Friday, March 27, 2009

I Am Not Defective

I am not defective.

I am not.


This fall, I finally worked up the nerve to talk to my doctor about what the hell has been going on with me for the past five, almost six years. I decided to see if I was depressed. This conversation came nearly two years after both A. and Black Sheeped (independently of each other) gently mentioned to me that I might be suffering from this condition.

I could not be more blessed that these two people - and these two people in particular - stepped up and cared for me. I owe them my lifelong gratitude for the increased quality of my life. I thank God every day for them, as well as for my friends DPR, JelBel, and AGR. They have been unwavering in their love and support for me, and I consider myself the most fortunate person I know, in large part because they are a part of my life.

I've been diagnosed with dysthymia, a type of chronic depression, and anxiety.  Anyone who knows me is not the least bit surprised by the anxiety diagnosis. Even I saw that one coming.


As a young woman I was fearless. If something scared me, I purposely jumped right in and forced myself to meet it head on. I was always nervous before leaping into anything that made me uncomfortable, at least initially -- travel, interaction with others and whatnot, but I knew that it helped me be the person I wanted to be. Someone who lived her life on her own terms.

I knew I was strong and I wanted to stay strong. I wanted to keep in the practice of exercising strength, I wanted to do the work that built and maintained my perseverance. So I always pushed myself. I deliberately lived my life on the edge of my comfort level, forcing myself to be engaged. Dealing with my mother's agonizing death from cancer at the age of 16, I learned that not only could I face extreme challenges, I could emerge on the other side of them a stronger and better person.

Fear did not intimidate me. It pushed me forward.


About six years ago, things changed. Quietly and gradually, in just such a way that it was easy not to notice. My "normal" changed, but I did not know it.


I never considered myself depressed. The notion never once floated into my brain. But it explains SO MUCH.

Looking back, with this dysthymia diagnosis as a lens, I know when it started - around the time K., a former boyfriend, and I started having trouble. Much of that trouble stemmed from the depression. K. always said it was like I just would check out for hours or days at a time. I had no idea what he was talking about. I felt fine, just quiet. But fine. No, I wasn't sad. No, I wasn't upset about anything. I felt fine. Maybe kind of blah, but who doesn't feel kind of blah sometimes? I wasn't sad exactly, I wasn't crying all the time, I wasn't suicidal. I didn't see that I always felt blah. Really, though, I was in a "funk" but I didn't know it. It is really, really hard to get out of a "funk" when you don't know you are in one. There is no perspective, then.

Imagine your mood and well-being on an average day. When I look back on who I was in my early twenties, I was steadily at an 8, even an 8.5 (on a scale of 1=poopy - 10=jubilant). I was actively grateful for the people and opportunities in my life, and that helped to generate an overall happiness. Part of this attitude was cultivated, part of it came naturally.

Slowly, though, that 8.5 "normal" slipped to a 6 or a 5.5. I am just kind of, I don't know, dulled. During a funk, I am at a 2 or 1.5.

I couldn't concentrate for shit. Really. Reading more than a paragraph at a time was too much; I couldn't see most projects through to completion, no matter how small. My work suffered a lot, and that bothered me. Cleaning the house - ha! I would load the washer and forget to empty it, I would run water for mopping the floor and forget about it, I would walk from one room to the next, starting tasks and not finishing them. Then I would have a full-blown anxiety attack because I thought my house would never, ever be clean, that I would be living in chaos for the rest of my life. I felt like I was so god dammed lazy I couldn't do anything. How worthless a human being I am, I thought.

There are so many super-fun, totally vicious cycles with this.

When A. broached the idea of depression with me, he didn't offer it as an excuse, or a shortcoming but as an illness that I might as well get treated for, right? He asked me why should I live my life not well, not happy? Hmm, yeah. Why? (I am so stubborn and dense sometimes.) He's been so supportive and is very encouraging about me talking to someone about it. I am the one who put it off. (After all, when I feel fine I see no reason to set up an appointment, and when I feel crappy I can't seem to muster the energy to make the call. Ugh.) I have had two appointments and have regular sessions scheduled with a therapist. Finally.

