I’m Legit.

About the time I turned 16, I just stopped performing each May. No matter what I was into, I just put on the brakes and derailed myself. I did it the first three entire years of college; I’d get all the way through a semester, take one look at the stress of exam week and just shrug, mumble “Nooope”, and walk away. Completely. This is why I spent 7 solid years (even summers) in undergrad.

As a kid, I was a cah-RAZY overacheiver, literally earning all the Girl Scout badges, playing a different sport every season, competing in piano conventions, performing in dance recitals and plays, making all the A’s, #snatchingtrophies, and generally being all golden and full of promise. It sounds awful to state publicly, but being the best at stuff came really easily to me for some reason, even in genres I didn’t like (I won a multiplication bee once… no, really.) And then, the second I wasn’t the best at something (Math. 7th grade. Got a “C”.), I started crumbling. The feeling of failure was too much, and once I started experiencing it even in small, isolated doses, I just could not fucking handle it.

(NOTE: There were a number of outside factors weighing in on my feelings of self-loathing back when I started falling short of my usual success, but I dumped all those onto my many therapists and they aren’t relevant to the story now. I’m all healed. Promise.)

Things snowballed gradually from there. I went to an artsy magnet high school and, when my math teacher told me I had a 38 average the week before graduation, I sweet-talked my way into enough extra credit to get it yanked up to an 84. In my class of 140-ish students, I finished 64th.

Then college happened. The combination of depression, substance abuse, anxiety, and an unhealthy long-term relationship wreaked havoc on my ability to do much of anything and, after my hospitalization in ’03, I was stuck living with my parents and going to a technical college. I worked my way up to the local university. My self-loathing in those years was my M.O. It was hideous.

Somehow, I slowly made my way out of there with solid grades despite having to take another Medical Withdrawal for the Spring ’06 semester due to the Cray, and graduated with a surprisingly decent GPA. (3.38 thankyouverymuch.) In fact, I even passed a GRE shortly afterward with flying colors, knowing I was going to have a baby soon and wanting to keep grad school an option.

Aaanyway, cut to 8 years later and I’m actually trying to apply myself to something demanding again for the first time since. I’ve been doing a 9-month yoga teacher training course that requires a ton of outside hours and, as the deadline draws nearer, I’m fighting off this rampant apathy that I recognize from all those seasons of disappointment. Also, I’m applying for a really decent work-from-home position so I can be here over the summer when the Bear is, and there’s a lot of homework and testing involved to qualify, which is also due soon. And, suddenly, I don’t want to do any of it; I’m getting all in my head about how maybe this isn’t even my “calling” and I’m no good at it and man, I dunnooooo, what does it even maaatter in the grand scheme of things? I don’t feel a drive to do anything else; I just don’t feel like doing anything at all…except maybe drink wine and binge-watch “IT Crowd” again on Netflix while slowly pedaling our stationary bike all day… I mean, I’m not doing that… but it’s tempting…

This is a very, very familiar demon. The apathy coalesced with an existential crisis creeps in and before I know it, I’m doing nothing, then hating myself for it, then cycling back into self-loathing again, then I’m literally crippled by the knowledge that I’m a victim to my own neuroses again and it’s a never ending cycle and I’m never going to change and Jesus what’s wrong with me and what sort of white-middle-class-American-overprivileged bullshit is this and why can’t I get over myself and seriously, you’re 32, Liz, can we please growthefuckup!?

Alright. That noise stops here. I’m different now, dammit. I’ve successfully raised a happy, healthy, well-mannered, daughter for the last 7+ years despite being completely ignorant about it and mentally freaking out the whole time. I’ve fought through more than a decade of mental recovery to being a stable, non-overmedicated contributor to society. I’ve kept a marriage together longer than any relationship I’ve ever had and it’s healthy/no longer on the brink of collapse. I’ve been published on national platforms. I clean my house regularly. I can cook actual meals from scratch. I hold down jobs and meet deadlines and pay bills. I was a teacher at a college for a year and actually taught people stuff well enough that they still keep in touch and ask for assistance in editing stuffs. I can complete things. I HAVE completed things.

I’m not a whiny 20 year old with inherent learned helplessness anymore. I’m not firing on all cylinders, but I have yet to find anyone who is, so it’s okay to give myself a pass on not being Queen of Everything.

As my good friend said to me recently, “You’re legit. You’re an adult. People love you.”

I got this. I’ve had this. I’m okay.

Have a seat, Spring Demon. I have shit to do and you are pissing me off with your outdated cliches and ridiculous platitudes. Time for us both to get some new material.

The One Year Mark

I’ve been holding off on writing anything a lot recently, but I received this message randomly on Reddit:

…and it seemed like the Universe providing a Cosmic Stage Cue for me to move forward with [over]sharing my story.
(Also, thanks again to user l_b for such a profound message.)

It’s been a year since I stopped taking the cocktail of medications I’d been prescribed for more than a decade prior and, while I consciously know that a lot has improved, spring is the time of year that my mental state collapses. I was determined this will be the year I come through it without falling apart, and I was very optimistic that, because this last year hasn’t seen any major, long-term depressions, this would finally be the spring I was okay; however, the last couple weeks have seen that typical decline in spirits that I’m fighting tooth and nail. You’ll have to forgive my momentary Eeyore demeanor (or not – your choice) , but this week in particular has traditionally been the one that has seen a complete meltdown on my part, which usually results in me being bedridden for a month and has put me in two separate mental hospitals over the years. (This, by the way, isn’t at all uncommon I recently learned. In fact, spring is the season that sees the most suicides and mental health hospitalizations. Does this make me basic?) I’m trying to get sunshine, continue a daily yoga practice, and get what fruits and vegetables I can, but the surge of random despair is pretty hard to shake.

It would serve me well to focus on The Positives of The Last Year. Let’s do that instead.

1) I’ve lost half of the 60 lbs I quickly gained while on the last medical cocktail, which has been veeerry slow going (apparently my liver is so shot from years of meds that its ability to metabolize fat is pitiful), but because of my yoga practice, I feel stronger than I ever have. I still have a long way to go, but unlike every time I’ve ever lost weight, this has been gradual and lasting; I’m not losing in fits and spurts and I don’t gain everything back during a premenstrual week where I’m craving every carb on the planet. Also, despite what I weigh, I have better endurance during an average day, which feels tremendous. A year ago, I was exhausted after a 25-minute mile and felt abysmal; now I’m walk/running around town when I can and spending a few hours on a recumbent bike every chance I get which has really rebuilt strength in my thighs and knees. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything slowly-and-surely, but regaining my physical health is successful because I haven’t been in a huge rush to “get my body back”.

