To Medicate or Not…

This is not the first post I’ve done regarding my decisions to make use of pharmaceuticals. It seems to be an ongoing ‘dilemma’ for me.

I don’t doubt that many people face similar questioning about whether meds are the right choice. Everyone’s situation is different though and so the question should always be directed inward – Why am I choosing this and what, or who, am I trying to protect? The answer will come in honest seeking.

For me, it appears, that at least for now, the medicating will continue.

Seek and ye shall find:

Perhaps my imperfections are meant to teach me something. I get it.

This dilemma about whether to increase my meds or not – why am I against it? What am I trying to prove? Perhaps it’s a lesson in letting go of preconceived, self-made notions of how things should be, letting go of rules and ideas around purity being obtained through my own actions, that in some way strict adherence to a list of commandments will offer me my salvation.

But how could I have been made with imperfections to begin with if Perfection itself made me? Precisely! The so-called imperfection was made Perfectly and therefore not an imperfection at all.

Ah, at first an epiphany but then more confusion comes. I can accept the depression but how do I live with it? It’s all-consuming, at its worst, and I am lost – not the ‘real’ me, of course, that’s still inside. But it’s been barricaded.

With medication the barricades are no longer concrete walls. Rather they are pesky nets of weeds, no longer impenetrable, but a nuisance nonetheless and a hindrance to joy.

The Joy is there, this I know.

If more medication could obliterate the weeds and offer a direct path to joy, why would I not take it? Because it’s Joy I want, not joy. I want Truth, not oblivion.

Why would I take a piece when I could have the whole? But could a piece of Wholeness be not whole?

Why would you allow yourself to struggle still?

Why would you enter the dark forest in search of light when you stand in it already? Or rather, why would you not step out of the dark forest and expose yourself to the light?

Do you fear the light? You don’t know it, do you? All you know is darkness so you keep yourself enveloped in its safety.

You’re afraid of what you’ll see.

But medication’s not of God.

Who says? Did God not make the mind of man that made the medication?

But depression’s not of God?

Who says? See it not of God and it’s a curse for sure!

Apart from its whole, you know not what it is. The image on the puzzle piece means nothing until it’s put in place. And the whole image can’t be seen without its pieces.

If the wholeness of God is joy, allow yourself to be the piece you were meant to be.

You’re so afraid of joy. You know not what it is.

It’s true.

Medication can’t touch me, truly. But in believing it can I keep myself in body, fearful of its demise.

Let go of your body, little mind, and find solace in My offering to you. My Joy cannot be found in your weak protection of your self. Fear not. Let go of your self and find Me.

I know not what I’ll find in Joy. It’s true – I am afraid.

I continue to see myself as separate, trying to make my piece whole, alone.

Yet a ray of light shines not at all without the sun.

I’m a defiant little ray. I’ve known darkness for so long. I have no idea how bright I could truly be in union with the sun.

Does the type of bridge I cross to freedom truly matter? I think not. All that matters is that I choose to cross it. The paths are all different but the destination is the same.

The instruction is not to devise your own path but to seek His will in all you do and He will direct your path.

Gratitude in Not-So-Glorious Places

I love my psychologist. She’s such a wise woman and can read me like a book.

I’ve started a new antidepressant medication and have recently upped the dose. When the dose increased I experienced a common side effect of the medication. Nausea.

I welcomed the nausea. It decreased my appetite. But, after a few days, the nausea went away.

In my psychologist’s office today she asked how the nausea was and I said it had gone. I smiled as I said this, giving her a sly look and snapping my fingers. “Shucks!”, I said.

She laughed and said, “How very eating-disordered of you.”

I laughed too. Of course it’s eating-disordered thinking. Why wouldn’t an eating-disordered person think that something that decreased the appetite was magnificent?

Despite lingering eating-disordered thoughts that roll around in my head and make themselves frequently present, the increased dose of my antidepressant medication has helped my mood tremendously. And historically, for me, when my mood is good I am much more able to stay on track with my food and not engage in the self-defeating, self-deflating acts of restricting and binging and purging.

