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.

Advertisements
#1000Joys // orangelikejazz.wordpress.com

Back on the Grateful Train

It’s amazing what you can believe so deeply in when it’s fresh and new…but when you feel you’ve learned your lesson, it takes a back seat.

I’m talking about #1000joys here. It’s been a whirlwind of a year since I started this in February, but that doesn’t mean I get to stop.

And somewhere along the way, I decided I didn’t have the time anymore to tweet the joy in my life.

I was wrong.

#1000Joys // orangelikejazz.wordpress.com

So this is me, getting back on the grateful train after a month wandering the wrong direction.

(Exactly a month since I last tweeted about #1000joys. Yikes.)

Not because I feel guilty or weak or sad. But because I’m not better than I was when I’m started – in many ways, I’m worse off now than when I stopped.

Want to follow along? Follow @orangelikejazz on Twitter.

1000Joys of 60 Days [167-289]

Life has gone on, and so has the list of my #1000joys.

A good chunk of these have not appeared on Twitter since they happened during my Social Media Fast in June, and some are brand-new from our recent vacation.

Not sure what this is about? Read more about #1000joys, my journey to tweet my way to a life of thankfulness.

20140712_091340

167: Clearance party items

168: A cold Whiskey Pepsi

169: A husband with a fashion sense

170: The rain held off until I got home

171: A great discussion on the fruits of the Spirit versus the desires of the flesh and what it means for us today

172: Plans that fall through that lead to much-needed alone time

173: The laundry-toting husband

174: Crockpot dinners on crazy days

175: The blessing of marriage

176: Seeing the joy on the bride and groom’s face as they see each other

177: Being a helping hand

178: Praise music that fills the house as my husband practices for worship team

179: Sleeping in after a long day of travel and joy

180: Good weather for a wedding on a cold day in May

181: Hugs from surrogate parents

182: Tears of happiness at a mother-son dance

183: Arriving safely home on flooded streets

184: Last-minute potlucks at work to celebrate a birthday

185: Hand-me-down bookcases

186: Four-day weekends

187: Sharing secrets and squeals with tom-boy friends after a long day at work

188: The flicker of a candle

189: Reading books in bed

190: Family jokes and bad puns

191: The white noise of a fan to beckon sleep

193: Best friend phone calls

194: Long talks with my dad

195: Business lead waiting in my email

196: Quick and yummy dinners with just enough leftovers

197: Neighbor reconciliation

198: Call backs from new clients

199: Resonating with a stranger about shared life experiences.

200: The buoy of a sad heart when God doesn’t give up on your dreams when you were about to.