2) I’ve been able to maintain routines, complete tasks, and accomplish stuff. In the last year, I took on a part-time job, which I was able to maintain while also keeping up my household consistently – a feat that never once happened when I was on the roller coaster of manic-depression-inducing medications. Again, usually my energy levels go through month-long cycles of mania then depression, but in the last year, everything has leveled out so that I’m consistent. It’s amazing and it has profoundly impacted the happiness and peace of my family. My job folded because the small business I was working for is changing ownership, but while there, I was competent and able to show up and get things done regularly. I haven’t been quite as consistent in my energy levels with the 9-month yoga teacher training course that I’ve been doing since September (mostly because my physical health has still been struggling), but I’ve kept plugging away at it as I can. I had a habit in my early years of college of getting all the way to the end of a semester and then having a meltdown and just stopping; I’m fighting the urge to do that now as we’re entering the last weeks of the training.

3) I’ve been able to let go of stuff FINALLY and have “trimmed the fat” from my social circle. I mentioned this before, but the medications I was on kept many outdated conflicts with past relationships at the forefront of my consciousness and emotions. Being the type to try to “solve” these issues, I kept entertaining those relentlessly, unable to stop replaying situations/emotions in my head despite praying to be able to just get the fuck over it already. There were about 8 people whose interactions with me had an impact as though they had happened recently, even though I haven’t seen many in more than a decade – some in almost two. Despite realizing years ago that this was an unhealthy/psychotic fixation on my part, I just could not seem to move past them. I honestly tried prayer, meditation, ancient rituals, spells, and anything else I could find to cut emotional ties with my past to no avail. Turns out, all I needed to do was stop taking medications that kept feeding that loop in my psyche. Within a couple months, I stopped being haunted by all of that anger and sadness. I politely excused myself from the lives of those I’d continued to bother with my insanity finally.  I honestly feel absolutely nothing about my bad past relationships except peaceful indifference. ::exhaaaales::
In fact, in the last few months, I was presented with a new relationship that immediately spelled trouble and, without hesitation, I put my foot down and said, “No. I care about you, but I’m not doing this.” Unlike every single time I’ve tried that, I didn’t hesitate or backslide.
There are a couple of people with whom I will be interacting with for the rest of our lives, but even those relationships are more peaceful now. I’m not on guard constantly, but I’m blunt about boundaries without any lingering anger. That’s also a huge difference.
It’s been staggering to realize that the medicines that were supposed to be helping me heal from trauma were, in fact, the thing that was keeping me stuck in a frenzied victim mentality. Gross.

Anyway, despite these last few weeks of swatting at seasonal depression, my life is significantly better than last May; my whole mindset is clearer and more serene than since I was about 11. The tone in my home in this last year have been so different I feel like we’re living by a new script. I’ve been very guarded in letting in any new drama as this is the most peaceful we have ever been, and my husband and I are taking the time we need to rest from the years of legitimate insanity.

To be honest, I have fought a lot with myself and my crushing disappointment that I haven’t accomplished more with my life at 32 years old. On paper, it doesn’t seem like I’ve been doing much of anything, but if this last year has been allowing me to prepare for the next few decades of my life, I’m okay with that. Before I try to launch myself into the lifestyle I dreamed of the whole time I was sick, it seemed wise to take some time to figure out what all had been physically damaged over the years, work toward healing all that, and find some steady footing. Just taking some time to catch my breath seems necessary, despite my desire to do something productive/that I’m proud of.

I realize there’s no such thing as “perfect health”, and I’m being patient with my healing as 12 years of multiple medications (15 if you count birth control, which I should) is a long time; chances are, I have a while longer before my body is completely free of all the damage it endured. I’m no longer suffering from PGAD (which evaporated when I stopped the antidepressants, a phenomenon I will be discussing in a documentary I’m participating in next fall, actually), but my other aforementioned gynecological issues are still working themselves out. I’m positive I do suffer from PMDD, which has me fighting the urge to step into traffic a couple days every month (not kidding.) I’m still unsure whether or not I should take Zoloft during the week prior as my OB/GYN has prescribed and recommended because, while I’m now terrified of medication, I’m also still terrified of my mind trying to kill me randomly because it’s freaking out on hormones once a month. Meanwhile, I stopped eating gluten last January and, have since had major relief in a lot of the neurological weirdness I was being tested for last autumn, but there’s still a lot of stuff that I’m dealing with that I’m just sort of hoping will go away over time as I continue to eat better and build physical strength.

Mentally, the Tardive Dysphoria (feeling of apathy resulting from years of antidepressant use) I mentioned having or months and months is also lifting, but it has been replaced with a lot of projected frustration and aforementioned misanthropy, which I’m not enjoying and am fighting a lot. There’s not enough research out there to say whether or not a grumpy internal monologue is one of the phases of healing from TD, but I suspect that it may be. I’m trying to do what I can to keep my hormones in check to regulate symptoms of needless frustration and, luckily, I’m not aggressive in my grumpiness. In fact, for the first time ever, I’m able to observe when I’m being unnecessarily cranky, distance myself from others quietly, deal with it privately, and return to social circles without causing needless drama. THIS IS UNPRECEDENTED. Also, I’m no longer having the fuming, ongoing anger about small things that has plagued me since forever, and that’s nice. I’m spending a lot of time alone, doing work outside when it’s sunny and working on art pieces while listening to a nonstop stream of intelligent stand-up comedy, which has proven to be therapeutic, actually. I’m okay with it seeming underwhelming from the outside; anything more than this has been making me miserable and anxious.

Conclusively, this year has been successful in improving my life (and my household tone) significantly, which is what I’m working to focus on instead of the things that are still lacking. Having the expectation that I’d be “all healed” within a year of going off medication only has me focusing on the disappointments of not being completely better. In my fantasies, I disappear from society for half a year and come back all rebranded as the image of physical health and with a fully-completed portfolio of publishable final drafts. Realistically, however, it is my slow, steady recovery and interactions with my support unit that are facilitating me turning this corner and building a sustainable lifestyle for a change.

