Monday, October 20, 2014

Don't Be a Know It All

photo: Scott Ehardt via Wikimedia Commons

I say to my family, "I know stuff", because I do...granted it's usually how to fix techy things, cooking related or random facts of pop culture (thanks Cliff Claven). They often still don't want to listen, but I'm quick to say, "see, I know stuff" when the answer they get is what I said in the first place.  It seems to have a little less "know-it-allness" than an "I told you so" (or so I tell myself).

I used to pretend to know stuff. When people talked about subjects I didn't understand, or used words I didn't know, I'd just go along.  I wouldn't try to contribute (I'm not a dummy!), but I'd listen, smile, etc.  I wasn't trying to be superior, but I didn't want to appear stupid. 

I never liked school.  I was actually pretty good at it, but when it was time for college, I went one year, only because I was told I had to. I took a semester off and then when I went back, it was mostly just to prove the people wrong who said I'd never go back once I took time off.  I had no direction, no goals, no passions. I loved theater, but there was never anyone who said that was a real "thing" to pursue, so I didn't think it was.  If there was a path to take, or guidance counselors available like there are today, I certainly didn't know about them.  There was no one to ask me what I wanted to do or guide me on how to do it, and since I didn't like it anyhow, there was no impetus for me to seek anything or anyone out. 

I went to trade school, got a Cosmetology license and enjoyed working as a hairdresser for a few years. I was ok.  I mean, bring me a photo of what you want and I can do it.  But come with no ideas and tell me to do "whatever looks good for my face", I was the wrong person.  I worked a year after having my daughter.  Business never really picked up for me more than part-time after my maternity leave, and since my husband and I wanted more kids, we made the decision for me to stay home full time with them. 

Of course as I got older, I've realized some of the things I missed by not getting a college degree.  Basic general education is there for a purpose. To expand your knowledge of the world. Don't misunderstand me, I have NO desire to go back to school. It just doesn't appeal to me. I am so impressed with my adult friends who at 45 or 50 years old finished their degrees.  But for myself, that makes me just want to say UGHHH and vomit a little. I don't feel like I'm missing out because I don't have a degree. (I also understand the world has changed, and so, so many jobs, even entry level, require a BA or BS like they used to require a High School diploma. As much as I can, I will help & encourage my kids to finish at least that.)

My whole point though is to just be you.  When you go along with something, you miss opportunities to learn. When you admit you don't know something, you take a small risk that a few jerks will use it to belittle you (and there are those people). I've found more often than not though, that most people are happy to explain the basic principle they are talking about, or my favorite, a word they just used.  I've learned some of my favorite vocabulary words that way. 

Also, when you don't let those belittling jerks get the better of you, they become very apoplectic.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

5 & 5

I recently had a great opportunity to visit a friend from high school, who now lives in Florida. There were 5 of us all together, and all friends from high school. A few of them even go back to elementary school or earlier!

This was a list I made after traveling.

1. Time together with long time friends ending
2. Airplane seats
3. Middle airplane seats
4. Mosquitoes (though thankfully, it's a "thing" in Florida to have screened in 
    pool areas/patio/decks.  We hung out and it's just the one errant bugger that           somehow got in and of course, found me. 
5. People leaving one of something so they don't have to replace/refill it and then     you are the "lucky one" who gets 3 things in a row to refill/replace. 
    (this was not a vacation lament)

1. Coming home to family (and a tidy house!!!)
2. Good coffee
3. Getting to fly across the country to see friends
4. Flip flop tan lines
5. Pets

Chime in with yours!

Friday, October 10, 2014

5 & 5

1. Fake tan lotion smells gross.
2. Laundry never ends.
3. Cutting coupons. MISERY
4. Safeway
5. I always get a little manic when I'm going somewhere, and feel like I need to get everything ready at know, in case I DIE. (

1. Fresh hair color.
2. My mini vaca is here!!
3. Netflix.
4. Good comedy; for example, The Office, early Adam Sandler,       Jimmy Fallon, Jen Lancaster
5. Costco wasn't awful. 

How is your week? Any gripes? Good things are good too. :)

Thursday, October 09, 2014

The Bipolar Parade or There's a Pill for That!

