Antidepressants and Other Medications

A few months ago, as I was browsing Facebook, I saw a post from someone that mentioned a book on depression. I’ve read a lot of material written about depression. I’ve researched it and taken more quizzes and questionnaires than I care to try to give a number to. When I was diagnosed three years ago with MS, my time spent researching switched focus to that disease. I believe both have the power to end my life; I just didn’t know much about MS and felt that I needed to be armed with information. I found there was a great amount of information written about the correlation between diet and MS. Some well meaning friends sent me articles about how I needed to stop drinking diet soda and all my MS symptoms would disappear. Some sent me diet plans that they read had cured others from this dreaded disease. Through all of this, I watched a friend suffer as someone in his family continued to lose ground to this dreaded disease, eventually passing away from it. I concluded that if diet really could cure MS, just as some say diet can cure cancer, than no one would have MS (or cancer or thyroid issues or diabetes or any other ailment). As I read the aforementioned Facebook post, my inquiring antennae went up. This post mentioned a book written about depression. The title of the book is, “A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Lives”. Its author is Kelly Brogan.

I won’t go into the bio of the author. Google her if you want to know more, but suffice it to say that she is a psychiatrist who has an active practice in New York City. The premise of the book is two-fold. In the first part, she lays out why antidepressants are not helpful, and in fact are most often dangerous, in the treatment of depression. This alone had my curiosity piqued as, most of you probably know by now, I have been on and off these drugs for twenty years or so. I can’t even remember all the names of the drugs I have taken over the years. The second part of the book is dedicated to a lifestyle diet that rids the body of inflammation–the basis, Dr. Brogan believes–for depression (and many other ailments for which doctors throw prescriptions at us). I clicked the link to be taken to her website where I could read the first chapter of the book. I was hooked. I knew I needed to own this book, sit and read it–devour it–and see if maybe there was some merit to what she proposed. Amazon Prime to the rescue! Two days later, I had the book in my hands.

As I worked my way through the first chapter, I felt an anger rising within me. It held a very similar vibe to the anger I felt after seeing the Vaxxed movie last month. It appears, just as in the case of vaccines, that pharmaceutical companies have been lying to the public about the safety and effectiveness of antidepressants. Dr. Brogan establishes just how little science knows about the human brain. It is a complex system that, I believe, will never be entirely understood by a finite man. Only an intelligent creator could design, and therefore completely know, such a complex system. I actually don’t think Dr. Brogan writes from a creationist viewpoint, so this is not a book that people can say, “Oh, you Christians think God relates back to everything.” What she does, and does well, is make a case for how little medical science does indeed know about our brains, and therefore, why it is dangerous to be playing around with drugs that can have permanent, and most likely unwanted, changes to them. One of the most obvious, yet most overlooked, aspect of medicine is cause. Doesn’t it make sense to desire to know the cause behind why something is happening? When my children were young and came home from outdoor play with tears, cries of pain, and swollen arms/wrists (yes, this happened many times in our home), I, as their loving parent, suspected they had broken a bone. That warranted a trip to a doctor–usually an emergency room since these things seldom happened between 8 and 5 on weekdays. I expected the doctor there to order x-rays to actually see the affected bone. Those x-rays more often than not showed the bone was indeed broken. It was only then that splinting and subsequent casting could take place. The doctor did not look at my children and say, “Well, it could be broken. We’ll throw a cast on it for 6-12 weeks and see if it feels better at the end of that time. If not, we’ll just add another cast.” Dr. Brogan states,

“The best approach to root cause resolution of symptoms comes from an understanding of the reasons why the body is responding in the way that it is.”

The ER doctor, once a break was confirmed, could then treat the break as well as the swelling that accompanied it. Yet, most doctors, upon suspecting a person is depressed, simply hand them a prescription for an antidepressant and tell them to come back in eight weeks for reevaluation. If, after a time, the depression is still present, the doctor will recommend adding a second antidepressant since the first one may need a boost. Seriously? What is causing the depression in the first place? Note: if you believe it is “low serotonin”, you need to read this book to find out why that explanation is bogus. The short version of that reason is that there is NO medical test out there to measure serotonin. Blood sugar can be measured. Cholesterol can be measured. White blood cells can be measured. Serotonin cannot be measured. The low serotonin crap paved the way for pharmaceutical companies to manufacture a variety of drugs to “treat” the low level of serotonin that was never measured to be low…yeah. I’d trust that. In fact, pharmaceutical companies finance more than 70% of FDA drug trials. Did you catch that? 70%! This sounds very similar to vaccine manufacturers funding vaccine studies as shown in the Vaxxed movie. It’s outrageous. It’s deceptive. And it’s angering. These pharmaceutical companies don’t tell you that once you start taking antidepressants, that there is a very strong likelihood that you will never be able to stop taking them. And each time you stop and start, it increases that chance of dependency even more. For someone like me, who has lived more than half her life already and has been on and off antidepressants for half of the years lived, it doesn’t look good to ever be free from the side effects suffered at the hands of antidepressants.

Unless one just gets tired of it all and says, “The hell with these pills. I am done with them.” Which is exactly the point I have reached. Without the advice of a doctor, and let’s be honest, none would recommend this since most receive some benefit from prescribing these drugs if nothing more than they keep patients coming back, I have stopped taking antidepressants after reading the first half of this book.

What is one to do then, you may wonder, if depression is a very real affliction?

That’s where the second part of the book comes in. To say it concisely, Dr. Brogan believes that depression is caused by inflammation in the body, specifically in the gut. More and more research is being done on the gut-brain connection. The typical American diet is full of highly inflammatory foods, including but not limited to grains, dairy, sugar, processed crap, fast food filled with chemicals we can’t even pronounce, food manufactured in a factory that is marketed as healthy and good for us. We fill our bodies with this pseudo-food and then wonder why we don’t feel well and experience disease. Dr. Brogan lays out a diet that she believes works to relieve inflammation which causes many health conditions to disappear. She is a psychiatrist so she mainly speaks to mental health conditions, but she does cite many cases where a patient has followed her diet and has found relief not only from mental health issues but also various physical health issues.

