Category Archives: Random

You Need To Exercise.

*Disclaimer: It seems I’ll always have to mention that yes, I realize my posts may be all over the place. Yes, there may be run-on sentences. But I’m suffering from depression, I have a hard enough time just having the motivation to write.*

wpid-wp-1420772469604.jpegRecently, I have been attending physical therapy for my neck to help strengthen the muscles in my back and shoulders that support my neck in efforts to relieve some of the pain and flare-ups from my Chiari 1 Malformation. I have been going twice a week, every session having different exercises or massages, for about a month. During this time, I have noticed that my depression has lifted if only by just 10%. I still feel an overall malaise; and every time I arrive for PT, I feel weak, tired, and dizzy-and this is before I start my therapy. Aside from the physical activity that I’m assisted with, the routine of having to be somewhere at the same time every week has given me a sort of sense of purpose. This is a huge part of alleviating depression.

I started my session off by warming up – today it was five minutes on the arm bike. My biceps, triceps, and other surrounding muscles were already shaking; and my shoulder joints were beginning to wake up and yell at me to stop before I became so much in pain that even turning the wheel of my car would elicit sharp pains that would radiate down my arms, leading me into panic mode wondering whether or not I’m having a heart attack. Of course, I wouldn’t be. But, I was smart this time around. After wall push-ups (on my toes!), planks on my knees, stretch band exercises, and various one-pound weight training movements with my body bent at the waist, leaning over on an exercise ball propped up on a massage table, I asked if I could sit with some ice. Although my middle back is starting to hurt, it’s probably largely in part because of my horrible posture, something that physical therapy is trying to straighten, strengthen, and prevent the melancholic curvature of my spine. The signature curvature of someone who has been depressed for 20 plus years of their life and can’t find the will nor stamina to sit upright for 10 minutes. I was shaking. Throughout my entire workout, I was shaking. My physical therapist noticed this and would constantly ask if I felt I needed to rest before continuing, or if I felt okay enough to start the next set.

My revelation came to me this morning, while in the shower, when I realized something that could very well decrease psychopharmaceutical sales. What if psychiatrists prescribed physical therapy, two to three times a week at half hour sessions, for patients who have been immobile and bed or couch-ridden because of depression? Even if the patient had a hard time following through with take-home exercises (of which I’m guilty), working with someone a few times a week who is aware of the patient’s disability and understanding of the limitations that a person has, would be greatly beneficial to that person with depression, even if the overall improvement is 10 or 20 percent better. For some, they may fall back into old ways of sitting or sleeping all day, but others may take the opportunity and slowly rehabilitate their body into movement, and build strength.

I have been sitting and have been near bed-ridden (at times actually bed-bound) for over two years now. I have gained 80 pounds during that time and lost so much muscle that walking a few blocks makes my legs shake. I’m so weak at times that any type of extended physical activity involving my arms and reaching above my head causes me to shake uncontrollably. Ultimately, I avoid these types of activity.

I certainly don’t want to claim or rather, proclaim, that “If I can do it, so can you,” because this is not the case. With anything. If there is one thing I hate about motivational speakers it’s the assumption that just because their back story and journey to where they are now had been so grueling, they expect that others have no excuse to say that they can’t do the same. No one is above anyone and certainly no one’s misery and hard times are more difficult than everyone else. Yes, I hate where I am at; and I hate even more the depression I experience every damn day, but I never once compare my misery to someone else’s, and if I do, it’s in a more self-deprecating-typical-depression kind of way. I look at another person and think that they do have it worse than me, so why the hell am I attending all these self-pity parties all the damn time?

