lux will work. Referencing a study done by the Mayo Clinic, she informs me of the benefits of Light Therapy—in connection with Seasonal Affected Disorder—of which she piles on top of my other diagnoses. She tells me how Light Therapy can help, how the side effects are low. How it’s about intensity, duration, and timing. I smile politely and assure her that I am getting enough sunlight. She asks how I can be sure of that this time of year? I interject, “My soul is filled with light, Suzan.” She writes me a script for more Klonopin.

Hang in there, y’all. The sun will be back shortly.

M.

Merry and Bright

Saw this cartoon today at the New Yorker and I felt it. Felt it with all my being. I’m sure some of you are feeling this too. I’ve had four days with my husband in two weeks, and it’s bothering me. It’s bothering us both. One whole day was spent at Jackson’s Robotics competition and one whole day was spent with me in deep sadness. Sleep until noon, sulking, sadness. Dejected. Apathetic. It’s Christmastime. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, damn it, why do I not feel wonderful?!

I go back and forth with depression. One minute I think it’s the most selfish thing in the world. The way I am, the way I treat my family, the space, and time, and energy I need to feel better. Then I’m reminded that this isn’t a choice. I’m not waking up everyday saying, “Let’s make today shitty, Missy!” On the contrary. I will myself to be positive. To stay upbeat. I drink a bunch of coffee to try to stave it off. I make a to-do list. I plan a walk or a coffee with a new friend. Then something trips me up. This month it’s been my husband’s damn work schedule. It’s been having him gone in the busiest two weeks of December. It’s been him missing activities he wouldn’t normally miss. It’s been watching my son’s heart be broken when daddy has to get on a plane again. And I know, I know, this is temporary. Shit, I know. It’s a mantra I created my damn self, in a hospital bed giving birth to a dead baby. It’s temporary. This is all temporary. But Jesus it doesn’t feel like it sometimes.

December is a tough month for a lot of people. Dare I say most people? How it got this whole “Most wonderful time of the year” tag has to be some good Hallmark marketing. I mean shit. Come on you guys. We do this to ourselves. The pressure of this month is something we created. And how on Earth can you feel wonderful when there are kids without shoes walking around? And how can we feel wonderful when there are mommies and babies without food in their bellies? How can we feel wonderful when Santa doesn’t make it to whole neighborhoods? Whole schools? Whole communities? The most wonderful time of the year. Hmpf.

As you can see I’m still in the pits. The storm is still raging. I’m trying to write my way through this one, so I won’t be offended if you haven’t stuck around. I get it. Believe me. You’re looking for funny, slice-of-life shit and I’m all, “Feline AIDS is the number one killer of cats…” womp, womp, womp. Believe me, I’m looking for joy too.

Cause that’s really how we combat this time of year. The grief that sets in. The crowded stores. The parties you don’t want to attend. The people you only see once a year, for a very distinct reason. We combat it by finding, and often times manufacturing, our own joy. Maybe that’s what’s so wonderful about this time of year? Maybe it’s that all this horrendous shit is still happening, but we can somehow hit pause for one day, maybe two if we’re lucky, and pretend it isn’t happening. Maybe it’s the feeling of standing on a mountain, right when the second big snow is coming, and no one is around, and the world is completely still, and the only thing you can hear is the tap of the snow falling on the frozen ground. Maybe it’s the peace you get from that. The calm from that. From something. Maybe.

Those of us with kids, kids who still have that Christmas magic in their heart, are the luckiest ones. We are still shaken awake at six a.m. on Christmas morning with anticipating faces. We still have to run down the stairs on very little sleep, stand in awe of what Santa has brought. We still unwrap gifts in a hurry, pounce around the living room in our pajamas, make wrapping paper forts and crawl under them. Laugh. Eat chocolate for breakfast. We find our merry and bright, even just for a few hours.

Those of us fortunate enough to not work for whole weeks at a time. Those of us who can sit with our families and put big, complicated puzzles together by the fireplace, or drink wine leisurely at five p.m. on the 23rd. Those of us packing up after Christmas and hitting the road. Vacationing to see friends or family. We are the ones who can hit pause. We are the ones who understand “happiest time of the year,” and sometimes when we are down in the pits, like I am now, with no real reason except that this happens sometimes, what is coming ahead is all we have to look forward to.

A friend said to me the other day that my feelings, my emotions, and my sadness right now are all valid. She said this after I was comparing my life to people who have it much worse off. We do that, don’t we? We go, “Well, it could be worse.” Sure it could. It could also be a lot better. And it will be one day soon. And on that day we will remember this one, and we will try not to take too much for granted. Until then, let others be merry and bright, our day is coming soon.

Take care of yourself, it’s only a little longer now.

M.

Writing Through It

I’ve been attempting to write my way through this bout of the blues. I’m feeling a teensy bit better today, but I think it’s because my husband has been home for three days. He leaves again tomorrow, and today is usually the worst day. The day before he travels. Because the day before he travels I try to smush in as much as I can. And that’s difficult on everyone. It’s difficult because we all know what I’m doing. And we all know why I’m doing it. And it makes it stressful. And to top it off my own anxiety is off the charts right now. Because depression doesn’t come without its host of friends.

The stress comes first. Always. The stacking up of things that I have to do. The mounting list of activities, parties, meetings, events. This month it’s Christmas cards, and gifts to those far away, the logistics of travel, the breaking it to the family that we won’t be there again, but hey, guess what, we’re traveling to see friends for New Years! People we want to see, are not compelled to see. That’s sits well, I’m sure. The dreams come fast and furious in those moments. The stress dreams. My mother yells at me in those dreams. My husband’s plane goes down in those dreams. Sometimes, in those dreams, I am a server and I am double, sometimes triple sat. And I’ve just been told we are out of hamburgers, or french fries, or beer. I have no pens in my apron. My hair is a mess. I burned my hand on a plate. The other servers call in. Yeah, I still have server dreams, 12 years after I served my last plate. Jesus, that’s when I know things are bad.