201: A delicious dinner with visiting grandparents

202: Dog-kisses from my best childhood friend

203: Talking life, love, and money

204: Hazelnut coffee in the morning

205: Writing up a contract for my dream job

206: Sleeping in on Saturday morning

207: The exciting feeling of a brand new day arriving

208: Hot showers on a warm morning

209: Saturdays at home with my darling love

210: Unexpected sibling nights

211: Watching brother-in-laws playing video games together

212: Realizing that life can be interesting

213: Checking items off the to-do list

214: eBooks to that save time, money, & sanity

215: Used bookstores and the smell of old books

216: Celebration of singleness & marriage

217: Doting on a wonderful friend with all the pomp she deserves

218: Cocktails

219: Hot wings & high heels

220: Word games

221: Telling love stories & heartbreak tales

222: Baby James giggling, smiling, & snoring

223: a cool breeze on a hot walk

224: lunch-ready leftovers

225: God’s tugging on my heart for more time with him and less about me

226: Orange lilies blooming

227: A racing heartbeat after a mile walk

228: Owls dancing on the moon

229: Color-coded water bottles

230: Grass clippings and rain puddles

231: Evergreen trees with budding pinecones

232: Women telling stories of body image growing up

233: Being an hour early then ten minutes late

234: Netflix binge-watching sessions

235: Fixed water pipes & resumed water pressure

235: Gin and tonics

236: YouTube shows

237: Custom lockscreens with Bible verses

238: The calmness of starting a new adventure

239: Free long-distance calls

240: The blessing of being so close to family

241: Relaxing weekends

242: Productive wedding meetings

243: Breakfast burritos and morning musings

244: Psuedo-bachelorette parties and real life talks

245: Spiritual mothers and mentors throughout my life

246: Fiber therapy in mustard yellow

247: Binge-watching TV shows

248: Beautiful rugs with exotic patterns

249: 15-minute cleanups to spruce up the house

250: Blueberry bagels and cream cheese

251: Sharing of burdens – past and present

252: Adoption approval for Kayte and Ryan

253: Being real about life, love, and loss

254: A caring hug

255: Fresh fruit on a summer day

256: Hot summer rains

257: Texts of encouragement

258: Sudden showers

259: The smooth glide of yarn over needles

260: Elena’s safe arrival into this world

261: Ever-changing melodies of an electric guitar

262: Sleeping in on days off

263: Walking the same paths from a decade ago

264: Lively spiritual discussions over donuts and coffee

265: Sharing knowledge at a scenic overlook

266: Gender-bending menu choices

267: Puppy kisses

268: Hot tub talks under the stars

269: Wind-swept hair during speed boat rides

270: Experiencing the sublime

271: Playing in the sand and silt

272: A good grip on a great camera

273: Reliving the joys of a fun morning through photos

274: Free pedicures in red clay and sand

275: Rain that held off just long enough

276: The sound of rushing waterfalls

277: Quick read books

278: $3 shoes

279: Community of prayer and petition

280: Frothing coffee

281: Howl of the hunt for chipmunks

282: Sweet cantaloupe

283: The comfort of my own bed

284: Gentle wakeup calls

285: Playing video games late into the night

286: Sunday truth from SheReadsTruth

287: Wild and crazy dance moves

288: Building relationships over southern cooking

289: Homemade spaghetti sauce

What I didn’t learn in June

So I’m here. I’m back from my 2-week social media fast. (Read more about the lead-up at June Media Blackout)

What strikes me the most looking back is what didn’t happen during my self-imposed blackout.

I didn’t log back on and become disgusted at the always-logged-on world. In fact, I found I could live without it easily but I realized how much I had missed out on while I was gone. Photos, events, conversations, and important updates that I was oblivious to – not to fault anyone but myself for not checking those media, albeit intentionally so.

I didn’t come back to social media with a holier-than-thou attitude. I came back to vibrant communities still carrying on important conversations and bonding.

I didn’t leave social media and feel free. It was difficult. It was intentional. After awhile, I did cave and check how many notifications I had – but I didn’t click on them. It was isolating knowing that there were things happening and I wasn’t a part of them but it was a reminder to refocus on the reasons I was doing it.

I didn’t come back from an intense spiritual high or mountain-top experience like I’d hoped I would have. There certainly were moments where I keenly felt the pull between breaking the fast and picking up a Bible and it wasn’t a choice, it was obvious. Removing the distractions certainly made those choices easier but they were still choices.

I didn’t meet my own expectations. I didn’t journal every day, spend hours in prayer, work on all my projects, or gain tons more free time.

Source: Project Management Tips // http://pmtips.net/

Was it a success? Yes, I survived. It wasn’t all mediocre and depressing either. I have opted to only download certain social media apps back to my phone to limit the pull of some sites on my constant need to add or check updates.

Will I do it again? If I need to, yes. It’s a repeatable exercise, and one that has various positive outcomes and will differ every time.

Do I recommend a social media fast? It depends. High expectations are likely to go unmet, while low expectations can defeat the purpose, whatever you determine that to be.

I’m still processing much of what did (or didn’t) happen during those weeks and trying to get caught up on what I missed. I do want to engage anyone who has questions or comments, so please reach out here or by email.

