Me And Beer.

I’m trying to only come here to write if I can do a “normal” post that doesn’t revolve around something negative in my life because lately I sound like a basket case.

But then I remembered: Oh, yeah. I am a basket case!

I cut back drinking a lot over a month ago. I had basically been drinking 2+ beers every night since the election. Before that I was prone to the periodic “Beer Before Bed” during the week and maybe 2+ on the weekends, but my weekends were getting 4+ and my weeknights were 2+ and I decided: Okay. This is a bad habit.

That conclusion proves I’m super-smart and intuitive. People should be paying me to evaluate their lives.

So, I cut back a few weeks ago and am back to where I was pre-election. Some nights none, some nights one, but rarely more than 2 even on the weekends. Since I’m also monitoring how I feel closely as I evaluate Lexapro’s effectiveness, I’ve started really thinking about how alcohol affects my mood/mind and I’ve decided that I really should limit it to 1 beer, or 2 if they’re spread out over 3+ hours. Because more than 1 beer every 90 minutes and my emotions plummet and I get so very depressed.

One beer is fine, it loosens me up and calms anxieties. And I like beer, we have a lot of good local breweries and I love trying new stuff. I had two over the course of an outing with friends that lasted more than 3 hours and that was fine too. Just kept me a little looser than normal. But last night at family dinner I wasn’t driving, and I get stressed about Wesley’s behavior at these type of gatherings, so I drank 4 beers over the course of 3 hours and I felt SO TERRIBLE. I just could not stop thinking about how terrible of a wife and Mom I was, and on the way home I just closed my eyes and fought back tears thinking about how they deserve so much better.

AND THIS WAS DAMN MOTHER’S DAY.

So I’m going to quit that shit.

I’m going to keep it at no beer during the week unless it’s something special and then never more than 1 beer unless I’m at an event that lasts longer than 3 hours and then I can have another beer an hour after I finish the first one.

This schedule will allow me to enjoy beer, but hopefully keep me from falling into the bottomless pit of self-hatred I tend to fall in lately.

Oh, and related: Unless my goal is an effed up sleep schedule, Lexapro hasn’t done shit for me. I’m still only about 10 days in and my doctor gave me 3 weeks before a follow-up appointment because she said it could take that long, but as of right now? No change. I’m still running and eating better (I’m down 6 pounds!) but I still feel terrible a lot of the time. Fingers crossed it will kick in but if not, we’ll try something else. Life is too short to feel this shitty, AMIRIGHT?

Deserving Happiness

“Do you fear death?”

That was the ONLY question on the two tests I had to take at my doctor yesterday that I gave myself a “zero” value. They were tests to rate my anxiety and depression and there were questions with number scales and they would add it all up and decide what range you were in. I experience everything on both tests at least a little bit, except that one. I don’t fear death. I did when I was religious, but not now. I fear pain, I fear fear, I fear illness, but I don’t fear death. I was really proud of myself because I thought: Since most people fear death, this means I’m going to score better than most people.

Nope. She was very concerned. “Um…the way you described what you’re going through I expected a ‘severe’ on the anxiety scale, but you tested ‘severe’ on the depression scale too. Have you ever been diagnosed with depression?”

“Wait. But I don’t fear death! Don’t I get bonus points for that one?”

Depression has never ranked more than as a “side effect” of my anxiety but truthfully – I knew I was showing signs of depression lately. The “things that used to bring joy no longer bring joy” symptom is like a “DEPRESSION” neon sign. So, I wasn’t really surprised we were discussing it, I was surprised that my score was so concerning.

“You are definitely a candidate to try medication. You are suffering with SEVERE symptoms. We need to fix this. Can I ask you to show me your hands?”

This was a weird question but we had just been talking about my busted toenails so I kinda assumed the two were related and as I held them up for her, she took them and turned them over so she was looking at the tops as I was holding them out and she said, “Do you always shake like that?”

