Monday, January 09, 2017

Blue, blue, electric blue, that's the color of my room

I was going to start this out with, "The problem with depression..."

But of course, there's not one THE problem. There are a variety of problems and inconveniences. I don't actually know that there's any upside.

A friend who has bipolar disorder described a manic episode to me, and I have to say--and in fact did say to her--that it sounded like fun.

She said they can be fun, and you can be super creative and get a lot done, what with the time you spend not sleeping and seeing the world in a very different way. Which is what makes manic episodes so seductive.

But mania has a dangerous component, and of course depression can be crippling.

So there's that.

Whereas I have plain old depression without the mania. It's not like I'm wishing for a manic component.

Of course, if I had a wish, it would be not to have to deal with depression at all.

But my depression is manageable, and so I manage it. With medication. With daily exercise. With nutrition. I have a light box. I'm limiting sugar, and trying to get off it (oh, but I love sugar...). I'm avoiding fast carbs and alcohol.

All of these things help a lot. But they don't completely fix it. There isn't a once and done fix, or not for me, anyway. There's maintenance and vigilance.

When I am overwhelmed, it seems Sisyphean. Other times, it's just like having asthma, which is only limiting when I don't manage it properly. I don't think of it as my defining characteristic, but I have to think about it, so I don't let it slide.

This is just how it is.

It used to be that when I got depressed, I'd cry. I'd cry at work, alone in my cubicle. I'd go home and sit on the floor and cry. I wouldn't be able to leave my apartment because I couldn't stop crying.

I could hold it together for meetings, provided they weren't all-day meetings, because if they were, I'd have to go to the bathroom intermittently to cry.

I'd run regularly because I couldn't run and cry at the same time. It was a good break.

But now, now when I sink, it manifests in anger. I still cry pretty easily, but I do not sit around and cry for hours on end.

Instead, I get impatient. Angry. I snap at everyone. I have so little tolerance for anyone and anything, myself included.

Basically, I'm a lot more functional in my depression, but boy do I suck to be around.

But this also means I don't recognize it so easily. It's much more obvious when you cannot leave your home, or have a whole conversation, because you can't stop crying.

Now I just seem like a harpy. I'm shrill and ill-tempered and screechy. But that might not be depression. It could also be hormones. Or a bad day. It might not be a shift in brain chemistry.

Hard to know.

I mean, I saw my shrink last week and told him I thought my current dose of medication was great. I'm doing really well, I said.

But it turns out I've been horrible to my family. No patience, no tolerance, very sharp tongued.

I could feel myself doing it, but I didn't recognize it. It was just...why why why is my family SO ANNOYING?

And then on Saturday, Betty asked if I'm depressed.

Depressed? Me? Why?

Because I've just been so unpleasant. So short with the kids. With everyone.

So I stopped and looked back and realized that I've been retreating for a while. It's been harder and harder to leave the house. I haven't been enjoying things. Was this depression? I thought my meds were right.

I don't know if it's my brain chemistry or the weather or the alignment of the planets or what-have-you.

Nobody really knows. My shrink admits it's a guessing game. They make their most educated guess, and then it's trial and error. Which is what makes mental illness so hard. There's still so much of the brain that's a mystery.

I have permission to up my dose.

So I did.

And the world is starting to look a whole lot more appealing.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Sandwiched

I'm in the sandwich generation. Maybe some of you are as well.

My kids are 4 and 7, and my mom is in her late 70s. This is a big span of ages.

Betty lives with us, and this is good in so many ways. My kids are growing up with their Nana in their everyday lives. When they list our family, she is included. When Jordan reads at night after dinner, she is who he reads to.

If we are Facebook friends, you regularly see pictures of them together in the red chair.

But sometimes, one of my kids and my mom are ill or in need of some kind of help, and I get a little overwhelmed.

I do freelance writing and editing, but no longer have an office job. So when someone needs me, I am here. I can do what I need to do without calling a boss first, without sprinting home from the office.

This is a lucky position to be in. I know.

So.

My mom had been wheezing for a while. I would hear it every once in a while when we were sitting together. Once or twice I offered her my inhaler.

We all had colds all fall, so I figured it was connected. But this week it hit me that it had just been too often, for too long.

On Tuesday I asked her if she wheezes regularly.

Every day.

I asked if this concerned her and she said, "Maybe this is just how I am. I wheeze."

No. People do not just wheeze without a reason.

So I had her call her doctor, who, when she heard about the wheezing, was able to squeeze her in on Thursday.