We discuss my mood and have a great conversation about the brain and mental illness.

Then she says, “You know, the very thing, that dogged determination that keeps you in your eating disorder, is the same character that drives you to work so hard when your depression rears its ugly head.”

How’s that for a silver lining?

I laugh again. I know my mood is in a far better place than it has been in months because I can see the great wisdom in this.

“Well,” I say, “Thank God for my eating disorder then! Without it and this great relentless determination of mine, I just might not have the strength to fight the depression!”

Finding gratitude in the strangest of places.

Who knows, really? But I understand what she means. And perhaps she’s right. These attributes, the will and drive and doggedness and stubbornness that are characteristic of many eating-disordered people, could be the very traits that have allowed me to not be completely and utterly consumed and devastated by my major depression and all the other trials and tribulations that life is presenting to me right now.

It’s just like the Zen story of the farmer. Good luck or bad luck? Fortune or misfortune? Maybe or maybe not?

Good and bad can be found in all circumstances.

Perhaps.

Post-It Notes for Daily Living

I sit drinking coffee with my friend.

She tells me about her job working with people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. She details how, for many of her clients, they cannot do simple routine tasks. And not so much that they can’t do them but that they don’t remember to do them. The logical, sequential ability of ordering and accomplishing tasks is lost.

Some know they need groceries but forget to go to the store. Some will get to the store and return without anything they actually needed to get. Some need to take medication but can’t remember what time to take it at. Some don’t know where their mailbox is and can’t even establish a plan for finding it.

My friend’s job is to develop plans and strategies for her clients that will enable them to live their lives as self-sufficiently as possible. She doesn’t aim to do things for her clients, to accomplish their tasks for them. No, her job is to do just enough that will allow them to do what they need to do themselves. Whether it be Post-It note reminders around the house or to-do/get lists (and other strategies far beyond what I know about), she helps her clients help themselves.

To myself, I shake my head, almost unable to imagine what it would be like to not remember such basic functioning for daily life.

But, I am absolutely and humbly aware that I, we, the general population without traumatic brain injuries, are not so different.

My friend and I switch topics and we’re now discussing the state of her apartment and how she feels overwhelmed by the mess of it. She then tells me about a broken filing cabinet that is taking up space and adding to her feelings of a life of clutter.

It’s a humorous conversation. We’re grown adults commiserating about the miseries and annoyances of daily living. I finally suggest to her that one day, today after coffee, all she needs to do is move the filing cabinet from her living room to the back door. Then, two days later on garbage day, simply move the filing cabinet out to the curb. And voila! Clutter begone!

She feels less overwhelmed and agrees to the order of tasks. Three days later, and in record time, she has accomplished a task that had been haunting her for months.

Does my friend have a traumatic brain injury? Not at all. She’s actually a highly-functioning, very intelligent person with a post-secondary degree in social work.

I think about myself now and my weekly meetings with my psychologist (which I have no funds to afford but have concluded that, through a simplified cost-benefit analysis, if I had money right now it would be doing me no good anyway if I’m still suffering in the midst of my major depression).

In my recent meetings with my psychologist we have developed lists and tasks for me as well. Sure, I can remember to take my medication and get groceries and turn on and off the stove and take the garbage out and shower and go to bed. But, do I want to? No, right now I don’t! My brain is such that, not unlike my friend’s brain-injured clients, I am having problems completing daily tasks.

I have little motivation at times to continue but somewhere inside of me there’s a voice that says, “Keep going.” I know I have to wake up in the morning. I know I have to take my antidepressant medication. I know I have to shower and go to work. I also know that while there is breath being exhaled from my mouth there is a purpose to living. I don’t feel it, but I know it.

And right now, this is the time for lists. I don’t feel adult-like. I feel often like I’m failing. But right now, while my brain and emotions are fragile, this is the time for basic lists to help me function and survive. I am not strong enough right now to reach for the stars. I don’t know why I can’t do and be all the things I think I should be but now is not the time to discriminate and judge. Now is the time for doing, doing one thing at a time, one step at a time so that I can manage my day-to-day life.