To be honest, I am finding this part of the book to be more difficult. In fact, as I sit here typing this, I have a diet coke on ice next to me. As humans, we like what we like and we want what we want. In addition, studies have shown that processed foods and sugar are highly addictive. I read somewhere that sugar is more addictive than heroin! Couple that addictive potential with our own selfishness and lack of self discipline, and you have a recipe for disaster. In order to “cure” my depression, according to this book, I need to cure the inflammation that is causing it. Inflammation is cured through diet; however, the yummy foods I love so much like pizza and ice cream, are not going to cure the inflammation I know is present. (I had a test done that measured inflammation and my number came back more than triple the normal range so I know inflammation is present in my body) It sounds so easy, yet it is ridiculously difficult. I love salads and proteins and fruits, but I also love bread and diet coke. I struggle so much with this concept that I have not been able to get through the chapters on diet yet.

Now, lest you think that I am no longer able to think straight, I will say that I believe disease will always be a part of life on earth. It’s part of living in a fallen world. There is a possibility that, even if I am able to stick to the diet plan recommended in this book, I will still be crushed under the weight of depression. If that is the case, then I question how much longer I will be on this earth, for the weight of this now is almost too much to bear. But, what if it is as “simple” as making different food choices? What if all I ate came only from the earth–plants, animals pasture raised and not hormone feed raised, seeds, fruits, and nuts? Could this be the answer to years of bouncing from one antidepressant to another with no benefit? It almost seems too easy.

No. It isn’t too easy. Eating clean is difficult. I am human and I want to feed my desire to be happy. Bread makes me happy. Pizza makes me happy. Diet Coke makes me happy. Alcohol makes me happy. Ice cream makes me happy. Carrot sticks? Not so much. I do know one thing, though–something has to change soon or I may not have the opportunity to try it and see if it works.

Posted in Culture, death, depression, MS | Leave a comment

Tired

I saw the above image while browsing Pinterest this week. It resonated with me right now because, if I had to use one word to describe how I am feeling, “tired” would hit the nail on the descriptive head. Living with chronic illness, I am no stranger to fatigue. The tiredness that comes with MS, as I’ve detailed before, is like swimming against an ocean current while wearing jeans. For me, depression adds more fatigue. That often leaves me feeling like I’ve added a parka to my ocean swimming adventure. There is a pretty good chance that my fatigue is exacerbated by the intense heat and humidity our area has been experiencing pretty much the entire summer. I imagine, though, that even without that added “joy”, I would still feel the way depicted in the graphic above.

Let’s dissect this.

  1. “Tired of trying”. I am tired of trying day after day to figure out why I am still here. If you wonder why I write that, go back one entry to the post on calculating worth. In addition, I do get tired of trying every day to get things accomplished with a body that  often refuses to follow even the simplest of commands. All in all, I am tired of trying.
  2. “Tired of hoping”. Ah, hope. A word that has the potential to propel one into action in the leanest of energy times. The problem with hope, though, is eventually hope runs out. Maybe some have unlimited patience and are able to hold out for hope for quite some time. Sadly, I am not in that camp. I’ve hoped for years that depression would release its death grip on me. I am tired of hoping.
  3. “Tired of Coping”. The variety of coping mechanisms out there are plentiful. I actually saw (on Pinterest again) a list of coping mechanisms recommended by therapists. There were over seventy-five items on the list that people could use to get through a difficult time. I’ve used my share of coping mechanisms over the years. Alcohol worked to ease the emotional pain; however, it brought with it so many unwanted results–the biggest one being my waistline. I lost thirty pounds when I quit drinking. Alcohol, though, is an effective, albeit expensive, coping mechanism. But coping gets old when one just wants to be free. I’m tired of coping.
  4. “Tired of Existing”. Most days I simply exist. I once had a purpose for existing. I had four children in five years (and one in heaven in that span as well). There were days I struggled to find time to shower or eat a meal. I remember falling into bed at night exhausted, yet unable to sleep because my head was swimming with details that needed to be remembered to make it through the next day. Those days are gone; with them, my days’ purpose. I get through most mornings okay, but by afternoons, I simply exist with no purpose to be here. I am tired of existing.
  5. “Tired of breathing”. Have you ever stopped to think about breathing? It is something so automatic that it goes unnoticed for the most part. I have just begun to notice breathing as I have started yoga in the mornings. When I find myself doing something that the world deems productive, I seldom think about breathing. But, in those times, and they take up the majority of my hours, that I am feeling like the world would be better off without me, breathing becomes a labored chore. I am tired of breathing.
  6. “Tired of living”. Yes, I am tired of living. At least tired of living like this. If you have ever walked through the slough of depression, maybe you understand how tiring it is to live day in and day out. A chronic illness will only add to that feeling of tiredness of life. I have lived more than half of my life (unless by some miracle I live to be one hundred). That means I have more to look back on than I have to look forward to. That’s a depressing thought in and of itself. Looking back only causes me to see all that I messed up. Right now, looking back means I see all that I didn’t do as a parent. Our kids don’t have happy memories of fun family vacations. They don’t have happy memories of their childhood home–they didn’t have one home for any length of time. These things haunt me. I am tired of living.
  7. “I’m done.”

This has been a difficult post to write. I wonder  how many even read the whole thing. I write truthfully–it is a promise I made to myself and one that I intend to keep. I don’t keep many promises to myself. I intend to keep this one. Depression wants nothing more than to snuff out my life. Many days I want to allow it to win. Most days actually. I have believed for a while that my life will end by my own hand. Why don’t I just give into it? Who would care? The answer to those questions form as a picture in my mind. That picture is a little boy who loves his Grammy very much. When depression whispers that I am not worth anything, and I mostly agree with it, I look at the lock screen of my phone and see the smiling face of a little boy with his feet in the water of a beach. I imagine that little boy as he gets older, baking cookies with Grammy in the kitchen or taking walks and collecting rocks. I imagine him giggling as he rides the little cars at an amusement park  or the stickiness of his little hands as ice cream drips off a cone on a warm summer day. I love him more than I love myself. That’s a good thing because if I didn’t, I don’t think I would be here right now. There are days that the battle is so strong that even all I just described is barely enough to keep me here. So far, though, I am still breathing.

Tired, but still breathing.