The stress leads to anxiety. Those plane crash dreams become part of my waking life. I check his arrival and departures times. I start to Google the plane he will be on. When was it last inspected by the FAA? How many passengers does it hold? I track his flights the whole time he’s in the air. I start to think that my actions are affecting his fate. If I flip out on someone driving down the highway today, then maybe that will upset the universe. Knock her off her tilt. Worse yet, what if all my anxiety and worry, my Googling of the plane, wills the crash to happen. What if I am responsible for my husband’s own plane crash? Yeah. This is real life, y’all. My real life.

I get crazy. And then the crazy turns to sadness because I am just so fucking tired of being crazy. I cry in the shower because why does this have to happen to me? I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do. I go to the therapist. I get my vitamins and my l-Methly Folate. I’m taking my meds the right way. But it doesn’t help. My brain is still off kilter. My brain still works in a different way than other people’s and it’s not fair. But Jesus I can’t go down that “It’s not fair” route, because if I do I won’t get out of bed today. So I press on. I just do so with my mind in a million different pieces, which makes it hard to fully invest in anything. That’s when I start knocking things off my list.

That friend that wants to meet for coffee. I text her and tell her I can’t. I don’t explain because she’s a new friend, and she can’t know yet what I’m like. If she knows, she will run. I postpone that meeting about that party I am planning. I tell a friend who wants to FaceTime that I have an event so I can get out of it. If I FaceTime this friend it might help me feel better, but at this point I don’t want to feel better. I don’t deserve to feel better. I have to ride this downward spiral down, all the way down now. I am committed.

Because at some point I go on auto-pilot. I’ve been in this spot a thousand times before. I watch sad documentaries and listen to Adele. I turn my phone off so I can say, “I didn’t see your email,” and really mean it. After I pick Jackson up from school, I tell him that I have a headache, and I lay on the couch with a blanket, and I let him play video games for three hours straight. At some point I realize I’m being pathetic, and I make it up to him by playing video games with him, or at least making him a grilled cheese sandwich. Then the next day it starts over again.

It’s tougher than I thought, trying to explain what happens in your head. Tougher because I don’t have the words to explain it better, and tougher because when I see it written out like this it does, actually sound crazy. I’m ashamed of what happens. How the wiring in my brain works. How one thing leads to another, even worse thing. But it’s my truth. Something I live with, and yes sometimes I get so upset by my life being this way. By the way my brain works, but I also know that I am not the only one with messed up wiring, and I know that many of us have lived in the shadows for too long. Assuming that we are too messed up to have a meaningful life. To be loved. To love others. So I’ll keep writing, if you’ll keep going. And together we will wait for the good days. The good weeks. The good months and years. And trust, there will be some.

Be kind to yourself today.

M.

The Funny Thing is…

Everyone liked Duke’s Christmas List post yesterday. And people loved my Thoughts in the Carline schtick from the other day and the Florida stuff. In fact, people still, to this day stop me and tell me how funny they think my Random Thoughts are, and we both laugh about how dumb I am. But what some of them don’t get is that when I’m at my funniest, when I’m full of that light-hearted banter, when I’m witty, or quick with a comeback, I’m at my darkest inside. And that’s why I’m writing funny right now, light and fluffy right now, because I’m in a serious case of the blues. And when shit gets serious, I hide behind humor. A lot of people do. Have you ever met a genuinely funny person who isn’t battling something? I haven’t. The absolute funniest people I have ever met, are all desperately trying to hide from something, and humor is their coping mechanism, and often times their shield.

The funny thing is, it didn’t occur to me that the blues was even here until I spent two mornings in a row writing silly stuff. Some of it I published on my blog, some I saved for a rainy day. Never mind that I’d been crying on the phone with my husband the night before. Never mind that my anxiety had me frozen with fear and I couldn’t sleep. Never mind the mood swings, the needing to be left alone, the Netflix binge of sad documentaries. Never mind, never mind, never mind. It was when I could only write stupid, light-hearted stuff, that I knew I was knee deep in a shit storm.

I texted a friend who happens to be in her own storm right now, and whom I desperately wish I could reach out and grab for just a minute, hold her close to me while our storms rage around us. I told her that I was writing funny stuff, and she asked what was wrong, and I vomitted all the things. Then I felt shitty for doing that to her when she’s going through what she’s going through. Jesus, why does this all have to be so hard all the time? Why can’t we go forward, forward, forward, instead of forward, forward, backward?

I can’t write serious stuff right now, unless it’s seriously about how I’m trying to combat this shit storm. I guess I’m writing my way through this because I honestly can’t write about other things I want to, need to be writing about. I can’t write about my childhood, because there’s something there, waiting to be discovered. I can’t write about the grief that kicks up ever time this year from the loss of a loved one. I can’t even write about the world right now, or finish that story about that place I lived, and how my mom had been there years before as a teenage girl. I can’t tell you about my sister sneaking me into a Bon Jovi concert. I can’t submit anything new for publication, because I can’t sit down long enough to write anything worth publishing, because if I do then I fall. Down, down, down, into a rabbit hole of darkness. Because it’s there, just sitting there. Waiting for me to write something, to say something, to trigger it in some way, and I’m trying desperately to hide from it. My shield is up. Way up. And I’m down.

I wish I was making you smile right now with some anecdote. I have them, I do. They’re laying dormant right now. I have so much to tell you really. But I think maybe today I’ve used up all my smiling potion, all my story-telling magic. I think I’m back to the sitting on the couch watching television until I forget what day it is. But tomorrow is a new day. And maybe it will be better. Surely it will be better. But if it’s not, that’s okay too. I’ll wake up from the fog one day soon. And you will too.

Take care of yourself, however that looks today.