There have been "episodes" for the past few years where I literally can't get myself out of bed for days at a time. I can barely make the effort to call in sick to work on those days. Hell, getting out of bed to go to the bathroom or to eat seems impossible in the throes of an episode. I don't know how to explain this. It does not matter that at any other time I know it is possible to move, to get out of bed, to function. During an episode it is simply impossible. I can't muster the energy. I can't muster the will to muster the energy. I can't muster the energy to muster the will to muster the energy. It is horrible. It is no way to live. It is humiliating, it is scary. I'll avoid people for days on end when I am in a funk. I never thought I was depressed, though. I thought I was just suddenly, hideously lazy and would then spend the entire episode berating myself for being so worthless and lazy. Because I was raised to believe that nothing is worse than a lazy person. You can see the vicious cycle this produced, yes?

I never told anyone about these episodes; not my best friends, not my family. I would just hide; I would just disappear for days, weeks on end when battling a funk. I didn't want anyone to find out how lazy I was. I was ashamed because I thought I was just being lazy. Turns out, it is pretty hard to hide that from someone you live with, hence why A. figured it out. I never mentioned any of this in earlier sessions of therapy because I didn't want my therapist to find out what a lazy, worthless person I was. Brilliant.

Oh. It explains so much.

The awesome thing about coming to terms with this is that I almost always recognize a funk coming on and also know when I am in one. I can tell myself: Just get out of bed. Just do it. Yes, you can. And more often than not, I do. Sometimes I still can't beat it, but at least it isn't so scary. At least I know I am not lazy. I am not worthless At least there will be the other side of the funk. Similarly with anxiety attacks, I tell myself: This is the anxiety taking over. Just breathe. Ride it out. It really is not the end of the world. You will get through this. And I do.

I am also starting to notice a pattern, see what triggers it. (Money worries is tops, and then, freakishly, a dirty house. That sounds like therapy fodder!!!) I am hoping that regular exercise and meditation (how hippie of me!) will help to keep me fairly healthy, retrain my former attitude of gratitude. Certainly, exercising a life of gratitude has to be helpful all around. It seems to be helping quite a bit lately.

After much struggle on my part, I started meds about four months ago. (Lexapro, if you are wondering.) I am so glad I did. It has really lifted the fog from my brain, my spirit. I am really noticing a change on the anxiety front, holy shit. My tummy isn't in a steady knot, I don't wake up wondering if this is the day A. dies. (Really, my anxiety was steadily through the roof. My doctor started crying when I told her the type of stuff I think about all day long, and how I react. No shit.)  Now I can do the work I need to do, gain the tools I need to handle the funks and the anxiety attacks, so that even though they may always be a part of my life, they won't run my life. My brain is clear enough for that. I can concentrate again, I am living again.

(Side note: This has improved The Thesis experience immensely.)


What I am still struggling with is this idea that I am somehow defective. I still hate that I have to take meds, even though I love that they are helping. I have always been a perfectionist. (You can imagine the extra agony this put me through, thinking I was lazy and totally worthless. That is hardly perfect!) I am terrified of being sick. Cancer scares the living shit out of me. I want to be healthy more than anything.

I know that this is a chemical thing, that the serotonin levels in my brain aren't optimal. I know that this is not a moral shortcoming, or even a physical shortcoming, it just is what it is.

But I am still having a hard time.

So, I thought, well hell, I am just going to say it, say it out loud. Or write it, without hitting the backspace button.

I want to be happy. I want myself back. I want to be grateful and at ease in my skin. I want to live.

Maybe if I say it out loud, to enough people, enough times, I will start to believe it: I am not defective.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday, Oh Monday

When I went to the bank on Saturday I wore a short sleeve shirt and no jacket. Today, as I left the house at the crack of dawn with A., I was bundled in a winter coat, hat, gloves, and brought my gigantic snow boots with me. I forgot my scarf, and as such, I will feel chilled regardless of being totally bundled.

We are supposed to get 10 inches of snow today with 45 mph wind. Hence, why I came in to town with A.; my little Civic probably isn't going anywhere for a week or so.

Good times.


Still no word from my advisor regarding the chapter I sent him. I don't really expect to hear from him until sometime this week, anyway. If I don't hear from him by Wednesday, I will drop him a line to keep myself on his radar.


I didn't do any Thesis Related Activity this weekend, but my house is awfully clean.