 

Posted in Change, Children, depression, empty nest, famiy, Grandma, Grandson, loneliness, MS, Parenting | Leave a comment

Calculating Worth

Each year around Mother’s Day, Salary.com releases what a stay at home mom would be paid if she carried out in corporate America all the tasks she is responsible for at home. Those tasks include, but are certainly not limited to, cook, baker, dishwasher, maid, laundress, seamstress, nurse, teacher, chauffeur, administrative professional, bookkeeper, plumber, repair person, gardener, buyer, interior designer…the list could go on. This year, that salary was calculated to be $118,905. This is an average. Some moms would earn more, maybe because they have many children or they homeschool full time, and some would earn less. Still, that’s a lot of money! Of course, while it may be nice to be validated that what you do is actually hard work and a dollar value makes it seem more real, the truth of the matter is, no bank account is ever increased because a mom stays home to raise and care for children and a home.

In the early years of our marriage, I worked outside the home. I worked full time for my dad at his gas station, I worked full time at a maternity store in a shopping mall, and I taught elementary school. (Which I only did because my mom graciously watched my firstborn for very little money) Upon discovering that I was pregnant with our second child, I knew my teaching days would be numbered. I didn’t want to give the majority of my time and energy to someone else’s children only to give my own children what was leftover at the end of the day. I loved teaching but felt that my call as a mom was more important. Financially, this was a very bad decision. My husband had a job that barely paid the bills. Okay. His job didn’t pay the bills, which is why a month before the birth of our daughter, we had to move in with my parents. We struggled financially our entire marriage. The job my husband does now did not exist back when he graduated from college. As a side note to that, he tells me what the new college hires make at his employer and I find myself very jealous. If he could have come out of college and made what those he is responsible for hiring today make, we would be in a MUCH better place than we are. But that didn’t happen.

As a stay at home mom, my days were long. I would find that I would just finish getting the kitchen cleaned up from breakfast and lunchtime was knocking to dirty it again. I would wash clothes nearly every day of the year. I distinctly remember one Christmas Eve evening muttering to myself that I must be the only mom who had to do laundry that night. The years came and went and our bank account never had a deposit put into it because of the work I did. As our children grew, so did the expenses that came along with having children. The expense of diapers and baby food gave way to the expense of sports and music lessons. For many years of our marriage we only had one vehicle. We couldn’t afford two and it was decided that I didn’t really need one anyway without a job to have to go to. But as the kids grew, the need for a vehicle was made apparent. That meant I would have to work. I got a job scoring standardized tests from states throughout the nation. While this enabled us to have a second vehicle, it did nothing for my workload but add to it. I was still responsible for all aspects of the home. Dinner did not make itself while I was at work all day. The dish fairy did not appear after dinner so I could relax some. Looking back, I marvel that I didn’t just drop over in exhaustion on more than one occasion!

Today, my life looks very different. My children are grown and have moved out of the nest. My husband’s field has exploded which, on one hand, has allowed us to have things we never had the opportunity to own before–new vehicles and furniture–and do things we never could before–weekend getaways to the beach for example. I have time on my hands that I dreamed about and longed for twenty years ago. But I can’t help but look at the salary for a stay at home mom and know that I am not worth that much anymore. There was a time that my time was important. If I didn’t cook dinner then there would be hungry kids in our house. If I didn’t drive them to soccer, their team would be a player short. If I didn’t do laundry, they would have nothing clean to wear. Now, none of those things are true. I have no kids to cook for, no one to drive to a soccer game, and while I still have some laundry to do, it doesn’t take me every day of the week anymore to get it done. In fact, even in our small, apartment size washer and dryer, I can all the laundry done in an afternoon. My husband says he still needs me, yet I know my worth isn’t nearly as high as it once was when there were five people who needed me. Throw in some health issues that limit some of what I can do, and I feel like maybe my worth is in the negative range–in other words, I cost more to keep around than I contribute.

Recently, I have really struggled with why I am here. My husband says he needs me, and I suppose in some ways he does, just as I need him. He needs me emotionally just as I need him that way, but I also need him in very tangible ways that he does not need me. He is the income provider and the health insurance subscriber. I am the person who sucks the income up paying healthcare bills for my illnesses. The deposits in the bank account come from a paycheck written to him; there are no deposits attributed to the working of my hands. When I had kids at home, even when I wasn’t working outside the home, I felt like I at least contributed to the household. That is just not the case anymore. Salary.com calculates the worth of a stay at home mom. No one calculates the worth of a stay at home-former-mom-whose-kids-have-all-grown-and-moved-out.

Is there worth to be calculated for me?

I’m not sure.

Posted in MS, depression, Children, empty nest, marriage, loneliness, Parenting, famiy | Leave a comment

Belong”ing”

I have been absent from writing for a little while. I never fret over such absences for a few reasons. First, I write for my own benefit. And, if I am to be brutally honest, the writing material that’s been flitting around in my brain over the last month or so has been pretty raw, pretty personal, and would put me at risk for further alienation from those around me. However, if I honestly write for my own benefit, I’m not sure why I care if others disagree or take offense to what I write. I’m still working through that one. A second reason that I don’t feel badly about my writing hiatuses is I know that few actually read what I write. Again, since I write for my own processing benefit, that doesn’t really bother me. Last night, as I was struggling through a somewhat intense panic attack, I started to think that I needed to write out some of my thoughts. My head is just too bogged down with the weight of pressing matters–both in my own life and in the world around me. So today, I decided that I need to get some of these thoughts out of my head so I can work through them as they flow off the tips of my fingers. I have never been hesitant to write how I feel, but this time, I find myself in that place of hesitancy. I’m sure there will be some who, if they read my words, will shake their heads in disapproval and even disagreement. As always, I am okay with that. I would welcome any opportunity to clarify myself and present evidence on my behalf if that is the case. Strange thing, though, is that most people just do the shaking of the head and never really seek to go deeper as to why I write what I write. That statement fits this post perfectly. As you can read, it is titled “Belong-‘ing'”…and that is something that, once again, has been plaguing my thoughts over the last few months.

A couple weeks ago, a Facebook friend posted a link about a conference for women that was scheduled for our area this coming fall. I had never heard of this particular conference so, like most modern-day-somewhat-technologically-savvy adults, I Googled it to get the scoop. The gist of the conference is that women were created for relationship. (This is a women’s conference so the website specified women–I don’t doubt that men are created for relationships as well) The website says, “Authentic relationships are key to a fulfilled life. We were made to engage each other.” The conference is named the “Belong Tour” and has a lineup of speakers that are well known in the Christian community.