M.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…

Seasonal depression! Sing it with me! Everywhere you go! You know what it is, it’s the lack of the GD sunshine. It’s the lack of the GD sunshine, and the lack of other people’s common sense. It’s a lack of boundaries from family members. It’s a lack of confidence. That feeling of not being able to keep up with the people around you. That feeling that no, I won’t spend $500 on my child for Christmas because spending $500 on a child for Christmas is nuts, but if I don’t spend $500 on my child for Christmas will other mommies judge me? Maybe. Probably. But you know what I like to wish I could say, “Fuck them!”

This is a stressful time of year, regardless of how you slice it. Slice it six ways, slice it eight, it all slices down to stress, anxiety, lack of boundaries and control, crappy weather, and usually feeling some sort of weight pressing down on you. Maybe it’s mounting credit card debt. Maybe it’s disappointing your family because you’re not coming home for the holidays, maybe it’s disappointing your children because they want more than you can give. But it’s always there, pressing down, down, down, until you feel like you can’t breathe.

Normally I’m already crazy by December 1st, but I gotta be honest, I’m not this year. I think there are two things at work here: 1. My new medication is AMAZING! I highly recommend it if you can swing it. It’s called Trintellix and it’s done a number on my reactionary nature. And 2. I’m easing into this mindset of gratitude. I’ve realized I have sort of always lived this way, the way of the grateful, mainly because I’m a big, empathic, nerd. And usually speaking, not always, but usually, being an empath brings with it gratitude. Because we see and feel the pain of others, and sometimes we clearly see that we are not in those shoes, even though sometimes we feel like we are. Here’s an example.

Last weekend Jackson and I ran to Kroger to pick up a couple of things. When we walked inside there was a man asking for money near the entrance. He had a sad story, sure, they usually do. And Jackson usually falls for it, hook, line, and sinker. He’s eleven. This man needed money to get home for the holidays. That was his story, and maybe it was true, but most likely it was not. Jackson was very upset when I told the man sorry, but I didn’t have cash. That part was true, but Jackson asked why I couldn’t get cash when I checked out. Oh this child of mine!

So I said maybe I’d get an extra $5 out for the guy. But Jackson said $5 wasn’t enough to get the man where he needed to go. I said I knew that, but I wasn’t going to pay for a airline ticket for this guy. Jackson thought on this as we strolled through the store. Later at checkout I got the $5 out and we walked outside to find him, but he was gone. Jackson suggested we keep the $5 in the glove box in case we run into him again, or someone else who might need the $5. Later that night Jackson ran down stairs upset about that man, but also very grateful. He recognized that we were also far away from what we consider to be “home” and that if we want to go “home” for the holidays we can. Sometimes we just choose not to. Because honestly #MyOwnBed, #StabilizingMyMentalHealth, and what not. See that empathetic nature giving way into gratitude.

So yeah, it’s a thing around here. The other thing that is helping me stave off seasonal depression is regular therapy. Which by the way Patsy says I need to give myself some credit. That’s it’s not just therapy and medication, but I’m working hard too. But I’m not ready to credit myself for anything. It’s a slow process.

So what am I saying here, y’all? Christ Missy, what are you ever saying besides a bunch of nonsensical nonsense like you live in damn Whoville! I mean, isn’t the Grinch just plagued by SAD? I know. I know. I think what I’m saying is maybe this holiday season you should say, “Fuck it!” I dunno, it sometimes works. If that’s not your thing then maybe try gratitude? Nah, can’t do it? I get it, how about this. How about you ship your family members to Alberta, and you take your happy-ass down to Aruba? That’s always been a dream of mine, a tropical christmas. I mean, the sunshine might just do you good!

Whatever you do, wherever you are, just remember that you’re not alone. There are people out there struggling like you are. Most people in fact. We all might struggle in different ways, but this season brings struggles. So don’t feel all alone. And be kind to everyone you meet.

M.

On Being Extra

I struggle with my weight. I always have. The first time I can remember thinking that I was fat was when I was nearly four years old. I was at K-Mart with my mom and she was thumbing though the sales rack of the children’s section, and I was hiding in between the circular display. I did this a lot as a kid. In fact, most of the memories I have of shopping with my mother involve her frantically looking for me, after I had wedged myself inside a self-made shelter of some kind. Clothing display racks, toilet paper piles, I even once hid for an entire shopping trip in the bottom of the cart under an empty box. I’m sure my therapist has some stuff to say about that, but let’s save that for another day.

So there I was, inside the actual rack of clothes, standing completely still, watching my mother’s feet go around and around the rack, when I heard a familiar voice approach. It was a woman who my mother knew. Not so much a friend, more like a friend of a friend. I knew her enough to recognize her voice, but still couldn’t remember her name. They exchanged pleasantries, then my mom remarked that she was looking for some new summer clothes for me. The woman offered to help and started thumbing through the rack too. A couple moments passed and she held up an outfit. This was the 80s, mind you, and outfits at K-Mart in the 80s came in two pieces. Shirts with matching shorts. How about this one, the woman asked my mother. My mother told the woman that it was too small. She went on to tell the woman that I was a size 6X. This was the first time that I heard a letter associated with a size of clothing. The woman gasped. She’s not even in preschool yet, right? The woman wondered aloud. Right, my mom said. She’s four this September. Then my mother politely excused herself and called for me. I emerged from my cocoon of clothes and the woman looked very surprised, but she smiled and waved us goodbye. That night I asked my much older, much cooler sister what the X meant in 6X. She said it meant “extra large,” and thus began my journey into being extra.

The thing is, I wasn’t always an extra large, but even when I wasn’t I still felt like it. In elementary school, for example, fifth grade, I was well into adult sizes, but not anywhere near extra large. Middle school, I was still clocking in at a medium or large. But compared to the other girls I was always Extra. Always. Even in high school, on the track team, working out five to seven days a week, limiting my calories, I was still an extra large compared to the other girls. Everything about me was just bigger. Except of course, my confidence.