And then Wednesday night Jordan started crying while Nick was brushing his teeth, which is how Nick wound up looking in his mouth, and then called me in, and then we both tried not to freak out so that Jordan wouldn't think it was something terrible.

It was a big bump on his gums, above his remaining top front tooth. Big, round, and sore.

I freaked out after he went to bed. What if it were something terrible?

Our dentist is away this week, so early yesterday morning we started calling around and got an emergency appointment with a pediatric dentist in Chevy Chase.

I asked if they thought we would have time get to K Street for my mom's appointment by 12:30. They said yes.

So we took Betty with us, and parked right across the street at Saks, because Betty said she would browse and also get parking validated. (Note: she got us free parking, plus they gave her a bunch of samples.)

The staff was lovely. The dentist was wonderful. And they kindly gave us a break on the anesthesia Jordan wound up needing.

Jordan had an infection. That was the big bump. The baby tooth had to come out.

But it took longer than expected. Because anesthesia, tooth extraction, hang out and breathe through the oxygen mask recovery.

All went well. He was a rock star. 

So at noon Betty got nervous about her appointment--as did I--and got a cab. But not before handing off our parking validation.

As soon as we could leave the dentist, Jordan and I raced down to K Street and parked in one of those lots that charge you like a million dollars an hour.

I am, on the whole, opposed to paying for parking, but sometimes it is just not optional.

We sprinted a block, Jordan complaining the whole way, and got to the waiting room in time for them to call my mom back.

I go to her appointments because she is a terrible self-reporter.

She'll be sick and when the doctor asks how she's doing she'll say, "Fine!"

Seriously. Her arm could fall off and she'd say she was fine. And if the doctor didn't notice, she'd come home and I'd ask what the doctor said about her missing arm and she'd say, "I forgot all about it."

So now I go to her appointments and she says she's fine and then I'll be all, "Except that you've been so sick you haven't been able to eat for three days, which is why we're here."

And then she'll say, "Oh, right. Except for the terrible nausea." Or inability to breathe. Or whatever it is. Severe pain somewhere. Arm falling off. Etc.

Also, I wanted to make sure to tell them that she's smoking. Yes. I wanted to tell on her.

She'd quit a couple years ago after getting pneumonia twice in one season and not being able to get out of bed for weeks. Honestly, weeks. Her doctor told her sternly that this was just going to keep happening if she kept smoking.

So she quit. I think.

A couple months ago, when I found out she was sneaking cigarettes, I said, just like a kid, "I'm telling your doctor on you!"

Ooh, I was so upset. She said she'd already told the doctor, but I wanted to make sure. Because it matters.

And I wanted to ask about COPD. Because I am terrified of this.

To sum up: Jordan lost his last front tooth, and is absolutely delighted.

Betty has pneumonia.

And me, I'm just very tired.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

As midnight nears and shadows creep/Come into my sleep

You know I love my daughter.

I love her more than rainbows and chocolate and sunshine and sprinkles. We play this game regularly. What do we love each other more than?

Everything.

I love her and her brother more than anything they can name. Anything imaginable.

But I want her the hell out of my bed.

I have thought about it, and counting bad sleep while pregnant, and the fact that India was up every two hours for at least her first year of life but in my recollection it was more like two, then if you add all my nights of good sleep together, I've had maybe one week of solid sleep in the last five years.

No wonder I am so tired and haggard and crabby. All the time.

Every night our little dollop of delight comes in sometime between midnight and 2:00 am.

You'll be awakened from a sound sleep with "thump thump thump thump thump" and the thud of a small body reaching the bed. She clambers up, and crawls up  the middle of the bed and into the covers.

And then it begins.

It would be one thing if she just went to sleep and didn't move a whole lot. I could live with that.

I'm not saying you always get kicked in the head or whacked with a sleep-heavy arm, but it does happen with terrible regularity. And she likes to sleep with one leg in, one leg on top of the covers. So your covers are constantly being tugged.

India has the middle of the bed. Prime real estate. But she wants to be right up against you. Nick has his claim pretty firmly staked, so I tend to wind up on edge of the bed.

She mashes against me. So I scoot. And she scoots. And inch by inch, we creep towards the edge. I awake fully when there is nary an inch ahead, just air. Hello, Charybdis!

During the day, it's different. I am super huggy. I touch people's arms when I'm talking to them. I hold hands. My daughter climbs up on me all the time.

But sleep? NO TOUCHING. This is my side, that is your side. I love you very much goodnight, see you in the morning.