Now, before I say anymore, I have to disclose the fact that I am not much of a conference person. I find them to be a lot of hype–something that gets you fired up for a while but eventually that fire starts to fade as real life is faced again. I have been to several conferences–both women’s and unisex–and also have a husband who has been to several men’s conferences. Each time, my above statement has played out as true. The hype lasts a little while, but it is soon forgotten as the pressures of life invade from all sides. I say this because I didn’t Google the conference with any interest in attending. I will admit, though, that I was curious given the name of the conference.

Belonging–it is something that every human being desires. No one (I think anyway) enjoys being in a group of people, whether that group be a few or many, and feeling like he or she does not belong there. It is uncomfortable and it wreaks havoc on one’s self worth to be the obvious “unwanted” person in the group. Yes, I say unwanted because I truly believe that to often be the case. Maybe not always, but often enough that the use of that word can be justified. I liken it to the new kid in a private school. (Yes, that was me at one point in my life) Friendships are already formed and the new person is viewed as an outsider, maybe even a threat in some ways. Will this new kid be better at ___________ than the reigning king or queen of that activity? Will the new kid wow teachers and other students to take over popularity? Most of my life I have not belonged when forced to be with groups of people. From being the new kid at a private high school to church situations, belonging has never been something I sensed as a quality of mine. When a lengthy bout with depression and illness is added to the equation, it only intensifies that sense of not belonging. Many say they want to walk the difficult road with you, but like Christian’s “friends” in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, when the road turns out to be longer than expected or more difficult than at first anticipated, the friends who pledged to walk the difficult road soon disappear. With these experiences shaping so much of how I think, perhaps you can understand why I laughed at the concept of a whole conference pushing the idea that we are created for authentic relationships and that said relationships are actually possible.

Now, before you jump to the conclusion that it must be my own fault for not having such relationships, I will tell you that on many occasions I have tried. In fact, my husband and I were discussing this topic because of an e-mail we received from church. I know that often my thoughts are unique to me, and when that happens, I am the first to admit that I am probably wrong or overthinking something. But in this case, my husband agreed with me, saying that he is not sure we can find authentic relationships with other Christians. I have struggled even more with this since moving sixteen months ago. A recent Facebook post of mine garnered interest only from the friends I left behind in the town where we lived for twelve years. When I posted it, I told my husband that would probably be the case. We both smiled when that actually happened, but at the same time we were both somewhat frustrated and hurt. We agree that we have tried to build new relationships but our efforts were not reciprocated. Of course, people are busy. I know my husband has a busy schedule as well, but still, the truth is people make the time for what is important to them. I often feel like crap, but if one of my kids needs me, I give 125% effort to be there for them. Sometimes I have to force myself to get out of bed and my energy level is depleted after the “work” of showering and getting dressed. It’s worth it to me, though, because I care about my kids and their spouses and my grandson enough to borrow energy from tomorrow to be used to help them with whatever they need.

I don’t know if I will ever really know what it is to belong anywhere. Every Sunday morning, I fight with myself to go to church, knowing that most likely I will not feel well and will see many I know with few conversations. I tell myself that I don’t go to church to socialize but rather to grow deeper in my walk with Christ. And even though I wholeheartedly believe that, there is still a slight sting each week as I leave with the feeling that I just don’t belong there.

A friend once told me that in reality, no follower of Christ “belongs” here since this world is not our home. I often remind myself of that fact and look forward to the day that the feeling of not belonging is gone–when I am done being locked up in the prison inside my own head and instead live in a place where I truly don’t matter–only God does. Until then, I think I’ll continue to pass on conferences that, although they mean well, simply reinforce the fact that I don’t belong. Buddy the Elf said it best as he contemplated jumping off the bridge into the Hudson River below: “I don’t belong here. I don’t belong anywhere.”

Note: I know there are a few people who will read this and think, “But I do want you around.” I know that–and I know who the few of you are. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being my true friend.

Posted in MS, depression, Community, CHURCH, moving, loneliness, Grandson, famiy | Leave a comment

The Long, Winding, Unpredictable Road

I’m sure you’ve heard it said that life is a journey. None of us asked to be here. None of us had the choice of whether or not we would be born. I’m not speaking theologically here, although there is much that could be said in that realm. I’m talking pure fact that everyone can agree on (I would think)–you are not here because one day you decided you wanted to be conceived. From the moment of conception, change becomes a constant in our lives. A baby goes from being surrounded by a sac of warm water all while being fed by a chord to feeling the chill of the world and needing to suck to get food all in a matter of hours. From the time that baby makes his or her grand entrance into the world, change is a given.

Facebook has this feature that each day it shows me my memories from the last several years. These memories are my statuses, pictures, and posts I was tagged in by someone else. Sometimes it is fun to read what was going on five or more years ago. This month, most of that has included memories of my kids’ high school graduation parties. It’s also fun to look back at pictures and see how much change has taken place. One of the areas where that is playing out the most is with my grandson. He is now fifteen months old. A year ago, he was just a tiny peanut who couldn’t hold his head up on his own and who wanted to be held every moment he was awake–and asleep! When he would visit, or if I was watching him so his mommy and daddy could have a break, I knew I would be sitting in the chair with him or walking with him and bouncing him in my arms in order to get him to sleep.My Facebook memories show a tiny little boy, eyes shut tightly, as he sleeps in my arms. Now that tiny little baby is on the move. He stands up by himself and walks–and is very proud of himself for doing so! He claps to music. He plays pat-a-cake. He laughs and giggles and eats real food. And he isn’t interested in being snuggled very much. There is a whole world for him to explore and he is busy doing just that every moment he is awake! I see him a lot, yet it seems every time I do, he changes some.

A little over three years ago, I was given news that would change my life. Since that day, my journey, one that I did not willingly choose but was dealt regardless, has been one of unpredictability. There has been some mountaintop highs in those years, but those mountaintops have come with even more low valleys as well. The last six months, especially, have been months of deep darkness for me. I am not ashamed of this. I don’t try to hide it, which you know if you’ve read much of what I have written. But, I also don’t share the deepest darkness. Some things most people would just not understand unless they’ve been in such a dark place. And the last thing I need is someone telling me that I shouldn’t feel this way because I have so many good things in my life. Like I don’t already know that. As I was thinking about these last few very difficult months, I began to think about the people around me. A journey like this cannot be walked alone. The darkness quickly overtakes and life is cut short. However, this kind of journey is not for the faint of heart. And that is what struck me. There have been people who, for whatever reason, have decided that this journey is too long or too cumbersome or too uncomfortable to continue with me. They have quietly (or in some cases boldly announced) dropped off the road they were walking with me. I don’t know if I necessarily blame them. Like I said, it is an excruciating journey full of pain. The problem, though, is that when a person  decides I am too much of a burden for them, it reinforces the fact that I am too much of a burden for anyone.