New Trajectory

I don’t want to make any bold declarations, but things are doing much better. And when I say “better” I mean “so significantly different than they have been for the last 5-10 years, that, while we’re hesitant to get excited about it, this gradual, slow-burn change seems to be sticking and it feels like we’re living completely new lives.”
So that’s good.

For the first time in almost a decade now, my energy levels aren’t coming in fits and spurts; I’ve been able to get up, go to an almost-full-time job every day, and still hold down the fort at home without crashing and burning at least once a week. In fact, I haven’t “crashed and burned” at all in about 2 months; I’m still having a couple rough days close to my cycle every month, but compared to a lifestyle of being lethargic and out of commission 2-5 times per week like I was even a year ago, I’m undeniably more consistent. I’m making it to yoga classes a few times per week, I get out to see friends at least once weekly, I’m paying some bills and tackling my debt, I’m taking the Bear to gymnastics and Girl Scouts… It’s like I’m a regular, healthy adult all the sudden. Meeting expectations! Getting out of pajamas every day! Washing a pile of dishes instead of having a panic attack about them! Victory!

Apparently, all I needed was to quit poisoning myself with all the pharma garbage doctors were telling me I couldn’t live without for 12 years. It is shocking to realize that all the crap I was shoving into my system to “fix” my issues were solely responsible for perpetuating them. First of all, my mental health is so much caaalllmer; I haven’t had a single manic episode in a year, (which is telling. I never had one before I started antidepressants either.) I’m able to process emotions more rationally and able to let go of things with much more ease; I observe interactions with others more objectively and am not trying to pound all the meaning and nuance out of everything, and that alone is a massive lifestyle change. I’ve been finally letting go of relationships that haven’t served me in ages and I’m able to evaluate new ones honestly and discourage those that point to Trouble. (I have so much more free time! Turns out, Trouble is SUPER time-consuming.) And my physical health is better, too; slowly but surely, all the tiny health problems I’ve been treating have evaporated. Just 6 months ago, I was going to a neurologist for extensive testing to figure out what all had been wrecked through the Mirena and the psychiatric pharmaceuticals and I was prepping to do a ton of work on my body to get it out of the funk, but as of now, I’m functioning at a normal energy level without any musculoskeletal pain. I dunno if it’s the yoga or the eating-a-little-better or that I’m actually just getting out and about and making healthier decisions all around or my meditation practice or what, but all the fibromyalgia-y symptoms I’ve been having for years (even after quitting meds) have slowly vanished. Again, I’m still having a couple rough days per month, but “rough days” aren’t a lifestyle anymore.

Naturally, this all has been tremendous in making things better at home. My husband noted that he finally feels like he’s getting to see the “me” he fell in love with 8 years ago, and I have to agree; however, he deserves ALL the awards for living with that other Literally Insane Liz for so long. Having a reprieve from that sort of psychotic lifestyle is a blessing we aren’t taking for granted. There’s been a dynamic shift between us since I’m starting to be able to stand on my own two feet and it’s brought more than a bit of a spark back. I think we kind of crushed the odds by making it out the other end of this shitstorm.

And, because I’m finally able to get out and experience what passes as a “normal life” for a change, I’m finding my interests being piqued again. I don’t have a defined, driving passion for anything specific at the moment, but, contrary to even 4 weeks ago, I feel hopeful that something exciting is around the corner. For example, for the last few weeks, I’ve been gently toying with the idea of buying a business here in town and revamping it. Truthfully, after the years I’ve just had, I’m wary to jump headfirst into anything; HOWEVER, just the fact that I’ve had a slow, steady, non-temporarily-crazed interest in something is novel and encouraging on a fundamental level. Having my own business may not be what I decide to do right now, but frankly, I’m just happy to have a genuine excitement to get into anything again.

I mean, things aren’t perfect by any means; my body’s still pretty “off” from the last couple years of intensive medications, but I’m being patient and giving myself time to heal. I’m taking time every day to work on my strength and take care of it without being frustrated that I’m not losing weight “fast enough” or meeting other self-imposed expectations. That alone is a new mindset altogether and it’s having an incredible trickle-down effect to everything else.

The Awful Truth (I wish everyone knew about.)

Something’s been going on for the last 9 months that I haven’t really discussed because I’ve been trying very, very hard to be optimistic. But I recently started doing some research about what’s going on and it turns out, I have reason to be angry, frustrated, or distraught if I could muster any of those things.

I always used to joke that I “felt things in Technicolor.” My whole life, I would hurl 1,000% of myself into everything I was interested in – which was always too many things – and I had this almost-obnoxious excitement and passion about everything, whether it was “good” or “bad” in my book. I was known to excitedly rave about something I adore and find fascinating (like the impact of the Grunge/riot grrrl movements of the early 90’s, or the cultural significance of the Powerpuff Girls, or Muhktaran Bibi/Mukhtar Mai, or regional history) or get right up on soapboxes to rail against insufferable things. Truthfully, it was exhausting and it made me seem a little nuts, but it pushed me forward, and it gave me big dreams that I was all too eager to act upon. I was always feeling inspired to do something new and I adored learning and exploring cultures/subcultures and arts and practices and belief systems and whatever else struck my fancy. I was constantly “into” something.

As I’ve discussed a LOT before; before I detoxed from antidepressants last spring, I was on antidepressants for 12 years, starting when I was 19. In the months I’ve been off of meds, I’ve learned that my routine severe suicidal tendencies are just a product of really, really severe PMS (also known as PMDD) from which I only needed relief for 3-ish days every month. (I’m currently learning how/weighing options on how to treat that, but that’s irrelevant at the moment.) In the years of being put on a variety of antidepressants, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which stunned me because I’d never had manic episodes before. I had always been just naturally energetic, but never exhibited any actual manic tendencies; all of those started after I started taking the cocktails of medications… which makes sense as it turns out they weren’t necessary for 3 weeks out of every month.

ANYWAY, what has me terrified is that, slowly, as the piles of medications have worked their way out of my system, I have completely lost the ability to care about most things. It isn’t depression; I know exactly what that feels like, and there’s no anger or self-loathing or projecting misery on anyone else. It’s just cold, hard apathy.