fa1e37f8ba5f6f34aa5ef8c488f2220f.jpgSo, one idea I have (if I can conjure the energy) is to put out an honest book on exercise and depression and how to get from point A to point B (rather how to drag and claw your way from point A to point B). I would take care not to include self-pity stories nor “If I can do it, you can too” stories, but rather just talk about my personal experience with depression and physical activity. I have been thinking about this on and off for a while now, wondering what the key thought is to getting off the chair, or out of bed, to doing the slightest of exercises to start your body moving. My head is plagued with so many fucking doctors rattling off how I need to exercise, take the dogs for a walk even for a few blocks, or start by lifting weights; or, after telling them that I completed the P90 program twice, “Why not start the P90 program again?” The problem these doctors don’t understand is that, for someone who used to workout at least five, if not six or seven, days a week, have two jobs, and energy to have craft fairs every weekend AND have a social life, starting an exercise program with the past mocking me in my head is simply not an option. Although I know that if I was going to start again I couldn’t pick up where I left off with 100 sit-ups, lifting 20 pound weights, and dancing on the treadmill for an hour, there is still a part of me that when I try to pick up that dumbbell, even if it’s only five pounds, in my depressed mind, I see my former body, 100 pounds of fat lighter, and an unknown amount of muscle heavier. And so, in order to write a successful book, or rather, the book that I want to write, there has to be a conclusive, concrete thought process to look at where I used to be and accepting where I am now. And to be clear, the accepting part is NOT the thought process that I want to focus on. Acceptance is hard and frankly, redundant and overused. I want the readers with Major Depressive Disorder to read this book and think that, “Okay, maybe I could try this,” or, “I feel that way, too,” or, “I get the same responses from doctors and TV advertising.”

Perhaps I could even start a program that becomes so widespread, perhaps nationwide, that insurance companies approve the use of physical therapy as an alternative or additional form of “medicine” for those who are depressed. Level of depression need not apply. If you’re depressed and stagnant, you are automatically qualified. Force the doctors to put their money where their mouth is and prescribe exercise for their patients. You cannot expect a depressed patient to begin an exercise routine on their own when they already think so little of themselves.

I hope with my next month of physical therapy, that I can be motivated to exercise on my own, and hopefully it will lift at least 10 or 20% of my depression. Anything would make a difference.

Advertisements

The Meaning of a Diagnosis

My whole cognitive life I’ve been struggling with the disabling question, “What is wrong with me?”

When I was young, I was told that I was a grumpy, stubborn child and that I never liked to be hugged. “You were never a happy child,” says my mother. (Yes, mom, you did say this.) But I’m glad she did, in a way, because it really triggered my thinking about what actually is wrong with me. Why should a 7-year-old be so frustrated with the way her clothes feel on her body? Why should a 7-year-old even be concerned with her body? But I was, and it caused me great anxiety which would later develop into a great depression and morph into a menagerie of borderline-bipolar-avoidant-yadda-yadda behaviors.

For a long time now, I have been searching for a tangible diagnosis. One that would sum up every one of my disabling problems. Having a diagnosis would mean getting to the crux of the matter. I could address that one, solitary issue; and in a perfect world, that would create a ripple-effect to the rest of my problems, slowly allowing me to be able to cope better and better with each arising situation.

But there is no one diagnosis. There are multiple. And they keep shifting. Daily. And it puts a severe damper on my creative writing.

For more than 20 years, I have been reflecting on my life, more specifically, my thoughts. I can comfortably say that I’ve been living in the past (in my head) for at least 15 years. I can’t remember if I lived in the present during grade school, but I certainly always looked towards the past after that. It’s a strange, not-so-romantic nostalgia that has heeded my living a life full of, well, life. And it makes me terribly sad. But I know tomorrow I will wake up, and I will continue to reflect on years long gone when I was a different person. This horrible cycle will continue day after week after month after year, until everything is a blur and the music that plays on my iPod creates such a strong atmospheric time-warp that just listening to something that I heard during the years when I wore 70’s dresses could actually convince me that I was alive during the 70’s.