And that kind of thinking quickly spirals into a place that is not a good place.

I do realize that some people have situations change in their own lives so that helping to shoulder the heavy burden of another is just not possible. If both of my arms are broken, I am not going to be able to help a friend move. The thing is, though, I would tell that friend, “Hey, I’d love to help but right now, both of my arms are in casts, so I probably wouldn’t be any help at all.” That seems like a better alternative than quietly exiting the life of a person who is already floundering and wondering if her life has any value whatsoever.

Life itself is a long, winding, unpredictable journey. At any given moment, anyone could be the recipient of a phone call that will change our lives forever. Anyone could find themselves in the place I have been in the last 6 months. I don’t know how much longer this darkness will last. I don’t know how much more strength I have to keep fighting. I do know that there are fewer and fewer people who are willing to continue this journey with me. I try not to dwell on that. Instead, I try to remember those who, so far, have chosen to continue this dark and rocky path with me, stopping when I need to stop and helping me up when I stumble. They are brave and strong when I am not. Their faith is stronger than mine and they don’t mind sharing some of it with me. Their arms are healthy to help carry a very heavy burden. If I get to the other side of this healthy, I will never forget them. I will be forever grateful to them for their perseverance in texting me, calling me, messaging me, stopping by to see me even when I may seem to push them away. Depression and illness is a lonely road full of scary things and not one I would wish on anyone. I hope, though, if someone I know does end up going through similar deep waters, I will not be one who quietly disappears from her life. I would hope that I would be like the very few I have on my side right now, staying in the fight to the very end, with actions and not just words.

Posted in Community, depression, faith, fear, Grandma, Grandson, loneliness, MS | Leave a comment

Not Enough Sun

A little over a year ago, after twelve years of living in the same town, my husband decided he had enough of the long commute from the far western suburb where we lived to the downtown city area where his job was located. His job is stressful and keeps him busy nearly seven days a week–there isn’t much time that he is home that he isn’t working. Spending an hour one way in commute time was adding to his stress, not to mention the upkeep that comes with a house. In his case, it was cutting the lawn that he dreaded. For many years I would cut at least part of it for him, but as my health worsened, I found I was unable to continue doing that. When our last child flew from the nest, we moved to a townhome community twelve miles or so from where he has to travel for work each day. I have written before about how difficult that move has been for me. I can’t say that I love where we live. There are nice things about it for sure, but I miss having our own place, an attached garage, a clothesline to hang out laundry on a breezy summer day, and most of all, I miss my garden. This morning, as I made my breakfast salad, I was thinking about how I used to grow beautiful romaine lettuce. I would water and weed and do everything in my power to take care of the plants. It paid off with not only fresh, pesticide free lettuce, but also tomatoes that were turned into salsa, green peppers used for seasoning sloppy joes, zucchini that made delicious chocolate zucchini bread, green beans that were frozen and enjoyed throughout the year, and one year, even a pumpkin that made it into my garden. I always dreamed of having a farm. I envisioned growing food, having chickens that would provide eggs, and goats that would provide milk (and friendship!). I still dream about those things, although I have told myself I must come to terms with the fact that those dreams will never come true. If I dwell on that fact, I get very sad though.

This morning, as the sun shone brightly and the weather forecast predicted highs in the 90’s, I was thinking about my garden. A garden is a fragile thing. Plants have different needs, and if those needs aren’t met, the plant will most certainly perish. When I taught elementary school, I taught my students that plants need water, sunshine, and dirt in order to grow. We did the typical elementary school experiment of depriving a plant of one of those necessities so the students could see how important each of those things were. If you place a seed on the sidewalk, it will not grow. It doesn’t matter how much you water it or how much sunshine it receives. Cement is not the vehicle that a sprouting seed thrives in. Likewise, A seed placed in the most beautiful organic soil will not grow if it doesn’t get water. There has to be a balance of just the right conditions for a seed to turn into what it is meant to be, whether that be luscious green lettuce or a beautiful red carnation.

As I thought about gardens and seeds today, I thought about the ways a human being is similar to a seed. A human baby needs certain conditions to be met in order to thrive. A baby needs food. A baby needs shelter from harsh elements. A baby needs human touch. Yes, a baby can live without this last one, but in order for an infant to thrive and develop appropriately, human contact is needed. It is why nurses place a newborn baby on his or her mommy’s chest right after birth. The bonding process is so critical to that infant’s development. Needs don’t go away once a baby gets bigger. A child, a teenager, and an adult all still have needs that must be met in order for health to be maintained. Those needs vary in degree from person to person. My mom needed, and still needs, social interaction in order to avoid feeling depressed. My dad was on the opposite side of the pendulum. Social gatherings were not something he needed nor enjoyed, although he had a need to feel like he was contributing somehow. He found his satisfaction in his family and in his work that provided for them. Deprived of needs, a human being can have all sorts of problems ranging from minor to life threatening.

As a Christian, one thing I have heard said quite often is that we need one another–we need community. I don’t really disagree with that, although given the differences among people, I believe some need more community than others. But, I do think all need community to some degree. True community can be hard to find for the “normal” person. For a person like me, who wakes each morning battling several beasts, it can be downright impossible. I have found that most people really don’t want to walk with you through dark times that drag on for too long, at least if those dark times are invisible to all but the one who suffers from them. Someone diagnosed with cancer or someone who was injured in a car accident has a better chance of those around them sticking with them through the hard times. Those things, and the treatments of them, cause visible wounds that others can relate to. An invisible illness, though, causes pain that others cannot see. And, referencing my previous entry about the response one gets who suffers from depression, those who suffer from emotional pain especially find the road to be very lonely. When that storm lingers much longer than most people are willing to ride out, most bail and look for brighter skies with others who don’t walk around with a dark cloud over their heads.