I was immediately embarrassed.

“Um. Not always. I really get nervous at doctors. That’s why you haven’t seen me since 2012. I’m really nervous.”

She took notes.

Then we talked about “normal” and how I seem to have a distorted view of “normal” because I don’t feel like I’m that far from “normal” but my tests indicate I’m quite far from the normal level of anxiety or depression.

“If you’re mentally healthy – so to speak – very few, if any, of these symptoms are present always. You seem to indicate that several of these are just part of your constant state of being. This is most definitely very far from the baseline of mental health we like to achieve.”

We also talked a bit about my reservations with medication. I explained that if it were someone I loved, I would be all over it. “MEDICATE YOURSELF!” I would shout it from the rooftops and hold their hand every time they got a prescription filled.

“But, it’s weird. I have this feeling that someone with a life as good as mine MUST be able to cope without medication. I know that’s not true when you apply it to anyone else, but applied to me? It’s different.”

“The fact that you have a privileged life and are still this miserable is exactly the proof you need that it’s chemical. If there are life situations that cause isolated cases of anxiety or depression, that’s something that we might not need to medicate. But your life is great and you are miserable. Your brain chemistry needs adjusting.”

And somehow, that worked with the part of my brain that was hesitant. She’s right! My life is great! I should be happy! Just like how humans should be able to walk on two legs but when you no longer can because of a broken bone, you have to get the bone fixed. My wonderful life and my increasing anxiety and depression are the proof I need to justify chemical intervention.

So I’m officially on Lexapro for now. 10mg daily and I check back in with her in 3 weeks because she said it will take that long for me to really tell if it’s working. I didn’t sleep much last night, but she warned me that’s a side effect that will fade. I do feel better having a plan and she never once made me feel inadequate for needing all of this. I don’t know why I’m able to look at everyone else in my life and say, “You deserve to be happy, and if that requires medication, do it.”

But I look at myself and only see the flaws and errors and mistakes of my life and think, “Welp. Maybe this is as good as it should get for me. Maybe I don’t deserve happiness.”

It’s so dark written out like that, but also so true when you dig under the cobwebs of my twisted brain.

But I’m happy to have a pill and a plan. It seems a lot of people I know are on Lexapro so let’s hope it works as well for me as it does for them!

Not Enough.

I have an appointment with my general practitioner next week. I say that like I see her regularly, when the truth is: I’ve only visited her office once, and it was a “new patient” visit like…maybe 7 years ago? When I called to make an appointment for a “yearly checkup” they said, “Um…if you don’t come to see her in 3 years we assume you’ve found another doctor and she is not currently accepting new patients.”

WHAT? You mean I get PUNISHED for not coming in? I assumed there would be smiley-face stickers all over my chart for all of the years passed without a visit!

Anyway – she’s “accepting” me again since Donnie goes a bit more regularly than I do.

I’m going to talk to her about medicating my anxiety/depression and recommending me to a psychiatrist (I was seeing a non-prescribing therapist) which is a big step at this point because I haven’t considered medication in over a decade.

You see, I’m a pragmatic kind of girl and I like to quantify things, and it’s hard to measure that point when, “Okay. Time to medicate.” But lately I found a way.

I don’t enjoy the things I should be enjoying. The things I used to look forward to are no longer a priority. The things that raise my spirits have become a chore.

The last several months things I love, trail runs with my friends, book clubs, date night, time with the kids, family dinners…all of those things have become things I either skip, forget about, or I have to force myself to do. I FORGOT ABOUT BOOK CLUB LAST NIGHT. Book Club is my favorite night of the month. I go even if I don’t read the book because the women there build me up spiritually and fill my cup so I can go on with my life and GUESS WHAT? I FORGOT.

If I hadn’t already been considering medication before last night? I would be now.

