Day Three, Meds Free

Three days without meds.

Three days where my anxiety, already heightened because of stress, kicked into high gear.

Three days of paranoia.

During those days, small things set me off. Feeling like a failure at everything I tried, even if it was successful. Being fatigued after working a normal 8-hour day. Forgetting to call my doctor for several days because I couldn’t follow through on my thoughts. An imaginary vice grip squeezing my chest in the shower that caused burst of sobs with no trigger. Projecting onto people negative feelings towards me without any indication they were real feelings.

Anxiety is physical. Depression is real.

Let’s back up. After a series of terrible coincidences and awful memory retention, I found myself running out of my anti-depressants over a weekend I was traveling with no refills to order. I had enough to get me through half of my trip, but I would be out for the last day of my trip. One day turned into three before I finally got the prescription refilled and picked up.

For the first time in more than a year, I felt the difference between the unmedicated me and the one on “crazy pills.”

I want to make something very clear – I don’t need my pills. I won’t keel over if I don’t get them. I’m not addicted to them. I didn’t go into withdrawal without them. I halved my dose after the first year of taking them without side effects.

I simply cry less, feel in control of my emotions, am easier to live with, cope better, and enjoy life a little more when I take them.

I don’t pull my hair at the roots while driving, unable to see the road through the tears (this actually happened). While taking my meds, I don’t feel like yelling and screaming gibberish daily in public places (this actually happens occasionally while on meds). On my meds, I leave work with enough energy to cook dinner and enjoy my time out of the office.

Today is day three back on my anti-depressant, and I’m now starting to feel like a better version of my true self. Is medication for everyone? No. But I’m a better person for taking my medication, and I’ve got three days in my past to prove it.

A Year Past

There’s no point in ringing in the new year now. It’s midway through January and I’m far too jaded to stretch on a one-second event for weeks. I slept through the midnight-tolling festivities, fending off a sinus infection and laryngitis, and I’m quite content to leave it in the past.

The month January holds bittersweet memories for me. A year ago, my grandmother passed away, and it was one of the most terrible experiences I’ve lived through (if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know that’s not a small statement).

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The punctures of grief have lessened, I feel along the same pattern as a Fibonacci spiral. They start so small, so tight together, but gradually the time between choking up grows longer, and the pain dulls. It’s not really ever gone, but as the raging river of daily life pulls me further away, it becomes easier to manage.

Nautilus Cutaway by Chris 73, modifications by Roberto // posted under Creative Commons

Perhaps “easier” isn’t the right word since in the process of writing this post, I’ve used a half dozen tissues and even more tears.

My therapist asked me a few weeks ago how I was going to mark the week, and I answered immediately. Mulling over my answer, I’ve come to the conclusion that it won’t be a single thing, but a wide variety of ways to remember my grandmother. I follow a long tradition in my melodramatic flair, Disney-inspired-names, red-head-wanna-be, recipe-be-scorned ways I inherited from Grandma Mickey.

So this week I’m still going to mourn her passing and all the moments I never got to spend with her. I’m also going to laugh, to cry, and to cook because I like to think that’s what she would have wanted me to do.

grandma mickey 1

The tightness in my chest

The air is still. My heart is thumping. The space in my chest collapses in on itself, constricting tighter and tighter. There isn’t any emotion or feeling or thought behind it. It doesn’t have a name.

But I know what it is.

Fear of everything and nothing and all the things running through my head.
It fills me with sadness and despair.

Fear and anxiety have followed me for as long as I can remember, but this tightness in my chest is new. I couldn’t say where it comes from or when it started, but I also can’t make it go away.

My heart aches for those just like me. I have many dear friends who have admitted they struggle with depression, and it looks a little bit different for everyone.

For me, depression looks like isolation, despondent thoughts, and restlessness with my current situation. And this seething snarl of sadness beneath my ribs, sucking out my life.