A plant that flourishes in shade will not survive complete darkness. An introvert who may not need as much community as others still needs some. A seed kept entirely in the dark will die because it did not get enough sun.

 

 

Posted in Community, depression, loneliness, MS | Leave a comment

A Different Response

Not long ago, I had a conversation with someone who I hadn’t known very well or for very long. There are certain “normals” when it comes to small talk with new acquaintances. The first “normal” is that you stick to easy topics like the weather. The second “normal” is the exchange of vocation. “So, what do you do?” is a normal question in most social circumstances. I’m sure there are others that my foggy brain is unable to recall this morning. The bottom line is, stick to surface stuff, don’t let others in until one is absolutely positive they can be trusted (and I would argue that the majority will not prove trustworthy), and pretend that daily life is a wonderful experience in your world.

Yeah. Sure.

I used to be able to do this. I was once a person who could make small talk about the current weather or a popular television program. I could talk to others about my job. I could confidently answer that I was a teacher, or I homeschooled my four kids, or I worked for a data company that scored standardized test responses from all grade levels from all over the country.

My conversation didn’t follow this typical pattern, though. This person knew just enough to know that something in my life was causing me to struggle with daily existence, and she asked me about it. I felt the familiar tension of debate on whether to be completely honest, partially honest, or tell an outright lie. I chose the partially honest route. I told her I had MS and that there are still some unknowns that doctors are trying to figure out. Her response was a genuine (I think at least) sympathy for the fact that I live with this disease.

So why would I write about that. It isn’t a bad thing; in fact, it sounds like a good experience overall. And, I would say it was. I believe that to be the case because I went with the partial truth. You see, the whole truth seems to scare people.

If I tell someone I have MS, I usually get a soft response of some sort. Sometimes it’s a sad look and a soft, “Ooh.” Sometimes it’s a gentle, “I’m sorry.” Sometimes it leads to a conversation about symptoms, treatments, diet, etc. The whole truth, though, is I don’t JUST have MS. The beast of MS is miserable for sure. Often it beats me up to the point where I’ve used up all my reserves of strength and I retreat to sleep to escape its relentless assault. The thing with MS, though–I usually recover. Not always to the point that I was at before the attack, but recover none the less.

The other beast I fight, though, is much stronger than MS.

That beast’s name is depression–and if you’ve read much of what I have written on this blog, you know that I don’t hide that fact in my writings. I could. I choose not to do so.

I’ve noticed something about these two beasts over the last year.

It is much easier, the response elicited is much warmer and gentler, and people are much more accepting when I tell them I have MS. I imagine if I had cancer or back problems or pretty much any other physical ailment the response would be the same. But, if I am brave enough to tell someone that I suffer from depression, usually I get an awkward silence. The majority of people out there don’t mind if I tell them I have been dizzy for the past two days. They listen with caring ears if I say that I was unable to do something because the fatigue was so overpowering that it forced me to rest for an entire day. But, if I am honest, if I say, “I’m really not okay. I kind of don’t want to live this life anymore,” the response is much different. Some quickly brush it off, thinking that maybe I am joking. Some quickly change the subject. Some offer a half-hearted, “I’m sorry,” and then leave to find some normal person to talk to.

There’s a song on Christian radio right now that starts with the line,
“It’s okay to not be okay, This is a safe place.”

In all honesty, I don’t believe that when depression is the reason for not being okay, that there is ever a safe place to be honest about it. SO many times I have wanted to say something to someone about how I am really feeling, but I don’t. I write it in a journal. I write it to a certain extent on this blog. I even write it to a certain extent on social media. But to say it out loud? To be completely honest? I don’t go there with audible words. Of course, that just makes those words louder in my own head. They scream at my mind, needing to be let out, but I can’t bring myself to do that. If the mention of depression causes an awkward silence, I can’t imagine what true honesty would bring. It’s so frustrating because, again, if I told someone I was diagnosed with cancer, there would be no awkward silence.

Depression is as much a beast as MS, lupus, even cancer. Yes, it can kill a person. The mind suffering from depression isn’t often rational. The loneliness depression brings is hell. The sadness feels like it is wrapping itself around my throat and squeezing tighter and tighter. The fatigue is debilitating. There is an overall melancholy that seems to hang over me at all times. Sometimes I swear I can see it and touch it, yet I cannot part it enough to see beyond it. It envelopes me completely and darkens the world I live in. But who wants to hear this kind of truth?

There has been a campaign in the last decade to take the stigma out of depression. IN my experience, I don’t think it has worked. Suicide rates are at an all time high, especially among young people. Doctors throw prescriptions for anti depressants at people and tell them they will be fine. Schools, if they are fortunate, have one school psychologist or a few counselors who might be able to take the time to sit down and really listen to the heart of a kid suffering under the weight of depression. My school did not. Depression has been my companion for more years of my life than adulthood has. I still find it hard to be completely honest about what is going on inside my head. I’ve experienced the awkward silence, the quick changing of the subject, even the walking away to never be seen again. Among my closest friendships, I am guarded as to how I am really feeling. Some have been around me long enough that my depression, to them, is just part of me and nothing to be concerned about. They check out when I try to talk to them. I understand their behavior–I really do. I wish I wasn’t like this. I hate the me I am–and living with someone you hate is a horrible way to live. Regardless, I can only hope that, as time goes on, the stigma of having depression (or any other emotional illness) decreases or completely disappears. I would encourage you, if you can, to think about how you would respond if a friend or acquaintance told you that they were diagnosed with depression. Would you be the kind of person who would feel the need to quickly exit the conversation? Or could you formulate a response that shows you care just as if that person had told you she was diagnosed with cancer?

As for me, I will stay guarded around people for now, and try to relieve the pressure of the beast using the only method that has ever made the slightest of difference–words.