By college, however, I was definitely into extra. A few years later, double extra. And now, here at this moment, the absolute most extra I have ever been, having just come off whacked-out hormones from a hysterectomy, pills that made me pack on the pounds, and a killer case of the blues. Extra, extra, extra.

I’m fat. I don’t try to hide it, how can I? It’s not like a mental illness that you can cover up with alcohol or self-sabotage. It’s a physical condition. I don’t need to tell people I’m fat, they meet me and can see it for themselves. What really chaps my ass though, is when people assume I like being fat, or that I am not actively trying. I’m trying. I’m always trying. And please don’t mistake me for one of those fat girls who feels good in her skin, because I am not. I LOVE Lizzo, I think she’s incredible and beautiful, but I don’t have her confidence. I don’t have her ability to feel comfortable at the weight I am at. I don’t have other talents that take the pressure off my appearence. I’m just a normal girl, in a normal fat-shaming world, trying to get by. (But I’m super grateful for the big girls out there shaping the way we talk about ourselves and see ourselves as women, because some days I really need it!) It’s just that I have always been extra large, and well, you do get used to it.

This isn’t a diatribe. This isn’t a “feel sorry for me post,” I don’t write those. Nor is this a “light a fire under my ass and start eating healthy” post. I eat healthy. That’s the thing. I have a kid, a kid who is genetically predisposed to being extra, so I work really hard to make sure he is not, and that includes leading by example. But something isn’t right in my body, it hasn’t been for many moons now, particularly after pregnancy, and trauma, and I’m working to get that worked out. It’s just a process, a really long, daunting process.

And the thing is, this isn’t a “fewer calories in, more calories out” fix. Believe me, I’ve tried that. This is deeper than “Keto” or a “30-day cleanse”, as it is for most of us who were always extra. It’s a process. You don’t got from the little girl who hides in clothing racks because she is afraid of people, to suddenly grown up one day and not having any issues. That’s not a thing. My mental health affects my physical health. That is true for all of us. And it can take decades to rectify.

I’m just here to say, don’t quit trying. That’s all. I see you. You are not lazy. You are educated on what you are putting into your body. You are trying to get your mental health under control. You are trying to figure out what makes you tic. How your hormones work. What insulin resistance looks like. How past trauma is holding you back. I see you, and I think you are doing a great job.

As for the little three year old who wore a 6X, she’s okay. She will be okay. One foot in front of the other.

❤️

M.

Postpartum

I watched that video of Meghan Markle today. You know that one where the reporter asks her if she is okay, and she basically says no, that she isn’t okay, that she hasn’t been okay, and then she thanks him for even asking her. Did you see it? If not, Google it. Because as soon as I saw it I wanted to cry. Not because I feel sorry for this very rich, very powerful member of the Royal Family (although, yeah I do), but because all I could think was, “I’ve been there, sister. And it sucks.” I’ve been there, when you feel like you’re at the bottom, and anyone, a relative stranger, asks if you are okay and you realize, shit, no. No, I’m not okay. And you realize it, and they realize it, and the whole thing just feels bad.

I was there, not with a reporter, but I was there. With my hair stuck up in a bun, dried breast milk on my shirt, jamming boxes of diapers and wipes onto the conveyer belt at Target. I was there, in my sweat pants, and my oversized shirts. In my sneakers. No make-up. I wasn’t in heels, thankfully I didn’t need to be. I wasn’t in a white dress three weeks after giving birth, thankfully, because the whole world wasn’t watching me. Thankfully. Thankfully the whole world didn’t criticize my clothing, or the way I held my son, or the way I looked “too emotional” one day, or “not emotional enough” the next. I can’t imagine, if I’m being honest, what that would have felt like. What that could feel like in those days after having a newborn. After becoming a mommy for the first time. I’m not sure I would have been strong enough to make it out the other side.

I’m just feeling sad today, y’all. Sad and a little angry that we do this to women like Meghan. That we do this to women. That we do this to each other. We all know. Every, single mother knows the pain, the guilt, the hormones, the emotions. Every mother knows. Every person who has loved a new mother knows. Every partner, or sister, or grandmother, or best friend has picked up on the feelings and the stress that comes with being a new mommy. So why do we continue to act like it isn’t a struggle everyday? Why do we judge each other so harshly? I’m just really tired of it, y’all. So very tired of it.

I’m not there anymore. I’m not hiding in my bathroom, listening to my son cry it out in his crib, while my dog paws at the door. I’m not counting down the hours until my husband comes home so I can pass off the baby for some sleep, or a shower, or a rerun of a funny show to take my mind away from where it had been. I’m not there anymore, but so many women are, and we just can’t forget that.

Be kind. I think that’s what I’m asking today. Be kind to the Meghan Markles of the world. Be kind to the Missys of the world. To all the mommies. The ones with newborns, the ones with toddlers, the ones with teens, the ones with 40-year-olds. Check on your friends and be kind. And for the love of all that is holy, leave Meghan Markle alone. She’s just trying to figure it all out.

M.

Mental Healthcare

In the saga that is my mental health and working with my health insurance, I have some good news to report: My insurance company approved my new anti-depressant, and they paid the copay for the new medicine (because there is no generic version of this particular pill yet) and they approved and paid for my DNA swab test to see which medicines work best for me (in the tune of $5,000, which they negotiated down to $1000, $100 of which I’m responsible for.) So, they paid for most of this. Which leads me to questioning this absurd system we have.

I reside snuggly in the middle-class. In fact, by some accounts I’m considered “upper middle class” which boggles my damn mind. Like, what?! We are a one-income family, with the majority of our health insurance premiums covered by my husband’s company. We pay premiums, and they are too expensive if you ask me, still, when we get sick and go to the doctor our co-pay is rarely over $30, that includes my mental health co-pay. I see my therapist two times a month, and my mental health nurse practitioner once a month. Which means I’m spending $90 a month just to “see” people. Still, I feel like I can’t complain, because some people who desperately need to have the sort of help I get, simply can’t afford it or they don’t have access to it. See Veterans and the working class.