June Media Blackout

Social Media Fast icon from http://www.ourfreakingbudget.com/

I’m doing it – I’m jumping on the “social media fast” bandwagon.

That still, small voice tugged at my heart this morning when I browsed three social media sites in order to wake up and that’s before I even got out of bed. That’s not the only thing – I ignore the bible reading in my email (or phone notifications) and I procrastinate on doing homework for bible studies until I need to leave the house.

Something’s got to give in my life until I can get my heart back where it needs to be.

Back to the first love of my life – God my father.

I’m done denying it. I’m a wreck right now. I need to cut out the noise to help me focus on the Nourisher.

I’m going to keep this short and sweet – June 15th through 30th is going to be a media blackout on my Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and WordPress and and other social media that I imbibe daily. I’m removing the apps from my phone and tabs from my computer(s).

Instead of posting/updating/tweeting/pinning, I’ll be keeping a written journal of my prayers and #1000gifts, , delving into Scripture, reading read books, and working on some personal projects that have been on the back burner for too long.

I’ll still be available by email and text message, and I would love to hear from you regarding prayer requests, life updates, or check-ins.

This may not mean much to you, but it means getting my life back. And that’s worth all the social-media-free boredom in the world to me.

I hate rollercoasters

Roller coaster // clipartbest.com

The past month or so, I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster with an unexpected 180 turn from contentment to anxiety, cresting to exhilaration and plunging back into despair, and bouncing around the emotional spectrum at breakneck speed.

This rollercoaster ride culminated in a long conversation with my husband last night as I brought up being torn between academia and motherhood. To be fair, neither are in the immediate future, but I know I want them both. I know a great many strong, capable women that have managed both at the same time – my mother, my professors, my friends – but I know my limits. I’m not strong enough to juggle both roles of a teacher/life-time student and mother at the same time without cracking.

I highly value David’s insight into me and what makes me tick or break. (That saying that you know someone better than they know themselves is oh-so-true in our marriage.)

This guy gets me.

I also know what I want, those big dreams I’ve carried for so long. I want to be a book editor. I want to travel the world. I want to own a restaurant. I want to publish a book. I want to be a mother. I want to be out of debt. I want to plan weddings. I want to…do it all.

And this is where my limitations conflict with my dreams. I could try to do all those things (because I know people who have and who tell me I can), and I would fail miserably.

So we talked it out. I expressed what I felt and how I couldn’t reconcile all these dreams together. He helped me realize that an online degree wouldn’t fulfill my need for academic exploration, and that I wasn’t really cut out for a tenure-track professorship career either. Talking about our future helped me to realize which of those dreams others were suggesting to me and which dreams I really wanted for me.

And then, being the planner that I am, we had to address how we were going to get from Point A to those dreams.

Keep calm and change the plan

We didn’t plan down to the last detail. I didn’t write any of it down. It’s not a strict 10-year plan. But we did address some issues including my feelings of being all over the place and I feel more at peace about our lives.

I’ve been able to look back at the path I’ve been on for years and point out all the things that I felt but had not spoken, and once I laid them out, they weren’t so scary any more. In fact, we were able to agree on a few major milestones and laugh at the sillier suggestions.

The future feels less like a rollercoaster and more like an Indiana roadtrip – mostly flat with a few interesting things along the way with really good company and a lot of laughs.

And for today, that’s enough.

There’s a lesson I learned in college and it can be distilled to this: I can make plans, but it is God who decides what happens in my life. I can rest in having a direction and an idea of what I want in life, but I also need to be ready for God to change my plans into his (infinitely better) plans for our lives. And that is where I am once again – heading in a specific, concrete direction while I wait for God to direct our future.

The In-Between of Grief

In January, I spent 2 weeks in Florida when my grandmother went into the hospital, hospice, and her funeral. Below are a few snippets of my attempts to reconcile and process my grief.

Image from PowerofMother.com

The In-Between of Grief

It’s January 10 and I’m sitting by the bed of my grandmother with a washcloth and tears in my eyes. She’s lost most of her ability to speak today, but her breathing is loud and labored. Hours, or days, it doesn’t really matter at this point because she gave up when they brought her in a week ago.