Posted in Change, Community, Culture, death, depression, MS, trust | Leave a comment

Vaxxed: Informative, Sad, and Angering

This past weekend, my husband and I attended a screening of a documentary titled, Vaxxed. The film chronicles the link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Some of you may know that we have a son who was diagnosed with autism in 2001. He was twelve years old at the time of diagnosis. Prior to getting the official diagnosis for him, we had seen countless psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, doctors, and school specialists. All agreed there was something awry, but none could really tell us exactly what that might be. Socially, he struggled beyond belief. Several times I received a phone call from the school, asking me to come in to brainstorm how we could help him interact more with other students. One year, his teacher called me to tell me that, as strange as it sounded, he was reading too much! He retreated into books instead of wanting to be on the playground during recess. Hmmm…I was like that too. I would still rather read than socialize. But I digress. Numerous times I received a phone call from my son, informing me that I would need to come get him because his glasses had once again been broken “by someone kicking/hitting/slapping him in the face by accident”. One time, his sister came home and informed us that someone two grades above him had threatened to kill him. His self esteem plummeted with every day spent in school until we finally took him out to homeschool him. Before that, a teacher who I knew from our local soccer club, called me and told me if it were her son, she would get him to Fraser Center for evaluation. I called immediately only to find the waiting list was a year–a year! When his turn finally came, we spent nearly an entire day with specialists there. At the end of his testing, we were given the official diagnosis of autism. At that time, while the number of cases was on the rise, there were still few resources available to us that would help us navigate the rocky waters of autism. One of the most difficult parts of the Vaxxed movie, for me, was watching a teen boy, Billy, who had suffered a reaction to the MMR shot that caused his autism, threaten to kill his dad because his dad had used the video player in Billy’s room–Billy’s routine was upset and, given the way his brain no longer processed things correctly, he knew no other way but to react with rage. It was a scene that brought back haunting memories for me as I recalled fits of rage from my own son. During these fits, it often took both my husband and me to subdue our son–while our other three children would watch in horror. The tears stung my eyes–and the anger boiled inside. I came away from this film with emotions that ran the gamut from thankfulness that my son was not as nearly as affected as some in the film to anger that by being what I thought was a responsible parent caused my son to suffer with this disability.

Lest you think that the producers are completely against all vaccinations, I will say that is not the case. They do a great job of presenting evidence that there are alternate vaccination schedules that will protect children while avoiding the consequences faced already by so many. I believe, for the most part, that pediatricians and doctors really do want what is best for their little patients. I wonder, though, if most are blindly trusting the CDC. I hope not, as this film proves that the CDC knew and knows about the dangers of these vaccines and hid said dangers from the public. I appreciate doctors who allow parents to vaccinate on a non-traditional schedule. They are out there. And, if you think this is only an issue that affects children, think again. The producers point out that soon adults will be required to be vaccinated. The drug companies cannot be sued for vaccine injuries; they can, and have been repeatedly, sued for other drug injuries. I’m sure you’ve seen those commercials

If you have kids in your life, whether they be your own kids, your grandkids, your nieces or nephews–however they may be a part of your life, I urge you to go see this film. It is playing in Minneapolis through June 2nd and possibly longer if enough tickets get sold. I know it is also playing in many other major cities across the United States. Google the title and I’m sure you’ll be able to find if it is playing near you.

Despite the challenges our son both faced and continues to face in his own life and the challenges he brought to our lives, he is such a gift to us. He has a tender spirit. He loves and is kind and gentle with animals. He has a heart the size of Texas. I wouldn’t trade him for anything or anyone. Still, the hand he was dealt has been largely unfair. First and foremost, it has been unfair to him. He simply doesn’t process things as most people do, and because of that fact, he is deemed as less likable by many people. It only took one year of full time high school attendance to prove the fact that the popular kids will always look down on those not considered as such. It has been unfair to his siblings. Countless times they watched as their brother threw fits of rage that were terrifying or wondered why suddenly he didn’t want to talk to anyone when just minutes ago he was playing a game with them. A child born with a disability or birth defect is sad, but when that disability stems from something that a parent has been assured is safe, it causes tremendous guilt. The judgmental stares of people who deem you a poor parent when your ten year old is having a “temper tantrum” in the grocery store because one little thing upset his routine are often unbearable. The disapproving looks in the restaurant when your-child-who-certainly-looks-old-enough-to-accept-the-fact-that-they-are-out-of-chocolate-milk-but-instead-screams-and-thrashes just serve to drive the knife deeper into the heart. So often, I have cried, both during his childhood years as well as his adult years, at the daunting task of how to be a good mom to this son who thinks differently than most. Just as often, though, I have thanked God for choosing me to be his mom. I know I didn’t always do a great job, with him or his siblings. I often retreated to the bedroom, the bathroom, even the car, just to get a sanity break. Mom guilt is real and never fades…I can think back to something I did or said 20 years ago and feel hopelessly guilty over it. Somehow, though, this vaccine injured son, along with his siblings, have grown into adults that bring smiles to my face on a regular basis. Would I choose to do things the same way if the opportunity presented itself? Probably not. I would definitely delay vaccinations if not omit them altogether. One of the most telling parts of the movie was when a family physician, upon being given the evidence of the CDC coverup, was asked if she would give her children the MMR shot. Her response was, “No. If one of my patients asked me if I would give this to my own children, I will say no.”

Her honesty was refreshing.

Posted in Children, depression, famiy, Parenting, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Highly Sensitive Introvert

I’ve always been a super sensitive person. It’s actually something that I’ve always hated about myself because the sensitivity adds so much to my battle with depression. An animal laying on the side of the road will almost instantly evoke tears. A sad picture or commercial–especially one involving animals–will bring tears and haunt me for weeks. This past winter there was a commercial that aired for the Humane Society. Every time it came on, I would have to leave the room, and my husband would still mute the television so I didn’t hear it. The problem, though, is I knew what was playing and tears would come regardless of the measures I tried to take to avoid the emotions.

Recently I saw something that has left sad images burned in my brain. I won’t go into details–they are too sad to recount. That incident, though, sent me into a downward spiral of depression. I was researching, for the millionth time, natural remedies for depression when I came across an article that discussed how many people who are introverted, like I am, an also be classified as highly sensitive. The article was like a light bulb switching on in my brain. The characteristics listed for the highly sensitive person (HSP) described me to a tee. Traits of an HSP include:

  • feelings of not fitting in
  • social interaction can be draining
  • needs stillness
  • overwhelmed easily
  • takes on feelings of loved ones (yeah–I am so guilty of this with my kids difficulties)
  • deep connections with nature
  • introverted
  • forms deep bonds with animals

That last one sealed the self diagnosis for me. I literally avoid the back wall of PetSmart because the cats in the cages waiting for adoption make me so sad.