     I have no idea why this background is all wonky, but frankly I just don't have the patience to deal with it right now.

img source: Creative Commons

I shared my diagnosis last month, but it was a long road for me to get there. I was able to talk somewhat openly about depression for a while, but to be honest enough to share the full picture? That was a scary choice.  

Monday marked the beginning of a week long social media campaign, #sayitforward by the International Bipolar Foundation.
"When it comes to mental health conditions, silence is not golden. Silence
breeds stigma, and stigma prevents people from seeking life-saving treatment and support."

I see now how the more we share with others, the less alone we are and in turn, we give others strength to open up and even search for treatment. Silence, or selective silence feels safe. We don't open ourselves up to those that don't or won't understand, but the flip side is isolation.

After so many encouraging comments last month, I decided to share my story in hopes that it will help someone. I'll do it in a few parts for sake of length.

While I can look back into my teen years in particular and identify that a lot of what was labeled "rebellion" was in fact, behavior under the influence of bipolar disorder, that's all in hindsight with the information I have now.  I do see the importance of openly talking about mental illness though, no different than heart disease or cancer, so your family can better understand their history. Many experts agree that mental illness is hereditary, at least on some level. The Mayo Clinic states, “About 1 in 4 adults has a mental illness in any given year. About half of U.S. adults will develop a mental illness sometime in their lives.”

I can remember having my first baby and bringing her home. There were plenty of gushy, warm feelings, but I distinctly remember a moment, looking across the room at her in her bassinet and feeling detached. And then of course, feeling guilty.

One night I had an emotional breakdown in the hallway.  She hadn't been crying, in fact she was an incredibly easy baby. I had heard of the "baby blues" and chalked it up to that.  

The "blues" were worse after having my second baby, but the thrill of having a newborn and the 2 year old I already had, was enough to keep me floating with my head above water.

After my third baby was born, I couldn't seem to shake the "blues", but I didn't understand what was happening to me. I felt like I was living life under a cloud, and no matter how much I wanted to get better, I was like Eeyore. People describe the busyness of life as “having a lot on their plate”. It seemed for me, with each pregnancy & birth, my plate shrank. It took less & less for me to get overwhelmed & angry, which then gave way to guilt & depression.

When #3 was about 8 months old, I read an article in the San Jose Mercury News called, Beyond the Baby Blues by Shoshana Bennett. (Now a PhD., she has since gone on to write multiple books on the subject.) This was the first thing I read or heard that described me!  I was so thankful to have some information to take to my doctor.  

I have since learned that Post-Partum depression affects about 20%, or 1.3 million women in the U.S. a year! That’s more than diabetes, stroke or breast cancer. It’s also over twice the amount of men affected by E.D. A condition addressed in long, detailed commercials that our society now openly talks about.

I went in to the doctor's office we talked about what I read, what I was feeling and some options. She talked to me a little about Post-Partum Depression.  The way I understood what she said, was that some women need a few months on an antidepressant to “jump start” their brain/bodies into making the right balance of chemicals again. She started me on Zoloft and I was looking forward to feeling better.

It took a few weeks to adjust to the meds. It made me extremely sleepy. I had to be careful driving in the afternoons for school pick up, because I was afraid of falling asleep. I was so desperate for help though, I felt I had to push through.

The Zoloft worked. I was feeling better. “Normal”.  I had a lot of support from my husband and the group of women I had been meeting to pray with for 5 years. After 6 months, with the agreement of my Dr., I went off the meds.

Life went on as normal for a while.  I don’t remember any major depressive symptoms, but I can look back and see mania. There’s a running joke in our house that before any event, I would be up sewing a dress, making food or whatever, into all hours of the morning.  I used to think it was procrastination.  Well, it was, but being manic had more to do with being the driving force behind it. Also, my anger & impatience would spike and for me, that’s a tell tale sign of being “up”.  My Dr. has told me that for many people, the fun/energetic mania happens when they’re younger.  Later in life it manifests as irritation or anger… great.