Enter my new pill: Trintellix. It’s a revamp of an older pill, and has yet to be made available through a generic prescription. I won’t pretend to know why that is, but my suspicion leads me to think that they like to milk the market dry before they “invent” an alternative. But that’s not the point. The point is that I received a letter from my insurance company telling me that I’d been approved for a one-month supply and they had graciously picked up the $500 price tag for the new pill. I was excited, because I’ve been on samples for three weeks now and they seem to be working well. So I went to the pharmacy to have them fill it. That’s when they told me I still owed $80 out of pocket. Ho hum.

But wait! There’s more! The pharmacist told me that I could use this little card that the doctor gave me and it “might” save me more. So I sat on the phone at the CVS in Target (you didn’t think I get my prescriptions filled anywhere else, did you?) and finagled this card thing with these lovely people at Trintellix. All in all it wasn’t too hard, and they really were nice and helpful, even after I’d put my birthday in wrong and had to call back. But that isn’t the point either.

Ahhhh. I’m tired by now right? This has been a one month ordeal. Waiting on four different groups of people (therapist, insurance, CVS, Trintellix) to work together to get me these damn pills. Meanwhile, I’m running out of samples. Meanwhile, I’ve weaned off my Lexapro. Meanwhile, meanwhile, meanwhile.

This is a small, very small snippet of the healthcare racket that we have here in this country. Very small. Now I won’t completely downgrade it, because it is mental health and mental health is very important, but I can’t imagine what people with diseases like cancer or AIDS or persistent heart problems go through. It’s got to be nuts. Meanwhile, we want to talk a mad game about mental healthcare, and making it affordable and easy to get, but then we get jacked around like this. I’m persistent. And I know my rights. And I don’t care if something costs $20,000, I’m going to ask my insurance to pay for it, but some people aren’t like me. They won’t self-advocate. And then what?

All I’m saying is, I think the cost, the hassle, the stigma, and the accessibility are totally screwing people who need good, quality mental health care. Who need answers. Who just want to know there is help out there. There are people who don’t have insurance and still need mental health care. There are people who have insurance, but can’t afford the co-pay to get mental health care. And that’s just one aspect of their overall health. We have to change things, y’all. We have to.

Anyway, thanks for reading my story today. Thanks for supporting those of us with mental health issues. Thanks for talking about it, accepting it, helping us when you can. It’s really important that we have people in our lives who care and who listen. Because for some, they aren’t getting it anywhere else.

Take care of yourself first. Then others.

M.

Crying in Bed

I’ve been in a funk. Maybe a “I got to see my friends and now I’m sad cause I miss them” funk. Or maybe a “I have no idea what is happening in our house over the next six months and I’m stressed” funk. Or, it could be just a classic case of the “I started new medicine and my old medicine is leaving my body and the new one is kicking in and it’s making me crazy” funk. I’m betting on a combo funk this time around, either way, I’m lying in my bed, a half hour before I’m due to get Jackson from school, crying a little, and trying to brighten other people’s days with funny memes and pics of me being a fool. I think it’s working for them. I hope it works for me.

I tend to do this. I tend to “reach out” by actually reaching out and dropping a funny note or a ridiculous picture. Then of course if they want to talk I close up shop, like nah, I’m good. I’m starting to understand this about me. Starting to discover why I do the little things I do. I figure if I’m having a down day, one of my friends is bound to be having one too, so I check on them, ignoring the fact that I’m in bed at 1:30 pm. That I haven’t been able to write in five days. That I’m taking offense to the most bizarre shit and crying because why won’t someone #ImpeachThatMotherFucker already?!

I guess this is my check in with you guys. I’m alive. I’m eating, of course I’m eating. I’m still walking (I just usually forget my Apple Watch so I don’t know how much), and I’m working on things. Always working on things. Tomorrow is therapy. Tomorrow will be better.

Stay happy and safe out there, y’all. And take a day if you need to.

M.

Check Ya MTHFR Genes, Y’all

A couple of weeks ago I did this weird thing in my Psychiatrist’s office. I know, I know, I do weird shit all the time, but this wasn’t my idea, this was hers. First, let me say that I know I talk about therapy a lot with you guys, but I think it is so important to have an open and honest conversation about mental health, and for me, regular therapy and medication are just what the doctor ordered. So thanks for reading and talking about it with me. It really helps. But I also know that regular therapy and medication are not the best case scenario for everyone. So as always, you do your thang, and I’ll do mine. Cool? Cool.

Alright, let’s get back on track. I have a therapist (y’all know about her, I told you about her here: https://missygoodnight.com/2019/08/13/dig-dig-climax/), but I also have a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. This is because the particular place that I first found here in Georgia was not accepting adult patients for the psychiatrist at the time I started. She is now, but I’m like six months in with my therapist, and I LOVE her, buuuuut she’s a therapist so she can’t dispense drugs. That’s where the Psychiatric NP comes in. All caught now? Yes, good.

A couple of weeks ago my NP, ohhh, let’s call her Susie Q, Susie Q was going over my charts and we were discussing new medication. She had already switched my anti-anxiety meds a few months back and of course I blogged about that here: https://missygoodnight.com/2019/07/02/backstreets-back-alright/. Duh. But then she wanted to move on to updating my anti-depression medication. I suffer from a small host of mental illnesses, but most prominently: Generalized Anxiety and Chronic Depression. I was game because I have been on Lexapro for years and it is starting to not work so well, besides the more obvious things like inability to lose weight and a dwindling libido. Both common side effects of most antidepressants. This new class of antidepressants coming out now are supposed to be much better, with less side effects because science. #TheMoreYouKnow #Rainbows

Normally the process of finding the right medication for you is trial and error, and boy have I done some of that. In fact, I’ve done a decade worth of it at this point, so Susie Q was all, “Ohh, let’s swab you!” Then she jumped out of her chair, literally, and ran back a few minutes later with two long swabs (the kind they check for strep throat with) and a FedEx envelope.