At first, I’ll admit, the quiet in my mind was an enormous relief. As the meds had made me increasingly manic over the years, I was exhausted from my brain going nonstop and causing me to religiously hang onto outdated emotions; my brain just constantly made everything so much bigger and noisier than I really wanted. It has been amazing to actually have peace in my mind for a change, and not have to struggle with involuntary obsessions nonstop. It was quiet. Finally. And things around my home have been peaceful for a change. For awhile, I’ve been reveling in it instead of worrying that it didn’t “feel right.”

But the truth is that I have no drive to do anything. And hardly anything elicits real emotion from me. And, worst of all, there is absolutely no creative spark anymore.

I initially assumed that this is just how I am when my emotions and mind aren’t being amplified by medication or mental illness; this must be what it feels like to be “normal.” I thought it was godawful boring, but again, I was really just happy to be free of the destructive rollercoaster of nonstop emotions for the first time in my adult life. Being boring and wading through life was a LOT better than constantly being possessed by some unnecessary emotion that comes out of nowhere and drives me to doing ill-conceived things I don’t really mean or want to do.

But this apathy feels wrong. I haven’t been willing to admit it to myself for a long time because I really, desperately am trying to stay optimistic about getting my life together and recovering from this mental illness saga, but this apathy isn’t healthy and I know it deep down.

After going through the couple months of withdrawal, my brain slowly came to a resting point of perpetual “Meh”. I felt no real drive to do anything, but furthermore, my ability for excitement waned. I figured my joie de vivre was something that would have to naturally “grow back” with time, but as more time has passed, I seemed to be getting worse. Nothing excites me anymore. I don’t actually care about most things and have a set perspective that a LOT of what I’m surrounded with is futile and empty and – more often than not – a little stupid. I’ve contemplated that maybe I’m just living a lifestyle that’s causing me to mentally, spiritually atrophy from boredom, but 1) I have a really great home life with people I genuinely adore being around in a location I actually happen to love and 2)I don’t feel any motivation to seek out a lifestyle that makes me feel happier than this, like embarking on a new career.

I don’t write anymore and have zero desire to do anything with the writing ideas I’ve had in the works for years. I barely read, which is bizarre because I’ve always had at least 3 books going at time since I was in the 2nd grade. I don’t feel like going out. When I’m in big groups of people, I’m sort of just on autopilot. I went to Disney World with my family and was just sort of “meh” about the whole thing (although I DID really treasure being able to treat the Bear to something so awesome during her childhood. That’s where it was rewarding for me. Other than that, I don’t care if I don’t go back.) Nothing is stimulating to me and I feel sort of lifeless and empty, despite my real attempts to generate energy and excitement in my mind/body/spirit… which is almost constantly.

And even though I fundamentally oppose the “fake it ’till you make it” mentality (because I’m really not good at being fake. I stopped feeling comfortable faking anything after high school in any circumstance), that’s essentially what I’ve been doing for a long time now. To keep myself from rotting away into real despair, I got myself a part-time job at a tiny natural health shop close to my house, and I am doing yoga teacher training as a means to advance to something else once I get tired of this retail gig. I figured both things would serve to get me out of the house/my head and actively taking care of my body, but the truth is that I feel like I’m just going through the motions. I have no actual drive or passion to become a yoga teacher after the training is done in May; however, I don’t have any passion to do anything with my life right now, but I figured standing still and waiting for something to happen was no way to treat chronic apathy. So I’m going through the motions and trying whatever I can. I’m eating better and exercising and trying new things and putting plans on the calendar and getting out of the house… I’m putting in the effort daily… Still, though, it all just feels like I’m performing a half-hearted role in a really boring play.

And while I could always reason that this is just a season of life I’m going through, I’m really troubled because my thoughts about a lot of things have gotten really dark; I’ve honestly found myself wondering what keeps people in dire circumstances fighting for life a lot, like why don’t people in famine-ravaged countries just give up? I don’t get anyone’s drive to “make it” with regards to futile things like fame and/or wealth, and I no longer respect people who are known for being business moguls to promote shit we don’t need. I’m constantly repulsed with how much of society’s energy is wasted on absolute bullshit like celebrity “news”, sports/political scandals, oversensationalized news stories about horrible people, trends in material objects, the obsession with improvements in technology, etc. I feel like 90% of what’s going on is godawful noise and I just don’t have the energy to deal with it anymore. And I don’t really want to talk to anyone who cares about any of it, which, as it turns out, is most people.

Hating everyone and everything around me and wishing I was somewhere else isn’t the answer. This mentality is going to serve no one.
I gotta get out of this.

I finally just started doing some research.

And LO AND BEHOLD, what I’m experiencing is a real, actual thing that the scientific community is screaming warnings about, but the medical community is still “Meh. I guess. But we have money to make, so whatever.” There are literally thousands of articles about what is known as “Tardive Dysphoria”, which is basically when antidepressants suck your will to live by robbing your body of the ability to create its own drive and joy (“drive” and “joy” have actual chemical titles when being neurotransmitted, by the way; I just don’t know them at the moment.) I’ve been reading A LOT that antidepressants were only designed to be used for short-term depression spells (like 6-8 months of post-trauma relief) so the fact that so, so many doctors are expecting patients to become dependent on them for far longer than that is baffling and terrifying to me. In fact, being prescribed antidepressants long-term is undoubtedly the norm now, and the fact that most of us who take the doctors at their word that this will be safe is staggering.

Why haven’t we been privy to the mass amounts of information about how psychiatric medicine is developed and for what purposes specifically (which, by the way, is a lot different than what we’re being told) and why have doctors been allowed to prescribe things that aren’t anywhere near market-ready!? How the hell is the medical community getting away with keeping people on this type of treatment for so long?! Why the fuck am I having to still deal with this when I’ve been “on the road to recovery” for almost half my life now?! The worst of my depression happened more than a decade ago and was mostly the product of a culmination of abuse and other bad circumstances (which were perpetuated for a few more years by my being put on a medicine I shouldn’t have been and staying in abusive relationships – romantic and otherwise) so why am I still dealing with the medicines used to treat it now!? And why was I just cycled through a dozen ill-performing medicines instead of learning tools for healing?! WHY ISN’T ANYONE PROMOTING HEALING IN THE PSYCHIATRIC PROFESSION (as opposed to just “treatment”)?!?!