When my kids were about 9, 7, 5, and 2, I had firmly established myself as a yeller. I loved being a mom, I loved my kids, but I couldn’t seem to control the yelling when I got angry or overwhelmed.  I couldn’t keep up with the household tasks and my responsibilities and that affected my frustration and anger even more.   We were outside our friends’ home, getting the kids out of the car and I was yelling. A lot. Loudly. My husband, whom I trust, love and know loves me finally said, “You need to get some help.”  Not only did I know he was right, but it was actually a relief to hear him confirm what was already internalized in me.

I went back to my Dr. and she put me back on Zoloft which again worked. By worked, I mean it lifted the depressive feelings and I wasn’t as quick to get angry. It did make me incredibly lethargic and sluggish. After 4 months, it seemed to slowly stop working.  The depression crept back in and I went back to see her.  She said that could happen, and switched me to Cymbalta.

That summer, I started to see a "life coach".  This man used to practice as a licensed psychologist, but decided to go this route instead.  I don't remember his explanation, but I knew someone else who was seeing him so I tried it.  It was odd.  He had a lot of good things to say.  Some were a bit more out there than I was used to, but I don’t tend to dream or imagine stuff, so I went with it.  Looking back, I can see so much more clearly. After leaving my sessions, I didn’t feel bad. I didn’t think I felt bad, but I did.  I also pushed the feelings away and blamed them on my judgement or whatever it was I was going through.  Thought I don’t remember, I’m sure those repressed feelings popped up at home, misdirected at the people I loved most.  There was one visit, the second to last where he began to make suggestions.  If you remember Kevin Nealon’s character on SNL, “Subliminal Guy”, it was kind of like that, though not funny. He would make suggestive comments, irrelevant to what we were talking about, in the context of what I shouldn’t do. For instance, I shouldn’t bring wine to my appointment and offer to drink it with him. That would be close to the “slippery slope”. Yah, I got it and understood who was the slippery character here. I brought my husband with me to my next and last appointment.  The guy proceeded to talk to him like I wasn’t even there.  He started throwing around clinical terms of my possible diagnoses including Borderline Personality Disorder. (Neither Bipolar disorder or depression was one of them.)

I have come to realize so many characteristics in regards to the brain and disorders, can overlap each other. You need a qualified person to help ascertain which is the best fit to get the help you need.  There is no blood test. No markers. This though, this was different.  He was simply trying to choose things that would discredit my word against his.  Did I tell you before how much my husband loves me? He would have none of that stood up for me and stayed on my side.

Later, it turns out, the other person I knew that was also seeing him for "therapy", was dealing with worse stuff.  The guy was actually hitting on her, calling her, eventually harassing her, etc.  It was despicable. There’s a reason he’s no longer practicing as a licensed psychologist, but when you look up licenses online, it’s very vague so you end up buying what the slippery guy is selling you. And when you are desperate for help, you begin to believe anything.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

5 & 5

I often feel a twinge of guilt when writing my 5&5. "You have so much to be thankful for!" are the words I hear over & over or, "First world problems"...While this is true, the reality is there are also cruddy things that happen. Often, in order to truly be thankful, you need to first acknowledge the crud. And while my problems are not the same as someone in another country, or perhaps, even in another zip code, they are still the issues I'm dealing with, and therefore have merit. 

1. My middle schooler's moods. I get it, adolescence is tough. But it's tough for the parents too. I love my kids and it's hard to have them pull away, even though I know it's good.

2. The 10# I lost, I've put back on. Again.

3. Being a parent who tries to stay engaged as a parent. It's oh, so worth it, but oh, so hard.

4. I have to go to Costco in the next day or two...

5. It's dang hot! (and while this isn't weather related, saying, "hot" makes me think of this classic: )

1. I'm thankful that we live close to family. What good is being family if you can't help each other out and have each other's backs.

2. Good TV. Seriously. I enjoy stories told well, whether dramatic or funny.

3. Pets. They are a comfort and joy. They help with depression and loneliness. They are awesome. 

4. I'm thankful I have friends that make me laugh, and friends I can make laugh. 

5. That even though it's been hot this weekend, I live in a climate that is really mostly awesome. (And as charming as snow is, I don't think I'd do well living in it.)

What are you dealing with today? Good, bad, whatever? It's all valid.