Tonight I’m going to put on my shoes and brave the cold. It’s my second meeting with a new therapist because I can’t make the tightness go away on my own.

My fear is my shame. And this is me, getting help.

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This isn’t me.

There comes a time when the tension can no longer hold: earthquakes, tsunamis, that Yates poem, myself. Everything safe falls away and what is left is raw and exposed; everything hurts and soon there is too much to focus on any one thing, and too little left to grasp everything.

This is what craziness must feel like.

But I’m not crazy. Sure, I’m slightly askew, my logic isn’t always sound, and my jokes aren’t always funny, but I’m not batshit, nuthouse, call-the-asylum crazy. Except in these moments, that what it feels like. I’m falling apart from the inside and I don’t know where to start.

I’ll wake up tomorrow and do it again – I have to, for the sanity and the customers and the paycheck. There is no choice because to not do it is to admit defeat, and I won’t be defeated by my own mind. They call it coping mechanisms. I call it survival.

Image from: Not Just About Wee // http://www.notjustaboutwee.com/

I didn’t create this word cloud, so not everything pictured applies, but you get the idea.

I took one step forward today and I’m proud to have reached out to professional help for the first time in years. It’s several weeks away, but it was a decision a long time coming.

I’ve been to therapy before – three different counselors in as many years – but over two years have passed since I stopped and my coping techniques that worked wonders don’t help anymore. I’m at a different stage of life now, and it’s time to update my repertoire.

Tonight, I don’t feel like myself. I’m not who I want to be. But I’m scared of the future and who I will become if I let go of what I have let define me for years.

So instead of wallowing, I’m doing something about it. I’m asking for your prayers and thoughts and good vibes. Thank you.

White Hot Panic

http://www.biopticdrivingusa.com/

*trigger warning: anxiety*

I got in the car and turned on the headlights as the engine hummed to life. Even in the city, side streets aren’t well lit and the headlights looked like floodlights against the darkness.

I knew he wouldn’t be far behind in his own car, but since he was inside still talking, I wearily left the in-laws and turned onto the main road. Thoughts were floating here and there like clouds on a summer day – oh, that one looks like this, gee I haven’t looked at it that way in awhile, and over there is another thought.

A few blocks away, a red light brings me to a halt.

The car behind me is stopped so close I can’t see his headlights even though I’m in the right lane and the left is empty.

My heartbeat picks up. Maybe he’ll peel off at the next turn, or maybe he’s trying to turn left – this is a major intersection after all. Nothing to worry about.

Green light.

We speed along like we’re connected. He doesn’t race past, but he’s pushing me.

Are the headlights the right shape? I can’t remember. Could it be him? Probably. Will he pass me and beat me home?

What if it isn’t my husband? I hit the gas. The car is still there, riding in the right lane.

I could call him. My cell phone is within reach, and it would solve everything.

But if it isn’t him…

My pepperspray is at home. I wouldn’t have time to find it if he followed me in.

We ride on some more. My knuckles are turning white as I twist my hands along the top, undecided between gripping for dear life and nervous shiftings.

Four miles down, one to go.

I turn onto the busy street – just 2 lefts and 2 rights until I’m safe. He gets in the left turn lane behind me. I can’t make out the color of the car, even with the streetlights. I’m going to be jumped by a stranger – I’m going to die in my parking lot before I can get in my apartment – I’m going to…

I grab my phone and dial the number.

“Are you the car behind me?”

“Of course.”

I breathe again, but my hand grips the phone. “I was afraid you were someone else.”

He soothes me, his voice all I needed to rationalize the irrational. “I’ll see you at home in a few.”

I hang up and want to laugh at myself. I desperately want to laugh, scream, run, and collapse. Words start formulating in my head. I know I will write about this, even in that moment, because tonight I gave myself a panic attack so bad I couldn’t breathe and my husband thought I was crazy.