Let me stop there. Susie Q is a very nice person, but she real cray. Like I think this is one of those instances where she studied a field she was familiar with because she too suffers from a host of mental illnesses, one of which has got to be ADD. Has. To. Be. Anyhoo, she got herself composed again and explained the swab test.

“Apparently” (and I am using quotes here to show my pure suspicion about this whole thing) “apparently” by swabbing the inside of my mouth with these two giant Q-tips and sending the samples to a lab somewhere in a corn field in Iowa, Susie Q could tell me a whole bunch about my mental health that I did not know. Yeah. She said this to me. And she was very excited about it too. Like, bouncing in her seat excited. She said this would make it so much easier to get me a drug that actually worked for me. I asked if my insurance would pay for it, she shrugged a “probably” and that was good enough for me.

Listen, I have tried A LOT of drugs. Been through many years of self-medication, and have yet to find the “magic” one. Do I think the “magic” one exists? No. But at this point I just want to have one that does more good than bad, so I was game, albeit suspicious.

So I waited a couple of weeks and went back. My insurance did in fact pay for it, which is great because these Iowa people billed my insurance like $5,000 for the two swabs. I swear to the Lord Baby Jesus our healthcare system is straight jacked up and… no. That is another post. Anyway, when I sat down in front of Susie Q again she was bouncing out of her damn seat talking bout, “I think this will work! Ohhh, I think this new medicine will work!” Christ on an antidepressant cross, I sure hope it does, cause she really has to stop bouncing so much in my presence.

So that’s that. I’m on a new medication, one that has significantly less side effects than my old one, and one that “apparently” works with my genomic DNA and my T allele of the C677T polymorphism in the MTHFR gene (which I can only assume is short for Motherfucker), not to mention my “significantly reduced” folic acid conversion (I have to take LMethyl Folate everyday now too because Susie Q was “astounded” at my lack of folic acid conversion.) I wish she had done a better job of explaining all this so I could tell you all, but… crickets. Bouncing crickets.

Get your motherfucker genes swabbed you guys. Get your motherfucker genes swabbed sooner rather than later…

M.

Pulling Weeds

There’s something so satisfying about pulling weeds from the garden, or the flower bed, or from in between the cracks of cement, the places weeds like, but are always unwanted. I reach my hand down, deep down into the dirt and I grab a handful of the green, prickly leaves and I spin them all up in my hand together. Then with a twist and a flick of the wrist the roots spring up. If they are a particularly difficult weed, they may take a tug or two, but when they finally break, and if you listen close enough, you can hear a little popping sound when the root releases. I love that sound. I love the feeling of accomplishment, the way you are left with a clear, new space to see what you actually want to see, need to see. It’s the beginning of a clearing up of sorts. It’s the same way I feel after coming out of the fog of depression.

It’s never the same, this popping, clearing, new beginning. It’s always dependent on what I’ve been sad about, what time of the year it is, how my medicine has held up, how my therapist has held up, how my support system has held me up. It’s never the same, but it’s always sort of the same.

This time, for instance, I have wanted to spend all my time working on art projects, cleaning up old, rusty treasure I find at thrift stores. This time I have taken myself into the art of turning trash into treasure and it has helped immensely. Last time, though, it was just binge-watching Netflix shows about women in prison. It’s a system, trust me. This time I have been coming in, and going back out again. In and out, in and out. The fog lifts for a few days, then pulls me back in. It’s been the world that has done it to me this time. And the time of the year.

But today I was picking weeds. Pulling them up by their leaves, listening for the pop, waiting for the clearing. Today I felt the sun on my shoulders and the warm winds of late summer on my back. Today I felt rested and happy, so things were different. But tomorrow, who knows. Or the day after that. Or the day after that…

I’ve started looking out at to the garden more, thinking about my life. My roots, my dirt, my blooming flowers, and my even larger blooming weeds. I can’t help but take stock on some days. How grateful I am for what I have! How grateful and full I feel sometimes. But only sometimes.

I know there is a chemical off in my brain. I know there are reasons that I think how I do, and act how I do. I know there is something that triggers for me, the good days, the bad days, the big, wonderful days, and I am working on getting them all right. All aligned for the better. But even on those days, when I’m picking weeds just to hear the pop, I know there will be a day coming down the line where I will want to plant more flowers, move about in the world with others, and love myself a little more. Here’s to more of those days, friends.

As always, take care of others, but also take care of yourself.

M.

August

August always catches me by surprise. It’s a busy month. It’s my husband’s birthday month. Then some last-minute fun before back-to-school. Then back-to-school, which always comes with some sort of challenge. New school, not the teacher we wanted, refusal to change underwear on the first day, you know, normal boy stuff. Then once we get into the swing of things, I finally feel a routine coming back. I have time to write again, I have time to breath again, then BAM! It hits me. This profound sadness. And it’s always around the middle of the month. And it always confuses me, like what the actual hell Missy?! Why are you sad, so much is going well right now. Then, at three am, during a night I’ve been unable to fall asleep, it hits me. It’s August again.

August 2011, was the worst month of my life. I remember back to my husband’s 29th birthday. Back to the weeks that followed. Back to the test results and the nights in the hospital. I start to remember my daughter. I start to subconsciously say her name. I talk more about her without even realizing. Jackson starts to ask questions, play what-ifs. Mommy, do you think Lydia would like cars like I do? I assure him that she would. I assure him that being her big brother he would have been able to teach her all about cars, and trucks, and technology. They would have been able to play soccer and basketball together. He could have taught her how to swim, and cheered her on at her swim meets. They could have secrets and inside jokes, certainly be each other’s best friend. He smiles, tells me that he doesn’t mind being an only child, but that sometimes it would be nice to have her around.