The bottom line, I guess, is that I have hope I can heal from all this neurological damage that was happening to me for so long.
Actually, no.
No, that’s a lie.
Honestly, I don’t have hope that this is going to get better because there’s no evidence out there that this specific psychiatric issue ever improves… because we know so little about it… because not enough people are discussing that antidepressants are maybe not the right way to treat depression… Right now the top scientific research is saying that antidepressants cause more harm than good and raise the potential for Alzheimer’s and dementia, so I might just be fucked if we’re being honest here.

HOWEVER, I have a legitimately amazing daughter and a better-than-anyone-deserves husband I care too much about to stop trying to improve. I don’t think it’s going to be easy and it’s certainly not going to happen quickly. I’m not good at faking things I just don’t feel, and faking a will to be an enthusiastic participant in my own life is a lot harder than it would seem given what a really wonderful life I actually have.

So yeah. That’s the deal. First I was depressed because of a few minor things that probably could’ve been worked out in a couple years if I’d just been listened to and had a counselor interested in helping me gain independence and heal. Then I was put on medications that made me increasingly insane and physically ill. Then I developed Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome for about 3 months when I decided that enough was enough and took myself off of them. And now I have no desire to do anything with my life or participate in the world or see life as a gift because all those years of meds sucked my body/brain’s ability to allow me to give a shit.

I’m not saying it’s a hopeless situation. I’m just saying I’d feel pretty hopeless if I could muster any feelings right now.

The Groove

In 2014, I didn’t make a New Years Resolution for a change. Instead, I ended up doing an unscripted overhaul on my whole lifestyle. It was weird and good and healthy and unorthodox and way, way outside of my comfort zone.

Anyway, since I stopped taking an ever-evolving cocktail of antidepressants last spring, my whole body pretty much melted down and my psyche was rebooted. In the months since, my psychological self has never been healthier, but I’ve been fighting the urge to freak out about the ramifications of quitting a lifestyle of medication. More than the 20 lbs weight gain (that I’ve sloooowly eradicated), I’ve been most worried about my complete lack of creative motivation. I went from reading 2-3 books at the same time constantly (that started when I was 8-ish) to reading nooothing for 7 months, and I’ve barely feel like writing anything for the first time since I was in 1st grade. No photography. No singing in the car.
So I decided to do that cliched “trust the process” thing and not obsess about what’s wrong with my inherent drive, but the lack of any creative outlet/input has felt really, really weird.

So I’ve spent a lot of the last year schlubbing it in cheap, loose gym clothes, working on putting together a normal day-to-day lifestyle while getting my body back to a functional point.

And then, today, for no real reason, I suddenly had the urge to see what Alaska Thunderfuck 5000 eyebrows would look like on me.
And I got home from work and attempted to tackle them.
And I’m a little out of practice and the monstrous brows weren’t at all masterfully executed, but I’m giddy because I recognize that I’m ready to put my toes back in the water.

This constitutes as a bit of success in my book.


Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired of Being…

Some test results have come back, and I’m sick. Officially. In fun, new, and different ways than previously assumed. And while I’m really relieved to have “answers”, what holds me back from being happy about it is that I’ve been dealing with diagnoses and “answers” and potential treatments for the better part of a decade now.

I’m good at hiding it, but dealing with either a mental illness or a physical ailment nonstop for the last 6 years has completely eviscerated my self-esteem. I have had bursts of time during which I can be a bright, intelligent participant in society, and be reliable to my friends and family, but more often than not, I have been a useless drain on the people I love. A bundle of times, thanks to the aforementioned general apathy/absense/ignorance/irresponsibiliy of my psychiatric doctors, I have been outright destructive. I haven’t acheived anything my heart really desires, and my child has had to watch me be too sick to provide her with anything other than the basics and a few here-and-there fun things since she first arrived. I have to opt out of time with my family and friends on a weekly basis, and, even though I have fewer catastrophes than I used to, I hate every single time I have to retreat to my bedroom to be achy and fatigued. I adore going out with friends, but I’ve only felt up to doing it about once every couple months for the last few years; I cringe every time I have to call someone and bail on plans. The times I’ve been able to get away for a whole weekend at a time were always amazing for my mental health, but I always came home and crashed hard for the week afterward.

I hate that my life has been centered around “just trying to feel better” for almost 10 years and that that has been how I spend the majority of my time; trying to find basic, sustainable health for myself is a selfish, boring, unfulfilling full-time career. It is torture to watch everyone I respect getting into their respective grooves and thriving in their lifestyles, and I’m constantly in “one day I’ll get better, but right now I need to rest or I’ll come apart”-mode. I hate that, from time to time, my husband has legitimately questioned whether I just enjoy lying around and being taken care of/pitied; once, in an argument, he said I liked “playing the victim” and I still haven’t stopped hurting from that. I’m not angry he said it, and I understand completely why he would feel that way; he’s been carrying our family on his shoulders since Day 1 while I’ve been all over the place mentally and physically, so I don’t blame him for believing it. I’m just so frustrated that I’ve never been able to be healthy and consistent long enough to show him that I have no intention of being just a “kept woman” my whole life. In fact, living as such makes me completely miserable. I am ashamed and embarrassed that I can’t seem to do anything on my own, really, and that my life has just been conducted in fits and spurts of times when I feel alright. I am so, so angry that I can’t be a strong, present participant in my own life and that I’ve had to be dependent on someone else so completely for so long. I’ve been seeing doctors and doing research and changing my lifestyle habits and attempting new recovery methods non-fucking-stop forEVER and I’m still sick and tired and in pain all the time. I only break down and cry with frustration over these spinning wheels every few months, but the redundancy of that is demoralizing in and of itself.

Again, things have slowly gotten better in that my mental state is finally at a normal, healthy, even keel for the first time since I was pregnant, and that has taken a load off the strain in our household. Honestly, the one thing I feel like I’ve successfully accomplished in years is getting off psychiatrics for a bit to reboot my system; that’s given us a new dose of hope and sanity.