A. has a study group tonight, the house is clean and dinner is going to be a snap to prepare. I suppose I have no excuses left. I will be reading Thesis Related Material tonight.

Again, good times.

Happy Monday to you!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Five

1. I drive into town and then take a shuttle bus to work. One of the bus drivers is a college student. He is always done up like a hipster, thick-rimmed glasses and a cool hat, cool jeans, cool shoes, etc. (I have no idea what kind of clothes these really are because I have never been cool nor a hipster.)

Anywhoo, he always has NPR on the radio. Yesterday, as I was riding the bus back to the lot to pick up my car, he started whistling. Immediately, I grinned ear to freakin' ear: he was whistling the Talk of the Nation theme music!

I might have fallen in love with him a little.

I told A. about this last night and he totally called me out on my crush. I am glad A. gets me.

2. I am starting to plateau at work and this is always bad news. I don't get antsy once I've met the challenges of a job, I go straight to miserable and utterly unmotivated. Any suggestions on how to re-engage in a job you've mastered? (I am not trying to sound snotty here. I can always try and do my job better and better. But that can get kind of boring.)

3.Last weekend A. and I met our friend H. for some cross country skiing. I am so, so, so bad at it. It was only the second time I've been on skis. They do not feel natural, or even remotely comfortable. They just feel big and long and they get in the way of me walking. I can't get my brain to let go of the idea of walking. In fact, once I started to get the hang of it I did ok with the "glide" stuff, but once we started to hit little hills and I less glided and more skiied, I just wanted to die. Bah. I did start to get the hang of snowplowing, though!

On our way to the mountains at the break of dawn, we traveled past a number of ranches. One field had a bunch of mama cows and young calves. Both A. and I saw one calf that was still wet and wobbly. He was brand new!! Brand new! Oh, my heart just soared.

4. It was glorious outside last weekend in the mountains, as it has been the past couple of days in town. The birds are singing their little hearts out and I've seen two ground squirrels coming up from hibernation at the house. Yesterday a coyote crossed the road in front of me, and I am starting to look to see if there are any baby antelope (none yet).

Spring! Critters! Calves! Wahoo!

5. We are supposed to get dumped on with snow starting Sunday.

I can't complain, though. We have had a mild winter )of course! We paid thousands to install a new wood stove!), and we have had a very dry March. We need the moisture, so I guess I should stand out in the field with my arms open wide and say, "Bring it on."

Happy Friday to you!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Root Systems

Thanks for the enthusiastic support, folks! YOU GUYS ROCK.

I took last night off, and generally puttered around the house not doing much of anything. Tonight, after running errands I'll hunker down and read for a bit, in preparation for some of the comments I am anticipating from chapter one. I don't even feel anxious about it. Hell, even if he says I have to start all over, I am in such a better place to do that. More on that later.

I am going to try and do my weekly grocery shopping tonight, instead of on Sunday, as is my usual schedule. I am going to try this out to free up a considerable chunk of time from my weekend. I hope I have the willpower to use this time to work on The Thesis and not just sleep in. *sheepish grin*


Yes, I am sick of The Thesis, but my new-found vigor in working on it has more to do with the things I am anticipating on the other side of a finished thesis and graduate degree. A. graduates in May, and he and I are starting to look at the next chapter in our lives. We are thinking of moving. I want to move without A Stupid Dark Thesis-Cloud following us, you know?

(Nope, still not getting married. Hee.)

I am keeping this quiet on the work front, but most of my family knows we are thinking of pulling up roots.

This is the first time I've moved with someone. It is really exciting, but also complicated. (DUH.) Both of us have to find decent jobs, especially because no matter where we move our cost of living is going to increase. We are not in similar fields, so finding a location that will have interesting career options for both of us is a bit challenging. Where I live is more important than the work I do, but I still need a job I feel good about and that challenges me. Right now, A. is anxious to get a job that he has been preparing for for so, so long and for him location is second on his list of priorities. This could get interesting.

So. We negotiate and we daydream and we make lists. We are in agreement of what we need and what we want. I am so, so thankful for that, and so grateful to be sharing my life with someone who shares so many of my values.