I lose sight of all the good I have in my life during the month of August. I have more bad days than good ones. And every year I wait for these feelings not to come. I hope they won’t. I push them back down, thinking certainly this year it won’t hurt so much. Certainly this year I will get a break from these emotions. But I’m wrong. They come back. And even though I am surprised when they come, and upset with myself, I am learning how to show myself a little more grace. To not beat myself up for having a bad day here or there. It’s just work. I’m always working on it.

Grieving takes time, I know this. And here I am at year eight, and I am waiting for a time for the grieving to stop. And what scares me, what really gets to me, is the idea that it may never stop. That this is my life now. That every August this profound sadness will creep up into my chest. And I will cough and cough trying to rid myself of it, but I won’t be able to. It will just be something I will have to live with. Forever. I think that is what makes me the most sad now. I think I have properly dealt with the feelings of loss. The actual pain that losing my baby caused me. But I think too, that this feeling of lingering sadness will never be dealt with. Will never go away.

That’s a dramatic, albeit true thought that I live with. That it isn’t the loss of my daughter that I will eventually succumb to, rather the grief that surfaces every, single, year. Month. Week. Day. The grief that won’t allow me to breathe. The grief that won’t allow me to move on. If there is anything to move on to.

I have nothing new to say today. Just to love those who you love. Love those who need love. Love those you know, those you don’t. Spread the love and light out in the world today. For people like me, who can’t muster it. For people like Lydia who will never feel it. For people who will never feel whole again. Because it does make a difference.

M.

Grief

I’m in my bed at half past midnight thinking about grief. I’m not just thinking about grief, I’m trying to somehow quantify it. I’m comparing my grief to other’s. I’m trying, in the strictest sense, to make myself feel bad for grieving. To make myself believe that my grief is silly. My grief doesn’t count. I know this does more harm than good. I know grieving is a process. A journey. With steep mountains and robust valleys. I know you take a couple steps, then you stumble. I know you can stand there, on the side of that mountain for a long time. I know you can wonder, and wish, and hope for an answer. For something to keep you from walking over the edge. I know that grief makes you do crazy things and think crazy thoughts. I know grief can wreck you from the bottom up. From the inside out. But here I am, standing on that mountain, wondering what it would feel like to take the step off. I’ll fall back to sleep soon. I’ll fall back to sleep, then tomorrow I will be okay. Sometimes it’s just the darkness that gets to me. I’m learning. I’m coping. I hope you are okay, friends. I’m wishing you reprieve from the darkness. Your grief is real.

Give yourself time.

Give yourself grace.

Tomorrow is a new day.

M.

Backstreet’s Back, Alright!

When I moved to Atlanta in April I decided to go back to regular therapy. Therapy and I go way back, like the epic battle between Backstreet Boys and N’Sync, we’ve had our beef. The first time I remember going to a therapist I was sixteen. I had been pretty sad and started to skip school in lieu of sleeping all day. My mom was nervous so she took me to a therapist. As I was waiting in the reception area I was reading over a pamphlet that asked: Do You Suffer from Depression? It was a quick little quiz that promised to diagnose a mental health problem if you answered five questions: Are you tired a lot? Do you feel hopeless? Do you have trouble concentrating? Are you irritable or annoyed? Do you suffer from low self-esteem? Looking back now I would say this was just a list of normal teenager behavior, but when I looked at that list I was like, Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! And for the first time ever I had a name to go with how I felt. And it made me feel worse.

The therapist ended up being a real whack-job, and she kept trying to get me to admit to being sexually assaulted or beaten as a child. so I went a couple more times and then quit. Then in my early twenties I went again to a therapist a couple of times, then quit. Then at 27 I had my first child and fell into the biggest bout of depression I had ever experienced. Postpartum Depression is a real fucking horror, y’all. It is nothing to sneeze at. At that time I didn’t have the stamina or the willingness to go to a therapist, but my primary care physician put me on anti-depressants after my six-week postpartum check-up because she could see that I was struggling, and that is when my life changed.

There was always a stigma with pills in my family. I would overhear my mom talk to people about how she was sad or irritable or couldn’t sleep, but pills were never the answer. You just had to pull up your bootstraps and keep on keeping on. But honestly, if my doctor had not recognized what I was going through when I was going through it, things might have ended differently for my baby or for me. I had a total loss of control during those early days. Not to mention a colicky baby and a husband who was just as green as I was. It was touch and go for awhile, but the pills helped me so much, that only six weeks into my antidepressants (which was Wellbutrin, and they are totally kick-ass), I decided that if I had to take a pill everyday for the rest of my life to feel better, I would. And I do. Well, now I take two, and this is only after ten years of trial and error.

Look it, I’ve been on Wellbutrin (awesome-sauce, but it made my blood pressure skyrocket), Prozac (the magic pill for more reasons than one, but it gave me horrible migraines after three years), Buspar (this is an anti-psychotic that they paired with Prozac to help with anxiety after I lost my daughter and now it’s on all my charts as a no-go because it made me suicidal), Celexa (good stuff, but plummeted my libido), Zoloft (made me feel no emotions, like zero emotion, all the time, weird stuff), Lexapro (Celexa’s sister, but the one I am currently on because I finally decided I could deal with the libido and the inability to lose weight like a normal fucking person as long as I have a pill that makes me not sad about those two things very often) there has to be some give and take. Then there are the other pills.