Living as a HSP is not an easy thing. I probably cry more than the average person. My heart breaks when the hearts of those I love break. When my teenagers got their heart broken, my heart broke as if I was the one hurt. I still shed tears over the loss of my beloved cat, Molly, and our dog, Yogi–both have been gone over a year. But, by far, the hardest aspect of living as an HSP is the fact that few around me really understand the depth of emotion that I bring to the table of life. Sometimes, when I think about living the rest of my years with that kind of emotion, it can cause such discouragement. For whatever reason, though, this is the way I was created so I have to continue to live. Well, I guess I don’t have to, but the alternative is frowned on.

I sometimes think about the day I enter heaven. I have always hoped that I will be able to meet the animals that I shed tears over on this earth. Bunnies, deer, squirrels, turkeys, geese, ducks, the black bear we saw on the side of a Wisconsin highway, and, of course, the pets I have lost–I hope they are all waiting for me when I finally leave the sadness of this earth and enter a land with no more tears. I want to hug and hold them all…and let them know that while some may not have cared enough to avoid hitting them or hurting them, I loved them more than most.

Posted in death, depression | Leave a comment

Old Me

Recently, I reconnected with a friend from years back.  As we got together to catch up on years gone by, I was struck with how young this person looked despite the fact that we are the same age. I’m not sure what, but something in the last few years has accelerated the aging process in my body. That fact was confirmed last week as I sat and got a much needed haircut. As my hairstylist blew the cut hair off the apron that covered me, I couldn’t help but notice that the majority of the hairs were gray. A quick glance in the mirror when I got home revealed deep wrinkles and age spots on my face and even more on my neck. Discouragement set in quickly as I thought about the inevitability of the aging process–at least for some of us I guess.

I’ve heard all the words of wisdom about aging–how gray hair is a sign of wisdom and growing old is inevitable but growing up is optional.

Newsflash: at least for me, those sayings are crap.

Sometimes I feel like I just graduated from college or just became a mom. Sometimes I forget that I’m not 21 anymore. Well, I forget until I wear myself out trying to do something that I used to be able to do with ease. I remember, like it was yesterday, being a high school soccer player, running to the practice field a mile away, putting in 2 hours or so of practice, and then running back to the school. Fast forward a couple years. As a college soccer player, the long days of classes coupled with the long nights of studying and working full time didn’t take anything away from the energy I had to give on the soccer field. Even after getting married and becoming a mom, I coached my kids’ soccer teams and played on an adult team once a week in addition to the rigors of keeping a house clean and homeschooling.  Now, just typing all this out exhausts me.

Now, when I look in the mirror, I don’t like what I see. Sometimes I don’t even know the person looking back at me. I was talking to a friend one day and this subject came up. He is much younger than I am but said that even he sometimes forgets that he is getting older. Yes, I chuckled when he said that given that he is probably the same age as my oldest son. (Gosh, that makes me sound even older–I have a son who is older than 25) My friend said that he believes the reason we tend to often forget that we have grown older is because we were created as eternal beings. In other words, our natural inclination is to know that we are going to live forever and it is the body that is wasting away–not the soul. I get that. I even believe it. Still, as I push my limits each day at the gym in hopes of achieving a fraction of the fitness level I once took for granted, I can’t help but feel down about the thought of never reclaiming youth. To add insult to injury, yesterday we went to brunch for Mother’s Day…our waitress charged the senior price for my meal. I wish I could have laughed about it like my family did. I pretended to, but inside it was one more crushing blow to a weary body.

Ponce de Leon set sail for the New World in search of a fountain of youth.

The book Tuck Everlasting revolved around the idea that a potion was found that would keep someone at the age they were once they drank it.

Beauty companies like Loreal and Olay produce products they claim will give one back the natural beauty that was once held effortlessly as a younger version of themselves.

Walmart has an entire aisle devoted only to hair color products, each one promising to hide the gray that may be adorning the head of the consumer.

Companies like Sephora and Cover Girl produce makeup that promises to hide the lines of aging and make one’s face youthful again.

The list could go on.

As I left the hair salon, as has been typical lately, I found myself fighting back tears once again. Each haircut takes away more of the natural brown color of my hair and leaves me with more gray. The thought repeatedly creeps in that maybe I should bite the bullet and color my hair. The only reason I haven’t done that yet is because I know, once I start, it will need to become a regular action. Not only do I not want to devote the time every month to sitting in a chair while my natural hair color is restored artificially, I don’t want to spend the money that involves either. I mentally have added what a monthly hair coloring would cost and, honestly, I can think of better places to spend that money–like spoiling my grandson or treating myself to something that I have cut out of my diet. In addition to these things, where does one stop at the expense of trying to reclaim youth? Do I spend hundreds of dollars then on a cream that promises to take away my aging look? Do I have injections or plastic surgery so that I can look like a woman instead of an old woman? I’ve seen Hollywood celebrities who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to look young; after a while, it doesn’t matter what you do. Age is going to happen and it is going to catch up with you.

Are there advantages to growing older? Definitely. But those advantages do not seem to outweigh the disadvantages for me. Society loves youth. The plethora of products claiming to return youth to the aged proves that fact. The rate of married middle aged men who leave their wives for younger women proves that fact. Television shows and commercials starring young, beautiful, fit people proves that fact. The loneliness of elderly people in nursing homes proves that fact. There doesn’t seem to be much incentive to live once old age sets in. For someone like me, who seems to be aging faster than my peers (who seem to look ten or more years younger than me), it is just another battle to fight–a battle that requires strength that just isn’t there.

I wish I could figure out why some grow old but do not seem to age. Perhaps there is no secret; instead, maybe it is just God’s blessing on their bodies. Today, I will once again avoid the mirrors in my home. I will avoid having my picture taken–why give myself a permanent reminder that I am no longer the person I used to be? I will spend time, again, contemplating why my friend still looks like she is in her twenties or thirties while I look like I am in my fifties or sixties. I will rationalize that I am a grandma after all, so I am supposed to look old. I will try to push out of my mind the images to which I compare myself. I will wonder, for the millionth time, why I am still alive given the limitations I seem to have mentally and physically. And, hopefully, at the end of the day, I will remember that age eventually catches up with everyone.

I just didn’t run as fast as some I guess.

 

Posted in Change, Culture, depression, empty nest, Grandma, Grandson, loneliness, MS | Leave a comment