We have a list of five towns we are considering, with three more as Maybe Might Consider If Everything Comes Together Just So. For the most part, we've agreed to stay in the Rocky Mountain West: Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, and maybe, MAYBE, Utah and Idaho. (I am still campaigning for Oregon and Vermont to be on the list.) I am happy with that, happy that the mountains and rivers and streams that I love so dearly will always be close to me. Though, it also means my friends on the East Coast will still be far away and that is very hard for me.

I like where we live now, but A. has been here nearly 10 years and is very, very anxious to move on. The wind is driving us both crazy. Most of our friends have moved, as this little community is very transitory in nature. The job market here has always been terrible. But, as I mentioned earlier, no matter where we move our cost of living is going to increase, so we need to proceed carefully and deliberately. Here, we have 10 acres of land, and we are both very, very reluctant to give that up.

So, that is one of the things on my mind lately. But step one is getting the damn thesis out of the way. I am off to spend my lunch break in the library looking up urban planning articles specific to greenbelts. GOOD TIMES.

Happy Thursday to you!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Ball is Out of My Court. For a Bit, Anyway.

I turned in Chapter One to My Advisor! I wrapped up the chapter at 9:01 p.m. last night, just one minute longer than I told myself I was going to work on it. Woo hoo!

I feel better about it. I know the strong areas and I know the sections I am struggling with and I simply asked for help.  What a load of my shoulders! Now I am going to read, read! READ! while I wait for comments back from My Advisor.


The dogs were absolutely NO HELP last night as I was working. With startling regularity, a wet nose appeared under my desk and a tail whacked my legs (Buster). I'd be sitting and re-reading a section and my relaxed hand got covered in kisses (Belle). Then both the idiots drank up their entire water bow (it holds TWO GALLONS!!) and started scooting it around the floor to let me know they needed more. That is the worst sound, and simply impossible to ignore. Finally, there was one too many HIDEOUS farts so I shoo'ed them outside. (A. wasn't home to deal with them, so I got all of their attention!)


Also of no help to my endeavor last night was our printer. Out! of! Ink! So, I have another errand to run this evening. Bleh.


But! Chapter One is out of my hands!!! WOOT!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday Five, or: The Only Day I Get Around to Posting Anymore

1. I was already three-quarters around the circular drive this morning, when I saw the Mountian Bluebird pair checking out our birdhouse. So, I slowed down, shifted into reverse and drove back around the driveway and down the lane to the road so as not to disturb the pair.

 Oh, please, pick our birdhouse!!!

Apparently I have some Mad Reverse Skillz, or whatever the kids say nowadays.

2. After shifting back into drive to head into town for work this morning, I was having a miserable time finding a station on XM/Sirius to listen to. I decided to avoid NPR this morning, as I wasn't in anxiety-ridden foul mood and didn't want to be put into one.

The pre-set stations all sucked, but if I scroll through the channels I drive off the highway, so I am always at the mercy of A.'s pre-sets. (Hence why I listen to NHL Home Ice!) I settled on a song by Prodigy. I glanced at the XM gizmo and without hesitation, totally believed I read the song title to be "Smack My Pitchfork." I even thought to myself, clear as day: "I can see Prodigy having a pitchfork."

Upon a second glance, a full 30 seconds later, I saw that it really read, "Smack My Bitch Up."

Thoroughly unimpressed with a) my reading skills; b) my utter lack of common sense; c) the song; and d) the asshole song title, I finally tuned in to NPR.

3. My best friend from high school, KNC, is going to be staying with me Saturday night. She will be coming through with her four-year-old son and the dog she is adopting/saving. I cannot wait to see her - it has been so long. She has seen me through thick and thin, and was the very first person I called when my mother died. She means the world to me. I can only hope I am half the friend to her as she is to me!

4. I am turning a chapter of The Thesis in to my advisor on Wednesday. Be sure to check in here over the weekend for much thesis-related whimpering.

5. I have an afternoon appointment with a therapist this afternoon. Um, yes, I have a Nervous Tummy (® Tessie). But! She is a transplant from DC, too! So, I already feel like we will be a good match.

Wish me luck!

Bonus: I am in no way worried that today is Friday the 13th. I will, however, where the same shirt to every Rockies game I attend if they win while I wear it.

Are any of you superstitious about today's date or of other things?