The one awful thought, though, that frightens me most is: How much longer can I sustain living life in the past while constantly wondering how much longer can I take of the sheer melancholic world I’ve concocted for myself? This thought is the one consistent thought I’ve had. It is, ultimately, the beginning of the end. And has been. For 20 years.

And for the reasons above, I have always longed for that definitive answer. “You have ______________.” Even though despite the already numerous diagnosis I have had, I still cannot accept that I have a mental illness. I just want validation that this can’t be what life is about. Crying every damn day. Thinking up elaborate entrepreneurship ideas and failing miserably at them. Wanting just one good night’s sleep to solve all of my problems.

Stigmas against mental illness also frustrate the living hell out of me. As if it weren’t bad enough that I cannot accept my own shortcomings as a documented illness, society, too, doesn’t accept many flaws in personality as being a medical disorder. Even though there may be an actual name for my illness, if you can’t see the illness, it doesn’t exist. I’m better off calling out sick to work because of a common cold, than I would be because of a major depressive episode. And so I’ve lost jobs, walked away from jobs, and had missed opportunities because of this.

So, to me, there is such a heavy importance in having a diagnosis, because I could then start the process of accepting it and hopefully one day shout to the world, “I’m not an asshole! I have ____________________!!!!!”


The Psychometer of a Polarized Emotional State

Lie-Detector-820x420

I don’t know what lies more: depression or happiness?  The only times I can feel validated to the outside world are when I am zombie-depressed.  I sleep, I mope, I cry, and I think about suicide for comfort.  But what about the other end of the spectrum?  When I actually experience “good” days?

The other day, after a solid night’s sleep (aided by two Advil and a Benadryl), I woke up refreshed (as refreshed as I could possibly be) for the first time in years.  I climbed down the ladder of doom which I will inevitably fall off of one day, had my breakfast, my meds and vitamins, and sat down to check out the progress from the previous night’s homework escapades.  Then it hit me.  This strange feeling like something was inside my head trying to escape.  My eyes were holding steadfast against my lacrimal glands, which felt like they were nearly bursting at the seams.  I sat there, on my ottoman, ready to tackle the day, but also ready to spontaneously start uncontrollably crying.  What is that about?  I am only 32.  I am not hormonal.  I am not pregnant.  I am not menopausal.  There are no other explanations that made sense.

It wasn’t until today that I realized my depression/happiness-polarized life is in constant battle.  There is a majorly-depressed monster with dysthymia who is fighting with a happy, innocent 7-year old girl.  When I was seven years old, I laughed uncontrollably.  I had fits of laughter so intense my belly ached.  Now, when I reflect upon the enormity of my depression, how strongly it has taken over my life, and how it has become such a huge part of who I am, I wonder who the “real me” is.  Am I fooling those around me?  Is the Bloggess right?  Is it true that “depression lies”?  How is it that I feel more like a fraud when I am having those rare moments of happiness?

Case in point: David and I took the dogs to Buttonwood Park the other day.  The weather was gorgeous that day.  The sun was shining, the grass was freshly mowed, kids were playing on the playground, and I had just bought a delicious coffee/chai creation for my caffeine/sugar addiction.  We crossed the park to the arboretum and found a nice tree where David could sit on the ground with his guitar, with Max by his side, and I could lounge in the sun, trying to tan my unsightly appendages.  Then there was a brief moment where Pebbles playfully approached me.  So I did what any normal person would do, I wrestled with my tough 14-pound fawn-of-a-dog.  She growled, her tail wagging fervently.  I grabbed around her belly and she and I rammed our heads into one another.  It was pretty awesome.

It lasted about 30 seconds.