But it’s not just that. I have to drag myself to social gatherings to hang with people I love. There was a big part of me actually kinda relieved this past Sunday was our last trail run group of the season because it’s such a chore to get myself out of bed to do that thing. AND THAT THING IS THE BEST THING. Logically? I know I love these people and they always renew my soul but I’m stuck in such a fog lately I don’t even like doing the things that I know I actually love doing.

I don’t read as much. I don’t color as much. I just kinda push myself through the fog every day and this is all very quantifiable and when you add it all up it says: SELF CARE IS NOT ENOUGH ANY MORE. I’m exercising, I’m eating better, I’m not drinking, I’ve been to therapy (not in awhile, but still), I’m doing all the things they tell you to do to care for yourself and I’m still dreading the things I love. DREADING. There’s a thing going on this morning that Stable Kim would have woken up SO EXCITED ABOUT. But instead? I had to convince myself to go. I had to tell myself that this is for someone I adore and they deserve me to GET OUT OF THE DAMN BED and GO, DAMMIT. YOU OWE THIS PERSON! GET OVER YOURSELF!

So I’ll talk to her next week because now I can quantify my fog and evaluate it pragmatically and determine: Yes. When the things that are supposed to sooth my broken spirit become chores, I can quantify my anxiety and depression and conclude that what I’m doing is NOT ENOUGH.

Unwelcome Voices

John Green (the author whose words I have tattooed on my arm) has been doing this great series with his best friend where they spend 100 days trying to really make some lifestyle changes. It’s an honest look at fitness and nutrition and he struggles a lot of the same things I struggle with, but to varying degrees. Donnie and I have actually enjoyed watching the videos together – it’s entertaining but also completely relatable. And the best part: John does NOT look like a natural athlete yet he’s kicking ass and it reminds me OH YEAH, WE CAN STILL KICK ASS even if we’re dorky and awkward.

However – I wanted to talk about his video reflecting on his mental health and how this projected has helped his anxiety and compulsions.

What fascinated me about the video was the way he talks about the “compulsion” element of his disorder and how it screws with his attempts at meditation. I’ve never considered the same tendencies in my own brain to be compulsive, I consider them a side effect of my anxiety. But the way he spoke of it I was like: Yep. That’s me. Because I deal with the “voices I didn’t invite” in my head often and then those thoughts do the same thing – rattle around destroying the place ESPECIALLY if I’m trying to meditate. I find “guided” meditations to be doable although I’m 100% sure I’m missing some of the benefits if I rely solely on those.

But it really has me thinking about the concept of those voices in my head that I didn’t really invite or approve of being there. The voices that sometimes consider jumping off that ledge (in the “suicidal ideation” sense, not in the “I’m going to end my life” sense)…the voices that are constantly giving me the reasons my husband is going to leave me one day, or that I’m going be homeless, or unloved…The voices that tell me I’m ugly and awkward and should not be hanging out around other people…The voices that tell me that some day every one who likes me is going to see a part of me and say: Oh, wow. So that’s the real Zoot, huh? Yeah. We totes don’t like her anymore.

Yes. I know those uninvited voices well. We converse regularly.

There’s a large part of my brain that understands those voices are not rooted in truth – but DAMN, they are SO LOUD. So if I don’t hear from someone for a few days – someone I usually contact regularly – that other voice assures me they are gone for good. “They’re on to you,” the voice says, “they are never coming back.”

Those unwelcome voices are constantly speaking my fears: Oh no, traffic is bad, do not attempt making that left turn because you will die and you did not tell everyone you loved them this morning. And many times I listen to them and never make an unprotected left turn in traffic again. And in those moments, am I letting them win? Am I giving them power?

It was just an interesting way to look at it, I like the idea that these voices are uninvited and unwelcome. Because then I can almost look at them as foreign and easier to disregard. The voices telling me I’m worthy and lovable and capable and strong…those are the voices I should listen to because I invited them. They are welcome.