Happy Friday to you!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday Five

1. Quite obvious to you, I haven't been writing here much lately but it is not because I do not have anything to share. A lot is going on and I am still trying to figure out how and if to share some of it here. No worries, it is all positive, good things.  Some are big things, some are small.

But, I am a much more private person than I had figured. It took a public blog for me to figure that out. Hee.

2. A.'s younger sister and her family stayed with us Tuesday night. Including her EVIL, EVIL KITTY, Lilly. The cat adored me, naturally. I overcame my fear and bias long enough to give her some pets, and then she followed me around the house all night. DEAR GOD.

Buster was scared to come in the house, as this cat hisses and spits and swipes at him something fierce. Even from across the room. My poor, sweet, wussy dog.  Belle generally ignores Lilly, though I caught her avoiding that damn cat at times, too.

It was truly bizarre to see, out of the corner of my eye, A CAT darting around the kitchen and living room. I nearly screamed twice. So silent and so scary.

I caught her contemplating jumping up on my kitchen counters a few times. I swear to you, the thought of her kitty-litter-paws on my counters made my hair start to fall out. (This image was particularly stark as earlier I had walked in on her pooping in her litter box when I left clean towels in the guest room. CAT POOP.)

3. My best friend, JelBel, is in town and we are getting together tonight. I cannot wait. Why is it only 12:17 p.m.? COME ON, CLOCK. MOVE IT.

4. I had a dream last night that a colleague of mine was explaining to me how to reference a different author per paragraph in my thesis. As I started applying what she said The Thesis practically wrote itself. It made sense! It was eloquent and concise! She made it sound so easy that I woke up excited to write. I was SAD, SAD, SAD when I realized it was only a dream, but the eagerness to write is still with me.

5. I have joined a local food-growers group! I am so freakin' excited! We are planning a day-long conference in April and have workshops and such set up for the next couple of months. The third person on my thesis committee is also very involved with the group. Yay!

I am particularly interested in seeing what it would take to transfer vacant lots to city ownership and creating community gardens there, accessible thorughout town. I am sure it is a long, drawn out and sometimes complicated process, but I am certain there are some lots throughout town that would be suitable. (There are already some community garden plots available in town, but they are only in one location.)

I really want to make gardening accessible to low-income folks. It would create networking opportunities, communitites of support, as well as dependable, sustainable nutritional food.


Bonus: I am meeting A. for lunch after he gets fitted for his cap and gown. My baby is graduating with a dual-masters this May!  Woo hooo!!!!! (I really have to finish my thesis, now!)

Happy Friday to you!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


On Saturday, my nephew, M*, turned one year old.

I don't think I am biased at all when I say this is the cutest little kid in the whole damn world. See for yourself:

Those curls! Those cheeks! THOSE CHEEKS!!!!!!!

Thought it was a helluva lot of driving for one weekend, A. and I had a great time. It was really fun to see the little guy, to visit with my sister and her hubby for a bit. We played cards that night and just enjoyed giving each other a hard time.

I wish we lived closer to each other.

It was really hard to pull myself away from M.


A new tradition has been born around Mason's birthday. The majority of our drive to see him is in the path of the huge spring migration of MILLIONS of snow geese and sandhill cranes. So freakin' cool. A. and I pulled over a few times to listen to the geese.

We've come to really look forward to the migration and witness something bigger than us and timeless. Amazing.


We boarded the dogs over the weekend, as logistically that seemed the best thing to do this time around. The pups did great and I was very happy that was the case. (On a side note: Boy, is it hard not to get all excited when we are reunited with the dogs! I just want to swoop them up and hug them and coo and snuggle. But, A. and I do a good job of acting like this is Totally Normal and No Big Deal. It seems to be working; the dogs are adapting to being boarded pretty well, I think.)

As we were driving on the dirt road out to the house, the car hot and steamy with delirious dog breath, we saw the first Mountain Bluebird flit in front of the car. The year's first sighting! Hallelujah! (Apparently, this little guy brought with him 60-degree weather. Good job, little one!)

Both A. and I gasped and pointed at the same time. I exclaimed, perhaps just a TAD melodramatically, "We just saw our first Mountain Bluebird as a family!!"

A. rolled his eyes and sighed. Then said, with all sincerity, "What a wonderful homecoming."