I realized it was time to head to my class so I got off the ground and righted myself.  I put my sandals on and looked around, taking in the scenery, the fresh air, and the awesome ball of burning gas that I can’t thank enough for bringing some color to these ghostly limbs.  But as I stood there, holding Pebbles’s leash, a huge wave of uncertainty and paranoia overtook my thoughts.  I was still there, in the moment, on the outside; but in the inside I was thinking, “I should be acting depressed.  I’m lying to everyone.  What if my therapist sees me?  What if any of my doctors see me?  They won’t believe me.  Am I happy?  I’m not happy.  I can’t go through this.  I have to go through this.  I should text my therapist.  Are my meds working?  Maybe I’m a fake.  Maybe it’s me that I’m fooling.”  Later that day, just like every other day, it’s always the same, “Well, there’s always suicide.”

I’m always trying to reach some validation through others and I find that at times I am actually trying to overwrite my current near-blissful state of being.  I am doing the exact opposite of what I should be practicing.  I am allowing the depression to convince me that I am depressed even when I am feeling okay.  Why is it such a difficult endeavor to allow myself to be happy and not feel guilty during that one solid moment in time so I can actually enjoy life?


Fluffy Butts and Cheese Sandwiches

500x1000px-LL-5d7752fa_butts

Hello world.  Goddamn I’m lost.  I have no idea how to start or how to finish anything.  I only know how to work on something.  Even then, I procrastinate.  So maybe I’ll just jump right in and hopefully as posts go by it’ll start to make some sense.

I’m currently unemployed.  What better time to sit around and finally get to publishing a weblog that I’ve always wanted to start.  Here I am, once swimming in ideas to write about, now an empty void.  The two things I think of most these days are food and knitting.  It could be worse I suppose.  I could be a meth addict.  Still, the days I keep are long spent on the couch, in my unwashed pajamas, stuffing my face with Cocoa Pebbles and cheese sandwiches, and knitting until the hand I slammed in the door jam to the chicken run hurts too much to lift a needle.  I am productive, you know (not Lather productive…); I try to do the dishes, the laundry, my homework, pay bills, feed and poop the dogs, and visit the girls.  All while suffering from a deep melancholy so debilitating that despite three hours of contemplation, nine time out of ten I decide to stay at home rather than leave to get a coffee every day.

I want to get something out in the open.  Something that I’ll keep referencing from here on forward, so it’s only befitting that I introduce it within my first blog entry.

I have a mental illness.

There.  I said it.  Just like, “I have cancer” or “I won the lottery” or “I have a cheese sandwich”.  I mainly suffer from Dysthymia, a chronic form of depression, which started when I was very young.  “Ever since I can remember” has always been my reply to any therapist.  The harder part is trying to formulate an answer when asked if there was any one event that may have triggered it.  Which leads me to thinking how boring my life was and worse – how I have no reason to be as miserable as I have always been.  Frequent monikers include ‘Moody Julie’, ‘Eeyore’, ‘Grumpy’, and my favorite, ‘Mopey Dick’.  It escalated to the point that I would be known to be miserable.  I followed my own fate.

During recent winter months, I have experienced many major depressive episodic flare-ups.   They just so happen to coincide with my unemployment and medication changes (more on that later).  It’s hard to say if things worsen because of the unemployment or if they would have gotten worse despite having a job.  Considering my track record, I would think there really isn’t one trigger to these flare-ups.  Although weather does play an important role.

It’s tough, not wanting to leave the house, and when I do, I find myself longing to be in front of the television, knitting, and drowning my thoughts with mindless TV shows and 1-star movies on Netflix.  I try to pinpoint the few times that I have slight relief and attempt to search for the one “thing” that sparked them so that I may replicate them, but I get nowhere.  This is because there isn’t just one “thing”.  There are a whole lotta little “things”.  The emotional instability, one of my many diagnoses, may cause these bouts of relief or it may be the intermittent doses of huge amounts of sugar.  Despite these moments of reprieve, however, I still find myself weighted down by that damn melancholy.


Because I have argued with David about whether or not to delete this post entirely and forget about writing a blog altogether, here is my fortune cookie advice for the week:

IMG_8060 


Of The Boston Creme Variety…

Just a filler post…nothing more to read here, move along.