This is the face of the dying.

I choke up every time a nurse comes in or one of my relatives shows up or they leave or…

Then I wipe away the tears, breathe in deeply, and smile. It doesn’t always work the first time, or the third, but eventually I move past the moment and into the in-between of this and the next outburst.

 ***

Scrounging around in my brain is a bug frantic for memories, fragments, moments, thoughts about this woman who has been so distant and so far from my life for years. I’m here, I tell myself, because I remember her and my brothers don’t. I’m here because I can’t be at home or at work, seven hundred miles away.

My friends think I am here for the Florida weather and to be with my family. They don’t know that the weather is poor and I rarely go outside the hospital, or that this family is almost foreign to me.

The bug does find those glimpses of the past – of Sunday buffets during the Packers games while building forts out of blankets and tables, or of her laugh and ridiculous t-shirts, or of the willow trees shading the backyard, or of her cats that seem to be ever present including our former kitty. Those years are long gone, but I remember.

At least she remembers me.

When I came today, her baby sister was there, talking enough for both of them. I traded places with this great-aunt I haven’t seen since the last funeral.

“She wants to talk to you. Let her know you’re here.”

“I’m here, Grandma Mickey.” I stroke her forehead. “I love you.”

She stares back at me with red-rimmed eyes beginning to glaze over. She doesn’t speak, just stares, as tears run down my face. I don’t make any move to stop them – she needs to know I am sad, that she shouldn’t be in pain, and I will miss her.

 ***

It’s an honor to be with her, they tell me – all of them – trying to make me feel as though being alone with a suffering woman when she passes is glorious. I dare not tell them that this is my worst nightmare, to be alone with someone when they die. This is not glory, it is death, and death is far from perfect or kind.

In the garden, there was no death.

We forget at Easter that bunnies and eggs have little to do with the comfortless agony of the cross. Of death for he who has not sinned.

 ***

Phone to my ear, I’m babbling nonsense and fighting back floods when a girl with purple streaks and a punk look rushes to the elevator. She’s choked up and on the phone too.

“Dad just died,” she croaks to the person on the other end.

“I’ll be right back, Mom,” I say as I toss the phone down on the waiting room couch. I go to the purple-streaked girl who hasn’t said anything else. “Can I give you a hug?”

She throws her arms open and we embrace. She starts sobbing and I start crying too.

“I’m so, so sorry,” I say over and over.

She coughs out another sob of overwhelming grief.

A boy shows up, taller than both of us, and he takes over as best he can. A boyfriend, perhaps, but awkward. “Do you want to sit down?” he asks her as I pick up my phone again and leave the area.

She doesn’t want to sit, I hear her. No, I think, she wants her dad back and she wants to cry. I know how she feels, the sorrow of loss.

I go back to grandma’s hospital room and cry some more – for the girl who has no father, for myself, for grandma who lingers on with every hard-earned breath.

 ***

Today I have started a bucket list, but not the movie version. This is the kind of bucket list that goes in the Living Will and Testament, the kind of thing no one thinks about except when staring death in the face.

It will have sunshine, and fresh air, and Shakespeare.

This is my bucket list, the thing that will carry me from this grief to the next until it’s my turn to look at death and welcome him because there is glory on the other side.

#1000Joys Part V: 89-110

Unlike the last time I posted several weeks ago, my heart is full. My feet still hurt, my hair is a bit unruly, and I feel like I’m on the precipice of change.

If you’re new here, welcome. In this space, I praise the little gifts of joy in my life, inspired by the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.

Here’s what I’ve loved and learned in April so far.

89: Recovery is cooking 2 dinners and dessert.

90: The safety of a friend amidst tragedy.

91: Full range of motion.

92: A wedding invite.

93: Spring rains and new life.

94: Spurts of cleaning mojo.