However, I’m still having to seek treatment for about a dozen other painful symptoms that are ever-present and are continuing to disrupt my life, and the frustration of that is starting to get to me.
I don’t enjoy this as a lifestyle or as who it’s painting me to be.
I honestly hate writing about this shit all the time.
I’ve written this blog for the last 6-ish years, so I have somewhere to vent because I know the people in my life are too exhausted to hear everything I have to say about it (again, completely understandably), but I hate that I have a blog that is as old as this one that is chronicling nonstop health problems. I’m not proud of it; this is not what I want my writing career to be about, but I’m one of those strange folk who have to write what’s on her mind so I don’t lose my sanity completely.
I hate that I’ve been needy and unable to stand on my own two feet as an adult. Obviously, I am grateful that I have people who love me enough to provide me space to recover, but I hate that I can’t give back much of myself and desperately trying to convince my loved ones that this lazy, helpless, constantly-ill version of myself isn’t the Real Me.
I hate that I feel like I have so few personal accomplishments to be proud of because my life has been stalling for so long thanks to forces beyond my control. I’d rather be self-sabotaging than have to wait for more treatments and diagnoses and crap, to be honest; at least being a coward is something I can change.
I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired all the damned time from one thing or another. And I’m sick of saying, “Okay, I think this is what I need to get better”, only to find that there’s some other life-disrupting health-related problem waiting for me right after that.

The worst part is that, the more I keep declaring, “I’ve had enough of this bullshit!” and continuing to plow forward with determination to get better, the more idiotic I feel when that attitude doesn’t pay off. Again.

Like I said, being sick has annihilated my self-esteem, and the fact that there’s still no genuine end in sight is making it hard for me to justify any optimism at the moment. I’m tired of going after treatments and having them wreck my system; I don’t even recognize myself after the two years on Effexor and the detox that followed because I’ve put on so much weight. I’m tired of having to research yet another diagnosis and everything it entails; I feel like I could pass at least a dozen doctoral courses on psychiatrics, psychology, and gynecology with the amount of time and studying I’ve put into trying to figure out what the hell is going on with me.

I’m exhausted. I’m demoralized. I’m frustrated. I’m not quite hopeless yet, but the temptation to collapse in self-pity has definitely presented itself.

I’m supposed to start an 8-month-long yoga teacher training course this weekend, which is something I’ve been wanting to do for two years now. My recent diagnosis along with fatigue and general aches and pains are trying to talk me out of it, but I’m convinced that quitting before I start and sitting out another year would be worse for my mental state than anything else I could do to myself at this juncture, so

I. AM. LIVID.: Detox Part Seven

I’m just going to cut to the chase: it looks like Mirena has been wrecking my body and my mind for the last 6 years, and the avalanche of medications I was being fed to counteract what we thought was just run-of-the-mill mental illness has just been exacerbating all of it and leading to a plethora of misdiagnoses and chaos.

Holy SHIT, I am angry right now.

After I decided to stop taking antidepressants last spring, I noticed that I was having a LOT of gynecological pain that must’ve been covered up for all those years I was being medicated, so I decided to go one further on the detox and rid myself of the Mirena IUD that I’ve had in since right after the Bear was born. Unfortunately, however, the cramping and general fatigue haven’t gone away and, in fact, have been disrupting my life in the 6 weeks since all that happened.

So, I started to look up “removal of Mirena symptoms” and was suddenly thrown into a humongous cybercommunity of women whose lives have been sidelined by Mirena and its ability to permanently damage hormone production.

See, when I was pregnant with the Bear, I stopped taking all my psychiatric medicines and was relieved to find that I was perfectly happy. It was only after I’d stopped nursing that my depression came back, and I naturally just assumed that it was my body going back into “regular Crazy” mode, so I went back to trying to find some medication that would make me “normal” and “healthy” again. What I hadn’t taken into consideration was that I’d recently had the Mirena inserted, which was blocking my progesterone enough to keep me from having a period for years (seemed like a luxury at the time. Luxuries come with prices, folks. Write that down.)

Like I’ve stated before, in the years since, I’ve gone from medication to medication and hosted a series of disgnoses to explain my ever-fluctuating moods and tendencies. I even started exhibiting bipolar symptoms, which is something I’d never EVER encountered in all my years of on-and-off depression. Then, when I realized that none of these medicines were actually improving my quality of life (and not for lack of trying), I took myself off of them last spring and my mental state has been fine…

… except for when I’m ovulating, which causes me to have intense, suicidal depression for a couple days and then will dissipate like nothing ever happened. Lovely.

In the last month or so, I’ve been having aches and pains all over, terrible/stabby abdominal cramps, random anxiety spells, incredible fatigue, and very muddled/confused thinking, which has been troubling to say the least. Imagine my surprise when I discover that this is apparently what thousands of women are also experiencing due to this purportedly innocuous IUD [that they’re now prescribing to teenagers who want to have a lighter period, ohbytheway… WHAT?!?!]

There are literally hundreds of chatrooms and message boards and blogs dedicated to women discussing how they’ve developed auto-immune disorders because of this shit. Now I’m looking at having permanently-altered progesterone production, silicone immune toxicity syndrome, and a host of other garbage that my doctor knows nothing about and has deferred to UNC Gynecology to investigate. (The wait was so long that my appointment isn’t until early October – something I’m really glad about now that I’ve had some time to do my own research about this; otherwise, who knows what sort of misdiagnosis or ignorance I’d be encountering when I got there?)

On one hand, I’m really glad I’ve found what appears to be The Answer/Source of all these nonstop problems I’ve been having for about 6 years now. On the other, I am just fucking livid that I’ve wasted so, so much time and money and energy and have struggled with so much self-doubt and frustration and turmoil because of something that at least ONE professional who was in charge of medically observing me should’ve asked about at least once. I have wasted thousands of dollars going to psychiatrists and having them prescribe me cocktails of further-maddening drugs that exacerbated the problems and gave me whole new disorders I had to have treated. I’ve been disabled from discomfort and mental disorder and unable to contribute to my family, let alone attempt a “normal” full-time career. I have dealt with entirely too much bullshit to be relieved at this point.

And, truthfully, I feel kind of stupid for not thinking of it and just assuming that this had to be safe. But of bloody COURSE something that is feeding synthetic steroids into my ladyparts and causing me not to have a period for half a decade is going to be bad for me. I’m mad I believed the whole “doctors know more than I do” thing I’ve been indoctrinated to think and never bothered to question any of this before now.