If I go sleep in her bed, she turns her attention to Nick. So there is no real sleep. Last night I went to her bed at 2:00 am and then at 4:00 she came down and woke me up to find her water.

I nearly wept.

We have tried a sticker chart. Five stickers and India got to pick her treat! McDonalds! Frozen yogurt! A trip to the Diner! A pony! Our first born!

Anything! Dear child, anything! Just let us sleep!

We had five nights of staying in bed, like until about 5:00 am. Or coming to our bed but then agreeing to stay in her bed when Nick took her back.

This, for us, totally counts.

But then she was done. She'd accomplished it. Five was enough.

It turns out that there's nothing worth more to her than sleeping with us. Stickers for treats? Feh!

Jordan can be bribed encouraged with Pokemon and Lego. And he's always been a great sleeper. And he's like me--if he gets scared and comes to our bed, he stays an hour and then he's done. He wants his space.

India doesn't have things that she's into for bribery. And even the proffer of outings she loves aren't enough.

For a while we put a cute little foam mattress next to the bed. She could sleep in our room, but not our bed. She had her own pillow and my Gramma Lillian's rainbow afghan as her special blankie.

She called it her cozy bed.

Her cozy bed worked all night like twice. And then, then she enjoyed her cozy bed until one or two in the morning, and then crawled in our bed.

She says she's scared. This is what she says every time. No matter how cozy and safe she will agree that her bed is.

You cannot argue with scared. True or not, you don't want your kid to think that you are unconcerned about their fears.

(Even if it is up against my fear that I will never sleep again.)

We are old and tired and desperate.

So if you have any suggestions or resources we are begging open to them.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Big hugs and love to you

Holidays are sparkly and beautiful and fun. Ooh, lights! Presents! Parties!

And for those among us who have lost loved ones, particularly recently, they are hard. 

You have this time where you're supposed to be happy and people are wishing you happiness and maybe you're really, really sad. That's OK. Or maybe you're alternately happy and sad, which feels weird. But that's OK, too.

Really, I think, we just need to stop and acknowledge that however we feel is how we feel, and our feelings are valid.

Nobody can tell you how you should feel. They're not you.

Absence can be louder and more intense than presence, and it's important to honor the hollow and give it the space it deserves.

And let me now mention that our loved ones, the ones who are here with us, may be driving us crazy. Those feelings are OK too. We just need to be as kind as we can to each other.

You know we celebrate Christmas, although very honestly, not religiously. I was raised by parents who'd were treated badly by their respective churches--Catholic and Lutheran--when they fell in love and got engaged.

Their churches were so negative, that in response, our parents raised us with nothing. No church, no explicit religion. (Until I got to high school, at which point they panicked that we might grow up to join the Moonies, and started hauling us to Mass on Sundays.)

I have always loved Christmas. I love the tree and the lights and the stockings. We use the same ornaments every year, so there is such history nestled in our tree. I love making Christmas cookies.

Growing up, I knew about Mary and Joseph and no room at the inn and Baby Jesus. We had creches, and I was part of the nativity play (so bitterly, because pajamas and Afghan), but still, since we didn't approach holidays religiously, I didn't really connect them with our celebration. 

We are not raising our kids with a religion, but we are raising them to be good people. To be kind and loving, and to treat everyone equally. It doesn't matter what color someone's skin is, whether they are a man or a woman, or what their job is. You treat people kindly and respectfully. People should be able to love and marry whoever they want to. People should worship (or not) whatever they choose.

Earlier this year, India asked me if I know who Jeez is. And I realized that maybe we should give them some sort of basic religious education.

Love, peace, kindness, and fairy dust sprinkles on everyone, and my best hope for the world.

Big hugs and so much love to you.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

When you write a Dear Santa letter in a fit of pique

Last weekend Jordan asked how he might send a letter to Santa.

He and India had already sat on Santa's lap and given him their Christmas lists. But I figured he had something he wanted to add.

The kids often give us things they come across as presents. And just prior to his letter, he'd apparently given Nick a pin. Nick had thanked him and then set it aside and gone about with whatever it was he was in the middle of doing.

So Jordan wrote his letter and put it in an envelope, and we helped him address it to the North Pole. We explained how he had to put our return address so Santa would know where exactly this was coming from.

That night, Jordan said, "Daddy, you know my Santa letter?"

"Yes."

"Can you please throw it away? I don't want to send it."

There you have it.

We really don't want to get on his bad side.