We all need to self-manage. “Normal” brain or injured brain makes no difference. Whatever level we’re at is the level at which we need to manage and for however long it takes.

The only requirement is to just keep going, without judgement or criticism, but with kindness and compassion for ourselves and others.

This is where I’m at and I will work this day to the best of my ability, Post-It notes and all!

God in Zoloft

You’ve heard the story of the drowning man who prays to God to be rescued?

A rowboat sails by and the man refuses rescue saying that he’s waiting for God to save him. Then a motorboat comes by and he refuses that rescue too, still clinging to his belief that God will come to his aid. He refuses the helicopter rescue too before he finally ends up drowning.

Once in heaven, the man asks God why He didn’t save him and God replies, “I sent you a rowboat, a motorboat and a helicopter! What more did you expect?”

I am that man, drowning in my own misguided and maligned ideas of what rescue, grace and salvation should look like.

I am wholeheartedly, without a doubt, clinging to my own mind-made beliefs of who I am or who I should be.

Still struggling in the midst of the chaos, confusion and torment of a worsening depression, I contemplate what it would mean to re-start my medication.

I fear losing me.

The thing is, I’m losing me anyway. I’m like the guy drowning and passing up all the life preservers being thrown his way, waiting for something better.

…waiting for something better and ignoring the omnipotent, omnipresence of God.

The endless suffering is but a result of my own refusal to accept help.

Martin Luther said, “Until a man is nothing, God can make nothing out of him.”

I believe God can do more with me than I’ve ever attempted to do for myself and His grace can take any form.

I took my Zoloft this morning.

 

 

 

Interview with Myself – #1

Q: How are you doing?

A: Not so good.

Q: Why not? What’s going on?

A: I feel lost and confused. I can’t control this thing that’s happening inside me. I feel like there’s this separate entity that I’m fighting. I don’t understand why this is happening to me.

Q: Is the entity really separate?

A: Yes, and no. It doesn’t feel like it’s truly me but it’s not really outside of me. It’s me but it’s not me. I mean, if it’s me but I don’t want to feel like this, then why would I do this to myself? Why would someone do this to themselves? If it’s not me, then who is it? There’s no one else here so it must be me. I can’t stand it. I want to crawl out of myself.

Q: Do you feel like you’re at fault?

A: Yes! I should be able to control myself. Why can’t I control it?

Q: Control what?

A: These feelings…

Q: What feelings? What do you feel?

[pause]

A: I feel nothing and everything. I feel anger,

Q: Anger?

A: Yes!

Q: At what or who?

A: At myself.

Q: Why?

A: Because of what I am.

Q: What are you?

A: Wrong. Gross. Inadequate. Empty. Different. Displaced. I don’t belong here. I don’t belong there. I can’t decide what’s right. I can’t decide what’s wrong. I can’t decide. I don’t understand who I am. I should be able to figure this out. Why can’t I figure this out?

Q: What are you trying to figure out?

A: Everything! I don’t understand why I don’t feel like I belong…anywhere. I’m out of place. I try this, I try that. I do this, I do that. I don’t feel any connection. I am without purpose.

Q: Do you need a purpose?

A: I feel like there’s a reason for me. But it continuously evades me. Deep, deep, deep down I feel like I am meant to do something but I don’t feel like me doing what I’m doing now. I feel like I’m anything but me. Everything feels wrong. I don’t belong here.

Q: Don’t belong where?