The first time I took a Xanax was the night I was released from the hospital after giving birth to my dead daughter. Yeah, that sounds harsh. Because it was fucking harsh. I was given a prescription for Xanax before I left the hospital and my husband drove to Target to get it filled before we went home just in case, even though I told him there is no way in hell I’d be taking that kind of pill. Stigma, remember? Well, I took that kind of pill (which happens to be a pill in the benzodiazepine class. It also happens to be highly addictive and is a way that a many of lonely housewives made it through the 70s, apparently, Valium is in that class) and I was able to sleep that first night. For a few hours anyway. Until I woke up screaming that I was a baby-murderer and had to take another one. That was eight years ago and I still, to this day, keep a bottle of Xanax next to my bed. I am on the lowest dose possible, and I routinely break it in half. I am prescribed 30 of them to last me for three months and I have never run out of them. Why? Because at this point they are more of a crutch than anything else. Just knowing I have them when a panic attack threatens is good enough for me. But things are changing now.

This new town, new me has me thinking differently. For the first time in two years I am with a therapist on the reg. She is a licensed therapist, so she can’t prescribe drugs, but I still wanted to take the burden off of my PCP, so my therapist told that I could use her offices’ Mental Health Nurse Practitioner for all my mental health medication needs. It was interesting, and a little weird at first, but after our first visit I felt confident that she gets it. Don’t get me wrong, I love my PCP, but she doesn’t specialize in mental health. I mean, when I have lady-garden issues, I go to a lady-garden doctor. When I have tooth pain, I see the dentist. So it makes sense that I would go to a mental health professional for my medication now too. And she is nice, but she is aggressive.

The first thing she did was take me off Xanax. Now remember, I have been on this pill (as needed) for eight years. I was a little nervous, but talk about being on a pill with a stigma. In fact, one of the first things I said to my new pill-lady was, See, see that face you made when I said I take Xanax, I’m tired of that face. There is a stigma attached to this pill and I don’t like it. She smiled and apologized for the face. She gets it though, and then she explained the stigma. It’s a highly addictive pill, with a big street value. I know all this of course. I know it first hand. I have a very close friend who was addicted to them a few years back and I watched her life unravel at an alarming rate. She finally got real help, but at a major cost to her life and to her family. So I get it. I do. But when something works, it is hard to turn your back on it.

Long story short (What do you mean, Missy? You always tell a long-ass story, we know this about you!) Well thanks, but let me get to the point here. Long story short, she put me on a new pill. Not a new anti-depressant (just yet), but a new benzodiazepine. And this new one is old, really old. Maybe you have heard of it, it’s called Klonopin. I had heard of it. In fact, I had heard bad things about it, I guess the sorts of things people hear about Xanax, but this one is supposed to be longer lasting so you don’t have to take as much, meaning it has a lower risk of addiction. Okay, I went with it. Next month we are changing my other pill. Apparently there are new fancy ones with less side effects. I’m game. I always trust the professionals.

So here we are. I came home and started to read all about Klonopin, then got myself so upset by what I was reading that I had to take a damn Klonopin, y’all. I wish I were joking. But, it turned out to be okay. It sort of cleared my mind, a feeling I haven’t had in awhile. And it made me talkative and happy. It made me relax and appreciate the good stuff all around. I might be able to get used to this. Maybe just maybe.

I’m telling you all this today because I have learned over the last few years that the only way to break down a stigma is to talk about it. An open and honest discourse about uncomfortable topics has never let me down. We see very little progress when we keep closed off. When we let other people dictate how we should feel, or act, or get help when we need it. We see very little progress when we feed into those antiquated ideas of what is right and what is good. Because the bottom line is, what is good for me may not be good for you. But we shouldn’t be judging each other when we are just trying to figure it all out.

As always take care of yourself and others.

M.

Broken Record

It’s difficult for me to ask for help when I need it. This is something I am just figuring out about myself well into my thirties. It’s not the only thing I am figuring out well into my thirties, but I suspect prioritizing Adele songs in order of their meaningfulness to my own life isn’t the “ah-ha” moment Oprah wanted for me. It’s difficult for me to ask for help and it is difficult for me to reach out to other people when I am sad, or lonely, or overwhelmed. There, that is out there in the world now, I feel better.

Yesterday I was sad. Christ, Missy we know, tell us something new. I know it seems like I am a broken record, like I’m all, Hey you guys! I’m sad today, boohoo what shall I do? But in all truth the sad days are less and less now, partly because it is summertime and partly because I have a new medication. But yesterday my husband left for a work trip, again, and I realized that I’m not missing him when he goes anymore. Let me back up. I always miss him when he is away, what I mean to say is that there was a time when we were always together, and we had a toddler, and life was chaotic, and the thought of us being separated for a week was painful. He’s my best friend and I need his presence. But yesterday, as I was driving back from the airport listing to sad Adele songs (yeah, I know, shut it) I realized that I have grown accustomed to his absence now. And that made me sad as hell.

So I did what anyone would do, I sat on the couch and cried, until my best friend called me. She was having an off day too and she called to just tell me about it, and we talked for two hours and I felt so much better. So I reached out to more people. People who I adore, people I haven’t talked to in a long time. I sent some silly texts, I asked how days were going, I checked on a VERY pregnant friend just to make sure. And you know what, I felt a hell of a lot better, and I hope they did too.

Is there is a lesson in this? Of course there is. And it is one that our therapists have been screaming into our ears for years. But sometimes it takes a little time, a little age, a little trial and error to really make it click. It clicked for me yesterday. I know, I know I am a broken record. But I am broken. We all are, and sometimes we need to realize, accept, and adapt. It has the capacity to make us feel better.

What do you want from us, Missy? I want you to reach out to people when you need to. Ask for help if you need it. Call your best friend. If you don’t have one, find one. Don’t worry if you think they might be busy. Don’t worry if you think they might be surprised, or caught off guard, or, or, or. Make time. Send a funny email. Dance a little jig in the your kitchen with your dog, or your partner, or your child. Put on Adele and cry a river. Doesn’t matter. Take care of yourself and your people, however and whenever you need to. And remember, I love you.

M.