And yeah, I know being mad isn’t going to make it better. But writing about it publicly might help someone else, because it’s done that for other things I’ve covered on this blog, so maybe it’ll work again. And it’s definitely beneficial to trash another medication on a public forum and back my arguments up with genuine emotion, so I’m going for it. (sarcasm? anyone?)

However, when I see the number of women who have been suffering from this and are listing identical symptoms to my own, I am comforted and validated in a way I never thought I’d ever be. After these last few months of detox, I’ve been getting increasingly frustrated and hopeless as I’ve been unable to figure out why I wasn’t feeling any better despite so many drastic changes to my diet and exercise regimen. The relief I’m feeling in knowing what’s been going on is tremendous, although it’s tainted by frustration that I had to figure it out myself when it’s been right in front of me the whole time and was something I was told not to worry about.

I’m not worried; having an answer is much more comfortable to me than this DiY detox-into-uncertainty I’ve been doing for months now. I got this. I’m still in pain. My brain is still foggy and I’m still exhausted and achy, but I have more hope and direction than I have since I started actively trying to get better, and that’s the best thing that’s happened to me in a long, long time.

(I really want to thank Krysti of “My Life After Mirena” for thoroughly chronicling her REALLY awful experience and recovery from Mirena, as well as Dr. Jennings for sharing valuable information via YouTube and his site about how to effectively detox from Mirena at no charge.)

Detox Level Up and Exquisite Peace

In the spirit of candidly sharing every part of this recovery thing, I’m going ahead and talking a tiiiny bit more about ladystuffs because it’s critical to the story. Plus, after telling the world I was clinically horny last winter, I figure anyone still reading my drivel is equipped to handle it. So, after about a month of ongoing crabbiness and desperately seeking ways to keep my ever-present irritability at bay, I suffered the single worst spell of PMS I’ve ever experienced, and realized that these symptoms may not’ve been related to withdrawal but were, instead, just coming to light after being obscured by the psychiatric meds and should probably be looked at separately.
Long story short: I’m not on birth control anymore and everything is genuinely great.
It was kind of terrifying, given that I’ve been on it since I was 17, but I figure I’ve already kicked a 12-year addiction to antidepressants, so cutting myself off from unnatural hormone replacement was a logical next step. Sure enough, my moods immediately stabilized, my abdomen stopped cramping nonstop, and my mind has just been at peace.

At this juncture, I’m completely au naturel.
And that seems to be the Answer as far as my mental health goes.

I’m not an idiot, though; I’m still going to be vigilant of my moods and energy ebbs and flows. Again, after the terrifying manic episodes I’ve been having in the last few years, I’m too paranoid to let even an energized cleaning spell go by without heavy consideration, and I know that many, many people quit their medicine believing that they’re “fine” only to horribly relapse. That’s the last thing I want.

But I also know that every single mental problem I’ve had in the last decade has happened while I was on antidepressants, and my massive psychotic break (almost exactly a year ago to right now, actually) happened while I was on medications for both depression AND bipolar disorder. Like I’ve said before, these medicines weren’t helping anything, and I was living a lifestyle of moving from illness to illness…which was bullshit… From where I sit now, I’m inclined to believe at least 75% of this madness was precipitated because I was so heavily medicated (the other 20% being from the birth control, and the final 5% is my own natural color.)

These days my mental state is rational and predictable on a daily basis, which wasn’t even possible during the Effexor-zombie apathy spell I was experiencing for months at the beginning of this year. I’m still working on building up physical strength, and I’m monitoring my diet with lots of protein, so my carb-binge cravings have finally subsided. I’m finding I’m a lot less exciteable than I remember being in my youth, and I tend to be a lot more laid-back than I’ve ever been. I don’t nervously blurt or ramble when I’m bored or nervous, which is a huge relief; I feel more at ease moving through social interactions these days. A lot of that I’m sure has to do with age, but being that I’ve been a hyperexciteable mess right up until a couple months ago, finding out that I’m really a lot more relaxed when I’m unmedicated is a delightful surprise.

I feel like I’ve had a complete mental makeover. The person I’ve been in the last couple months has been drastically different than the scary, insane thing I’ve been exhausted being for an eternity now. Aside from physical issues throwing kinks in my daily life, I’m finding that I’m more consistent than ever and my progress at recovery is slow and steady instead of coming in fits and spurts like usual. With this lack of constant drama, our household is flourishing; my husband feels more comfortable and relaxed and, as a result, his creativity is bursting, which spurs on my own. We’re calmer and more content; stress, anxiety, and fear don’t lie just below the surface of our interactions anymore. It’s an incredible luxury.

I will say that, now that I’m not constantly battling some mental demon, I am excruciatingly bored with this stay-at-home lifestyle I’ve set up for myself. Having the Bear at home for summer is keeping me entertained and staying creative, but the minute she goes off to school in a couple weeks, I’m diving right into a couple ventures I’ve had on the backburner for years now. Originally, I thought I’d look for work, but as I was interviewing for another non-prof office gig a couple weeks ago, I realized I’m not convinced I can swing a 9-to-5 lifestyle. Instead, I’m going to spend more time sloooowly integrating structure to my life and figuring out where New/Healed/Mostly-Sane Liz can thrive.

Honestly, for the first time since I was a kid, I feel like forward movement and living a full, unique, healthy existence is something I’m actually accomplishing. It doesn’t look impressive on paper, but this thoroughly-therapied, at-peace-and-slowly-plodding-forward-at-my-own-pace version of my Self is my favorite of my acheivements so far.

Bitchy but Stronger: Withdrawal after Two Months

It’s been a little over two months since I stopped the Effexor and, while my major withdrawal symptoms have been gone for awhile, I’ve been struggling with a few that are still just as mind/time consuming. Primarily, I am irritable and my mini-wrath is on a short fuse. Luckily, I’m in no mindset for angry tirades or livid missives or my typical get-angry-and-stew-and-obsess-over-it M.O., but I’m snapping a lot at the Bear for just being a normal kid (read: loud and messy), and I’m just bitchy and grumpy and misanthropic a LOT recently, which I can tell is just withdrawally stuff and isn’t anything real. I do have brief flashes of really evil thoughts when the irritability strikes, but none are violent and I’m not feeling driven to perform anything more than just some light grumping, so no need to worry. Strangely, it seems to set in right about 3 p.m. (whether or not I’ve had coffee in the morning) which I’ve started referring to as “Bitch O’Clock”, and at which point I make arrangements to have a little quiet time and not put myself in a place where I’m likely to explode. So far so good.