A: Here, right now. Here on earth. Here in this world. It’s so hard, it’s so tiring. I go to work and try to find joy and excitement. I try to put forth the effort. Drive harder! Push more! Climb and be! Those are the messages I get but that’s not what I want and so I don’t belong. I feel condemned for not ‘bettering’ myself. And I feel on the outside again. And then I feel like since we have control over our thoughts that if I could just think different thoughts and not let myself think that I’m on the outside then I shouldn’t be. But that doesn’t work either. I still feel like I’m not in the right place. But if not here, then where? I’m trying so hard to be of a world where I truly don’t belong. But then what am I to do? There’s no place for the likes of me in this world and that’s what happens to people like me – we get banished. It’s the folks living in squalor and who are homeless, just tossed aside because the world doesn’t know what to do with them. I want to quit my job but then how I do I survive? I can’t. And then so what do I do then? I follow my heart to leave a job that is so heart-wrenchingly wrong and then I get reprimanded. How could I be so irresponsible? You can’t just quit your job! How do you plan to survive? You’ve got to have a plan and set goals and plan and try and effort! But I don’t have any answers to what I’m supposed to do next. All I know is that I’m not where I need to be. But the world doesn’t support someone who up and quits a decent job. How could you? How could you leave a job with benefits and pension? You need to put in your time just like everyone else! Damn it! It doesn’t feel right to me. But I don’t know what I’m supposed to do! I don’t know what to do! And so I just try to keep going in a world where I don’t belong. But I just know I’m meant for more but if I am then why hasn’t the “what” come to me? I’m not allowing it. I’m resisting. And there I go doing something wrong again. And then I feel bad because maybe I’m not being grateful enough and if I would just be grateful then the whole world would become better for me. How can anything be wrong when you’re grateful? And then I’m at fault again. I’m wrong. It’s always me. I am wrong. I am wrong. I am wrong.

[silence]

Q: Tell me about your eating disorder.

A: Sigh. I’ve relapsed.

Q: How do you feel about that?

A: Disappointed.

Q: Why do you think you relapsed?

A: Because it never really went away.

Q: What do you mean?

A: I don’t know.

Q: When did it start again?

A: January.

Q: You’ve reached out for help again and may be able to get back into a program.

A: Yes.

Q: How do you feel?

A: Grateful that someone is still willing to help me.

Q: Are you afraid?

A: Yes.

Q: Why?

A: It’s different this time.

Q: What’s different?

A: Me.

Q: Why?

[silence]

Q: It’s been suggested that mood, yours in particular, has a lot to do with behavior and that your mood is very low again. You stopped taking your medication in June and by November (and probably sooner) things were starting to go downhill again. Do you think your mood is a problem?

A: Yes. I think I make very different choices and have very different ideas when my mood is low.

Q: Your medication had a profound effect on your first episode of recovery from the eating disorder. Why did you stop?

A: Yes, I remember. For me, I remember changing my food/eating habits but still not being able to stop the binging and purging and then once I started the meds it’s like everything changed and I could control my choices. Before the meds I felt like everything was effort and once the meds kicked in I felt like I was in control of the choices. Things were still hard but it was like I had this magical ability to choose. I was such an advocate of the meds! I never thought I would be since I was so anti-medication but the change was like a switch was turned on (or off – whichever way you want to look at it) and the voice that was truly me could be heard again – I was in control. It felt instantaneous and the struggles were no longer uncontrollable but completely within my control. Choice was something I could make.

I stopped the meds because I was introduced to an idea that medication is not necessary, we are in complete control of our own reality. We can transcend anything with enough focus. All we need is focus. We are vibrational beings and that, with enough focus, I could raise my vibrational frequency and transcend to another plane of understanding and existence.

The problem here is two-fold.

First, I was introduced to this concept but misunderstood it entirely. And secondly, the concept as a whole still resonates deeply with me and I fear that in order to be helped I must give up what feels true to me and submit to the current modalities of treatment for my depression and eating disorder.

Q: Why do you think you misunderstood?

A: All I heard was “high” frequency and “low” frequency. High equates to good and low equates to bad. I found the element of separation, the way I always seem to do, that said I was less than and had something to achieve. I thought I was less than the person who introduced me to this idea of vibrational frequencies because he was vibrating at a very high frequency. Sadly, this person was not willing to entertain my mind of questions and thoughts and analysis in order to try and help me reason and figure this all out. I was quashed at every angle and just told to breathe and focus.

Q: How did that make you feel?

A: Dismissed.

Q: Who was this person?

A: I don’t know.

Q: What do you mean, “You don’t know.”?