Maybe that’s just it. Maybe I’m crazy. But if this is what it takes to cope – a phone call, words of reassurance, words on the page – then so be it.

I’d rather be crazy and know it than deny it’s happening again.

Oh, Brother! (An Ode to Siblings)

I often read or hear a great deal of Christian women talk about this fantastic bond between them and their sister(s). I can rarely identify with those feelings. See, I grew up with two brothers – both younger, and both very different from me and each other.

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Imagine my panic when I moved an hour away from home to live with 17 other girls in a single suite plus a roommate. (Kudos to Meagan for putting up with me for so long. It’s totally true that we’re closer now than we ever were then.)

But more than anything, I missed these goofballs.

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(Okay, maybe we’re not that different after all.)

And then I got married. These two kids were champs and the best ushers I could ask for. And (BONUS) they got another brother out of the deal AND I got 2 more brother-in-laws too.
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But there’s something about blood and being raised in the same house with the same pets and dinners and family vacations. That’s a bond that we’ll never be able to quantify.

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Handsome, isn’t he?

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Today is the older-younger brother’s birthday and I miss him terribly.

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All this to say…I miss you a lot. Happy 19th year, B.J.! See you soon.

I am Gomer. I am Israel. I am a SINNER.

SheReadsTruth.com has been going through one of my favorite books of the bible: Hosea. You can read the full study on their website. This post is part of their link-up series #SheSharesTruth. Read more from others who have gone through the study at #SheSharesTruth or read the 17-day devotional for yourself online.

#SheSharesTruth

There is something so visceral about the book of Hosea. The story (if you’re not familiar with it) draws a stark parallel between Israel’s relationship with God and Gomer’s unfaithfulness to her husband, Hosea. She (meaning both Israel and Gomer) runs away from the person who can love her like no one else into the arms of idols, gods, and danger.

The poetry in Hosea is difficult to read. It tells the story of Israel’s unfaithfulness to its creator, her blatant disregard for everything God has done for her, and how she runs away laughing into the arms of that which (and whom) cannot satisfy, cannot love, and poses a dangerous threat to her beyond her imagination.

At one point (chapter 3), Hosea has to buy Gomer out of slavery in order to bring her home. I imagine she was so lost in where she had run to that she didn’t know how to get to safety. And what does her husband do? He seeks her out, finds her in immense trouble, and pulls her back into his embrace – at a literal and palpable cost to himself, not to mention the overwhelming love and dedication he would have needed.

Sound familiar?

If not, read the gospels.

Summary aside, we rarely see the prophets in marriage or discussing their spouses. (Deborah is the exception that comes to mind.) But this is exact what Hosea is called to do: “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” (Hosea 1:2 ESV)

I’m imagining this scene in my head – Hosea hears this from God, and he knows he’s been called to do an uncomfortable thing. It’s not as simple as preaching to his enemies, or transcribing a dream, or going out to battle. God is calling him to go find a wife among the prostitutes and love her, care for her, and do the same for her children – which may or may not be his children.

But it really comes down to this: God was in his marriage. Even when it felt like there was no hope, that his wife had abandoned him to care for the children, when it felt like God was asking too much – Hosea knew that God was there.

I feel for Hosea. I want to say in my heart, yes God, I’d be ready for even that mission.

Then I read more about Gomer and Israel and I see myself reflected back.

I’m not the prophet in this story.

Gomer runs away three times. Israel has run away thousands. And we – yes, us good Christians – have run away billions of times.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t consequence to our running, or that God will provide complete shelter from all that is tainted in the world, but he will never leave us to face it by ourselves. He will always accept us back in the name of his son’s sacrifice.

So this is what I learned in Hosea:

I am Gomer.

I am Israel.

I am a sinner.

But as I was looking for ways to close this post, I found this image and it felt right. Hosea bought his wife back, and God purchased us with the blood of his son while I was still a sinner. The Bible is a continuous narrative, because as much as we want to say Hosea and Gomer’s story ended at chapter 14, it really ends in Revelation after Christ comes back for his Bride, the sinners he died for before we were even born.