Anyway…I’ve just been thinking of that a lot. These voices that I have to fight to ignore otherwise I’d stay home and in bed 24 hours a day.

And now I just realized I’ve been talking about the voices in my head for an entire blog post. Maybe there’s an entirely different diagnosis looming behind all of that. 🙂

Teaching My Daughter The Worst-Case-Scenario Game.

There are many coping strategies with anxiety. One of the simplest ideas is to look at the thing causing you anxiety and see if there’s anything right now you can do about it, and then do it. If there’s not anything you can do, you try to recognize that and let go.

That’s the first basic approach, and it’s one I’ve taught Nikki.

But it’s really not a “cure-all” by any means. Those of us with anxiety disorders know that just saying, Welp, nothing I can do so I guess I won’t worry… doesn’t do anything at all 99% of the time. I mean, I stress out some days about the driving I might have to do in cities I might travel to in the future. Obviously there’s nothing I can do about those things yet still…NIGHTMARE INDUCING.

So I was working with Nikki last night using a “game” my therapist taught me. The Worst-Case-Scenario Game. Where you literally talk out the Worst Thing that could happen and just keep following it through and then dissect each of those moments to see if you can remove the fear from them. You have to talk it out, you can’t just think about it because it still sounds scary in your head. But if you say it out loud, it often sounds ridiculous: I’ll ask my husband to drive while we’re in that city and he says, “No!” I mean, my husband never says, “No!” when I ask him to drive. HE WANTS TO DRIVE. Or how about: There are no Taxis to drive me. What? NO TAXIS? THERE ARE ALWAYS UBERS. Or LYFTS. Or SOMETHING.

So – say it out loud so you can talk through the thing you fear.

Now, back to my daughter. Nikki is about 5 days away from the final stage of an application process to get herself into a magnet school here in Huntsville that she’s been wanting to attend since she first learned about it last year.

Let me make this clear: THIS IS ALL HER.

This is an academic program and so there are a lot of parents that are pushing their kids to apply, but not us. It’s going to really complicate our lives if she gets in and we’re a bit worried about how it will affect her anxiety so we’ve just let her drive this car. And we’re on the home stretch and next Tuesday she has to go to the school board office to write an essay on-sight as the final step and she is FREAKING THE EFF OUT.

So last night we went through the Worst-Case Scenario.

Nikki, what’s the WORST thing that can happen?
I don’t get into the school.
Okay, so then what happens?
I go to my regular middle school.
Yeah, and what’s that like?
Well…my friends go there. And I’ll have dances and stuff.
Okay, so if you totally bomb this essay and don’t get into that school, then it won’t really be that bad, will it?

Not all anxiety can be helped by the Worst-Case-Scenario Game, but I knew this one would because I knew that going to this “new” school comes with it’s own challenges. And not going to the “regular” school means missing out on a lot of “regular” things so I knew that in this case – the Worse Case was not actually that bad.

Once we had the Worst-Case analyzed and realized it wasn’t too big of a deal, we talked a bit about the essay. How she needs to take her time, but keep her eye on the clock. How she needs to just breathe and stay focused because we all know anxiety can make you brain jump around and that is NOT ideal when it comes to writing. We talked about writing from your heart (this seems to be a “personal” type essay) and how if you are sincere and true in your voice, that’s the best you can do.

She’s still super-stressed. I’m not sure the timeline of when we’ll find out if she’s been accepted after this essay, but I really hope it’s soon. We’re really lucky our school system has started this program (if she gets in, she’ll be the second class to go through it) and we’d love to take advantage of it. BUT! If she doesn’t get in, it will be her first major life disappointment AND I AM NOT GOOD AT HELPING MY KIDS THROUGH THOSE. All I can usually do is offer to cry with them indefinitely and then eat all the ice cream.

Anyway – no real point to this other than kinda walking you guys through how A Mom With An Anxiety Disorder Helps Her Daughter With An Anxiety Disorder.

It’s a circus, people.