A: In form he was my yoga teacher. In thought, I don’t know or understand the reason he came into my life. At times I hate him and wish I’d never, ever, ever met him. Part of me feels like he’s pure evil and part of me feels like he’s pure love. Part of me wonders if the things I encountered through him were even real, factual events. He and the circumstances of our encounters have had a profound effect on me but I find it very difficult to describe.  It’s surreal. I do feel like I had an awakening of some sort but can’t explain that further. I feel like I was completely blind before and when I had the awakening I was given a glimpse of something far beyond what I knew. But the vision has not been fully realized so I feel like I’m looking out with fuzzy eyes that can’t see anything but a blur and it’s driving me insane, this inability to see.

[silence]

Q: There’s unresolved energy here.

A: Yes.

Q: Do you know how to resolve it?

A: No. I have no answers. It just is and I hate how painful it is.

Q: Do you think this situation has anything to do with your low mood?

A: Not everything but something. I’m not sure I’ll ever understand it but I want to be free from it.

Q: Is it possible?

A: All things are possible.

Q: Do you believe that?

A: Yes. To the core my being.

Q: Then why do you feel so fearful and frustrated?

A: I’m wanting revelation.

Q: What if it doesn’t come?

A: It will.

Q: Then why do you feel so fearful and frustrated?

A: I’m afraid it won’t come. I’ll be wrong and crazy.

Q: So you have doubt?

[silence]

A: I don’t think I doubt so much as I’m impatient. Isn’t 40 years of pain enough time to wait?

Q: Who decides how long?

A: I know.

[silence]

A: I need to take a break.

 

Love, and other drugs…

Love is a drug, but it’s not mine.

Mine is Zoloft. The decision to start taking it was not easy, it was like accepting defeat. Ultimately though, it was the very thing that propelled me forward into true recovery. Sometimes I think about stopping taking it but I’m not sure if the major depression and severe anxiety pre-dates the eating disorder or if the eating disorder was the cause of it. For now though I keep taking it because I don’t ever want to go back there. And, despite any long term ramifications there might be from taking this pharmaceutical drug, it cannot be any worse than the life time effects of starving and binging and purging, day in and day out.

Let’s be clear though. Taking drugs didn’t fix the eating disorder. My life didn’t magically fall into place once I popped a few pills.

There’s actually something called “treatment-resistant depression” and though no one on my health care team ever used those exact words, I was certainly experiencing something that was treatment-resistant. I was going through the motions but I wasn’t getting anywhere. There was this invisible bridge between effort and actuality that I just couldn’t cross and what soon became apparent was my hugely, colossal ability to be a complete and utter failure.

What I eventually came to accept was that there was in fact something missing that I, in all my human power, couldn’t connect. I needed a jolt, I needed something to bridge the connection for me.

So, here’s my not so profound analogy which I hope will paint a picture of what my drug did for me and why some people don’t need the drug.

My friend and I are getting ready for a night out. We’re primping in front of the mirror doing our make up and our hair and my friend decides she wants to curl her hair. She plugs in the curling iron and turns the heat setting to 10, does her thing with the magic wand, and walks out of the room with these big, beautiful, bouncy curls. She looks lovely and now I want to curl my hair too. The curling iron is still on so I step up to the mirror and take my turn. But, after a few passes through my hair, the curls aren’t holding. I get these pathetic, limp little twists that look nothing like her luscious curls. I try again but the same thing happens. I try again and again and I’m getting more and more agitated. “What am I doing wrong?”, I ask myself. My friend hears me huffing and puffing (and maybe swearing a little too) so she comes in and asks what the problem is. Without saying a word I point to the barely-visible bends in my hair, looking at her wide-eyed as if to say, “Can’t you see what the problem is?” She automatically understands my frustration, walks over to the curling iron, increases the temperature to the max and says, “Just try a hotter setting.” I try it…and, it works.

So, the moral of the story – we both had to follow the same process to curl our hair, I just needed a little more heat for my curls to hold. And it was the same with the drug. I still had to go through all the work and fear and tears and angst while recovering from the eating disorder – all the drug did was make the work hold. As hair has different characteristics and properties, so too does the human brain.

There are a million ways to accomplish the same goal. I accepted my unique and different brain and chose a way that worked for me.