And that’s worthy of an AMEN.

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8.

I’m A Second-Shift Widow [UPDATED AUGUST 27]

If you’ve ever heard of a Football Widow, you know what the title means. (If not, an example is below)

Football Widow Humor Tshirt from UBUdesigns // etsy

I’m not a real widow – I have a husband, but only on weekends. My husband works a second-shift job and I work a typical 8-5 job which means we see each other unconscious more than awake.

So what does this look like?

  • A second-shift widow (like myself) doesn’t serve dinner every night – or cook.
  • She can leave the dishes for the morning if she wants to.
  • She doesn’t go to bed with a kiss goodnight.
  • She has the bathroom to herself in the morning.
  • She doesn’t fall asleep to someone breathing.
  • She’s always up for girl nights.

Living an opposite schedule from your spouse has its ups and its downs. You’re so close and yet so apart. You don’t have to do all the chores, but you’re still cleaning up after two. Being married to a ghost 5/7th of the week is a strange feeling and an even stranger marriage.

Today I read this great blog post by a good friend, Maggie Johnson, about marriage in the moments between the life-defining highs and the dreaded lows. If you haven’t read it, go read it now (no, really, go!) because what she said is absolutely true. What she says is what I’ve been trying to cultivate in our marriage since it started – intentional time and unintended time are equally needed in marriage. Spouses that work different shifts, however, have an added challenge in cramming everything it needs to be into a finite amount of time.

My temporary solution to working different shifts has been for me to cut short sleep in exchange for 15 or 20 minutes after he gets home (like right now). That doesn’t happen every night, and cutting out sleep certainly influences other parts of life. It’s stressful and hard and I hate it.

I would not wish this marriage on anyone else.

Our time together is limited by jobs and when it does happen, it’s filled with necessities: setting the budget, family events, laundry. These things are good and build us up in other ways, but rarely is it intimate or completely fulfilling. Most of the time, alone or together, I have this yearning to just sit next to each other and be.

Imagine telling your husband this: “Stop whatever you’re doing or planning to do and just be with me.”

(Hint: It doesn’t go over well.)

So we find other ways of fulfilling that intimacy without feeling suffocated. We play board games while discussing books. We bounce new ideas off each other while surfing the internet. We talk about the trips we’ll take while we sip cocktails and beer. We fold laundry and dream of the future. We disagree about who will load the dishwasher while we eat ice cream. We text cool things we’ve found to each other while we’re on our lunch breaks or at home. We Facebook message important things for the other to read when they wake up. We argue about which show to watch or who gets to play the video game first…okay, so it’s not all roses and lilacs – there are thorns and weeds too.

We put a lot of time and energy and love and sacrifice in our Marriage Box to make this thing work. I came across the idea of the Marriage Box earlier this year and it’s been percolating in my head ever since. (If you know the source, please tell me – I searched and searched to no avail.)

The Marriage Box

It’s just so true, and not just for marriage. This is how friendships and family and church and work and marriage all work – you put in more than you take out…or else you’re with an empty box.

UPDATE

UPDATE 8/27: I just got a voicemail from my husband. Less than 24 hours after I posted this blog, he was notified that his shift will be reverting to a first-shift. It’s effective tomorrow.

Words fail me right now. The only thing I can do is sing in my heart and praise with my tongue.

I don’t want to forget the nights like tonight – coming home to a dark house, eating alone, pining, making busy work – but I’m ready to move past them and into that restored relationship, that community that I crave. It’s been a tough three months (June-August) back as a second-shift widow, but I’m looking forward to the next chapter as we continue to build this thing called marriage.

One thing I know for certain: I never take these moments, this mountaintop or the valley we’ve just been through for granted. Every day is a chance to put a little more into the Marriage Box and grow closer to God and each other as we do so.