95: Bust-a-gut laughing with friends.

96: Intimate sharing of life stories.

97: People who look out for me.

98: Words of affirmation.

99: Small tokens of appreciation.

100: A kind word on a hard day at work.

101: Coffee steam rising from a mug of brew on a chilly April morning.

102: Spring frost on the windshield.

103: Feeling prepared.

104: 7 women filled with the Holy Spirit

105: A meal after church

106: First sunburn of the season

107: A dress code of dresses & fun

108: Being upbeat when the wind is cold & the snow is falling

109: Uplifting community that encourages and motivates

110: Taco salads

Read how it all began, see the rest of the list, or follow along on TwitterOne Thousand TweetsPart I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.

The Best Friend’s View [Living with PTSD]

Today I’m starting a new series call “Living with PTSD” because it’s an issue very dear to my heart. I call myself a PTSD survivor because I’ve been free of symptoms for several years, but it was one of the darkest times in my life and I still feel the ripples to this day. This series is for those who have or love someone who has PTSD symptoms – I hope my journey and these stories are helpful to you.

There are few things more difficult than seeing your friend spiral downwards in a mental disorder that you cannot control and cannot seem to help. This, at least, is how I imagine my best friend felt as I struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder in college.

She also happened to be in school to be a nurse.

When I asked her for her thoughts on being friends with someone with PTSD, she bubbled over with things I didn’t even realize at the time – or rather, not until I asked what it was like for her to travel this road with me. Here’s a collection of her thoughts and how to relate to someone struggling with PTSD or other anxiety disorders.

***

The Best Friend (left) and orangelikejazz (right) 2 months after the PTSD incident on move-in day for sophomore year of college. I'm actually terrified at the idea of classes, but happy that she is around to help me cope.

The Best Friend (left) and orangelikejazz (right) 2 months after the PTSD incident on move-in day for sophomore year of college. I’m actually terrified at the idea of classes, but happy that she is around to help me cope.

The best thing that you can do for someone with PTSD or PTSD-like symptoms is to be patient. You have to daily – or hourly – remind them that they are loved, cared for, and worth your time. This is most likely the worst part of their life, and they feel not only attacked from all sides (inside and out) but it can be very isolating.

Below is a list of things to do and act and how to help when you might be feeling like this is a foreign land.

Things to Do

  • Emphasize understanding
  • Give the person space when needed
  • Just listen
  • Provide good support

How to Act

  • The person needs to be show love when they are at their worst
  • Focus on the little steps they take on recovery and celebrate those

Coping for Them (and You)

That there is no miracle for recovery. It takes time.

Lots and lots of time.

They may often need help remembering their best times before the incident that triggered the PTSD when it seems like the whole world has been dark and depressing for forever.

They may also need to know they may never feel like their old self again, but they need to accept their new self just as we would a new friend. It’s probably true that they may never return to their old self…But a newer, better version of their self will stay.

Getting mad at the person for PTSD symptoms is stupid. Focus your frustrations not at the person but the disorder and help the person through the bad times.

This person, your friend, who is experiencing PTSD can’t go through recovery solo.

They will need a support system of friends, family, therapy and recovery groups where people with PTSD come together to help each other out in order to come out the other side.

 

On the other side of it all: orangelikejazz (left) and The Best Friend (right) at TBF's graduation from nursing school (4 years after the incident). Still best friends and closer for the times we've weathered together.

On the other side of it all: orangelikejazz (left) and The Best Friend (right) at TBF’s graduation from nursing school (4 years after the incident). Still best friends and closer for the times we’ve weathered together.

I hope you can see why I’ve been so honored to call her my best friend all these years – through thick and thin.

Part of this series’ purpose is that you never feel alone in your journey. Whether you have PTSD, know someone who does, or are just struggling with a totally different bump in the road, you are not alone. Please always feel that you can reach out to me and to others. I would love to talk to you about this or other posts at whatever stage in the journey you are on, so get in touch by email or Twitter.