I’m dealing with some light confusion, which is frustrating, especially when I go to say a word and a completely different one comes out. I’m forgetting a lot of things and am having trouble talking, which is embarrassing. (Please note: This entry has been heavily, heavily edited because the original draft was an English graduate’s nightmare. Rambling run-ons and dangling participles and misplaced modifiers! Oh my!)

Additionally, I’m finding that, because my brain is scrambling for endorphins that have always been supplemented by medication, I’m compulsive in heavily craving little “fixes” to the joy-receptors, which are mostly the constant urge to be on social media, buy unimportant crap I don’t need, or click on idiotic links as though feeding my soul McDonald’s. Of course I’m still constantly craving carby, sugary stuff, and I’m having to be hypervigilant about every decision I make and everything I’m putting into my face because my body is SCREAMING at me to indulge in anything that will give me superficial pleasure, and while I don’t believe in complete abstinence, at the moment, giving myself a little of anything turns into a bender regardless of what the particular vice is. Trying to regulate myself and have small meals or tiny snacks is proving to be impossible; I go ahead and accept that I’m going to fill up every time I eat and plan accordingly (letting myself binge-eat fresh produce is WAY better than being unable to stop eating Cheerios after dinner, I think.)

And if you’re wondering: yes, I’m pretty pissed that withdrawal is giving me a binge-eating disorder (that I hope will be temporary.) I properly freaked out about it a few weeks ago when I realized that my body wasn’t letting up with intense, compulsive cravings until I’ve eaten to the point of disgust and my best efforts to stop weren’t helping, but I think accepting it as a part of withdrawal and working on damage control instead of trying to deny that it’s happening is probably best. I’ve done a little research and am taking chromium picolinate and L-glutamine supplements to curb the carb cravings and help all of it metabolize so I don’t get prediabetic. Also, I’m eating a bunch of stuff to help me feel fuller (chia seeds, coffee, eggs, almonds) and trying to avoid sugars and pasta/bread. THIS HAS HELPED TREMENDOUSLY. Trying to healthily manage the beast seems like a more plausible solution than attempting to slay it at this juncture. Hopefully, my appetite will taper down as the withdrawal fades away, but cramming my body with healthy stuffs seems like an okay way to spend a couple months given the alternative.

In happier news, my muscles are finally coming back to life, and my energy levels are fantastic. As I’ve mentioned before, spending this whole spring lying in bed and crying with agony did nothing for my body, so the first couple weeks I was on my feet again, my entire lower half was aaaching at the end of every day from working under additional weight. I’ve been walking daily and doing yoga for the last month and I’m finally at a place where I can function all day and have plenty of energy without aches or pains, which, feels like a feat after the quarter I’ve just had. Just being able to go to bed without having to take an ibuprofen for my calves and ankles feels like a great accomplishment, and even though I haven’t lost a pound, I can tell things are shifting back into proper form. Whew.

So right now I’m just struggling with not being bitchy and curt. Again, it’s not wrathful, and I’m not deeply angry for no apparent reason (which also is a huge relief. THANKS, THERAPY!), but it’s just this ongoing irritability I hate. However, I’m finally getting around to doing some creative projects I’ve been wanting to for awhile and that makes my demeanor better.


Post-Recovery Recovery

Apparently, spending two months barely mobile after an 18-month Effexor-induced weight-gain-and-lethargy/fatigue spree is a very efficient way to turn yourself into an 80-year-old practically overnight. Couple that with my system freaking out and craving ALLTHECARBSRIGHTNOW during withdrawal and my body is just a complete disaster at the moment, which is unfortunate because my mind is the calmest, most content and optimistic it has been in almost two decades.

That’s a first.

Obviously, I’ve been conscious of how my body was derailing in the last while, but I made up my mind at the beginning that figuring out an end to my psychiatric woes was far more important than freaking out over weight gain; I’ve lost this 50 lbs before when I had my daughter. No sweat. Now that my brain is feeling healthy and fantastic, and I’m eager to get my life back on track, I was all, “Alright! Let’s cut some calories and get to exercising! Game ooonn!” However, I wasn’t prepared for how unbelievably far gone I actually am at this juncture.

First of all, after being on a carb bender for the last two months (seriously, withdrawal is the worst. No wonder heroin addicts get fat in rehab…) my body was like, “Oh WHOA, dude; you’re not just gonna stop all this immediately.” So, while I’ve cut out bread and pasta, I’m still eating nonstop just so I don’t start feeling like I’m going to puke/faint/implode. This week’s goal is just to eat something fresh and natural (and preferably raw) when I’m craving food (which is literally still on the hour, pretty much) and not even worrying about caloric intake just yet. This feels ridiculous. I’ve never had cravings like this, even when I was pregnant…

Secondly, my muscular capabilities are nil. I’m doing about a 20-minute mile these days, and by the end of the second one, I’m exhausted. I’ve been increasingly active around the house, but by the end of the day, my feet and legs are aching from carrying all this extra weight when they’re barely used to working more than 40 minutes a day in 5-minute spurts. The fatigue and musculoskeletal aches and pains from withdrawal are gone, but now my body is having to remember what it’s like to generate its own power and it is crrreaking back to life.
I’m not even going to discuss upper body strength. Just don’t ask me to help carry your groceries inside.

Look, I realize that this could be worse – I could be in physical therapy from a car accident or recovering from cancer or paralyzed for life – but I still feel completely wrecked physically from an ailment that isn’t even addressed by doctors (SSRI withdrawal) after being put on these meds that wreaked havoc on every aspect of my life for a couple years, and I’m trying really, really hard not to be fucking pissed about it. Because I know that this is a lot more useless whining, but having to recover from what I thought/was supposed to be “recovery” is complete and utter horseshit.

Well, at least I can honestly state from experience that I would definitely rather be sane/happy and physically screwed up than skinny and mentally wrecked because, in the last 5 years, I have seen both extremes.
Mirth absolutely is all about how healthy your mind is; that’s where one’s paradise or hell exist.

Only took me 20 years, but that cliché totally checks out!