I’m proud to say that I’ve stuck with this blog for 9 months. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster but I’m still hanging on, and so is Fox.
I’ve written 140 posts; you are welcome to read my First and Second 3-Month Reviews. This post will pick up where the second 3-month review left off – in late June.
Fox has written 3 posts (in chronological order):
- Masculinity, Tools of Violence, and Embracing Femininity (01/15/13)
- From a Supporter’s Point of View (05/22/13)
- When Supporting Starts to Hurt (06/29/13)
Most of my posts for the past 3 months have been focused on my efforts to take care of myself – or at least develop a plan for doing so.
Continuous knotwork panel designed by Ziya.
At first I needed to allow myself some room to breathe. I took a step back and allowed Fox to decide what to keep and what to dispose of when he moved in with me; this made the entire process much easier on both of us. I also gave myself permission to leave projects unfinished and to make my own decisions without feeling like they are unhealthy or morally wrong. This empowered me to take control of my own treatment and recovery.
The first thing I did with my new-found agency was decide to stop seeing my psychiatrist and taking my medications, both of which weren’t helping and were probably making my symptoms worse. (Prescription by Dr. Ziya and my reply to its first comment.) I also learned about how inactive ingredients in generic “equivalents” of brand-name medications can limit the effectiveness of the active ingredient and/or have other adverse effects. I became determined to find a psychiatrist who would take inactive ingredients into account and, most importantly, whose sole concern would be helping me to find the best medication(s) for me.
Unfortunately, trying to find help turned out to be more trouble than it was worth. All it really did was make my symptoms worse. I barely had the energy and motivation to take steps to try and make an appointment with a psychiatrist, which required me to overcome my distaste for talking to strangers on the phone. When I finally mustered up the energy to do it, 2 psychiatrists never got back to me and the 3rd played phone tag with me until I got so pissed off at him I doubted our ability to develop a functional therapeutic relationship. I wished someone else could make the appointment for me, but I’m pretty sure health care providers require competent adult patients to make their own appointments. I don’t think anyone involved was ready to have me declared incompetent, even if it would have gotten me the help I needed.
(Stop having Cancer so you can Find a Doctor; Holistic Treatments; Crossroads)
While I was trying to find a psychiatrist, I was also trying to find a way to continue having the health insurance I needed to afford said psychiatrist and the psychotropic medications ze would prescribe. I thought I could continue receiving coverage from my school, but then I learned they no longer offered insurance for part-time students. I was able to find two alternatives. I could switch to the first right away but it cost $400 per month and as far as I could tell did not include prescriptions. The other was $320 per month and included prescriptions but I was confused as to whether and when I’d be able to pick it up. Then I learned that in October I’ll be able to search for affordable health insurance on Healthcare.gov. I made the difficult decision to wait until October to explore my health insurance options, leaving myself without coverage until January. At that time I also decided against continuing my search for a good psychiatrist. (Healthcare Headache; The Healthcare Headache Continues…)
Freed from the American
headache “healthcare” system, I created my own plan for how to take care of myself: Planning A Head. To be honest, the only part of it I’ve been consistent with is taking 400mg of SAM-e, an Omega 3 supplement, a vitamin B complex, and vitamin D every day. The plan also includes listening to a playlist of songs that help me feel energized and ready to face the day – as well as a variety of activities that involve self-care, enrichment, and/or just having fun. Some of the activities are very easy to do every day, such as spending quality time with Fox and our pets. Others require a bit more organization and forethought; I just don’t have enough structure in my life right now to engage in them regularly.
My scores on the Burns Depression Inventory for the past 4 weeks. Daily scores are marked in blue, while weekly averages are marked in red. Although the severity of my depression symptoms can change drastically from day to day, there has been a steady decline in weekly averages from July 29, 2013 to August 24, 2013.
I decided to use the Burns Depression Checklist to keep track of the severity of my depression symptoms from day to day and week to week. I took a look at overall daily scores and weekly averages in Measuring Recovery: Part 1, and analyzed my daily scores on the subcategories of the checklist in Part 2.
I’ve been less consistent in using the checklist in September, but from what I can tell the oscillations in daily scores have continued. The weekly average score actually went up in the first week; it’s hard to say anything useful about the second week because I only tracked on Friday and Saturday, which both had scores in the teens. I’ve been visiting with Banji and her parents, which has been a pleasant break from the norm.
I also joined SparkPeople in hopes that it will help motivate me to take better care of myself, including exercise and better nutrition. To be honest I lost interest in that pretty quickly; I’ll log in every so often and occasionally track, but I’m nowhere near as active with it as I’d intended. But it’s sitting there, waiting for me to sign in, ready to reward me with points for any efforts I do make toward living a healthier lifestyle.
The Dark Side
There has been a darker thread running through my posts in the last 3 months; I wouldn’t be upholding the purpose of this blog if I didn’t at least try to write about it in this review.
In More Celtic Design Knotwork I wrote about how I often lack the passion and energy to express my emotions, and use coping mechanisms to suppress them so I’ll come across as calm (often for the benefit of others). “I just want a day off” more often than I care to admit; you can almost say there are times when I don’t want to be bothered with my whole life! Then I retreat into video games, which give me a space where I feel in control and can vicariously experience the benefits of getting out of the house and doing things in a fantasy world with no real consequences. Most importantly, in those games I can accomplish my goals with minimal interference by other people; if the characters in the game get annoying enough I can kill them; if that causes the game to become very difficult to play I can go back to a recent save. (Invasion)
I simply cannot do that in real life and it’s very annoying. I have to compromise with somebody in order to accomplish anything. It’s driving me nuts! My mother especially has been making things very difficult by trying to control me. She undermines my confidence by criticizing my appearance (Mother-of-the-Bride Zilla) and causing me to question my decision to marry Fox, never mind all the decisions we’ve made regarding the wedding. When I wrote No Space for Me I felt like Mom, Fox, his mother, and his sister were all against me, completely disregarding my boundaries and right to have and state my own opinion. That was the first time I recognized the Warden (though I didn’t write about that persona in the post) – the
voice in my head thought process that says I’m not allowed to do anything of my own will, to dissent, to assert my needs and rights. It’s positively devastating; it leads me to suicidal thoughts.
I mentioned that “the images of knives cutting into me are coming back again” on August 12th, when I wrote about my undergraduate mentor’s Death. That imagery has not been coming up with much frequency, but there have been a couple times (other than those I wrote about) when I’ve scratched myself as a kind of punishment / refocusing. Thanks to Fox, I was able to channel the immense energy of suicidal ideation into making music on August 14th (Spring Cleaning). I’m pretty sure my crisis on August 19th (No Space for Me, link above) was the most recent, but it’s still rather terrifying.
Contrasting Views on Norman Rockwell’s America
Similarly terrifying is the difficulty I’m having thinking of myself as an employable person, someone capable of holding down any (preferably meaningful) job. It started in Career Person? when I realized that striving for a meaningful career outside the home was no longer a crucial part of my identity. Then I allowed anxiety to completely undermine my chances of being offered the job I’d applied for, using every doubt and insecurity hidden in my mind. It finally won by preying on my insecurities around weight and fashion, particularly in the context of being female in this society. I don’t have any confidence in my ability to make myself look attractive – and therefore employable – to the mainstream; I’d much rather wear sweat pants and avoid it. (Oh No! Interview?!)
If I can’t pull off a career … that thought is too devastating. I could be a stay-at-home parent but that feels just as if not even more empty than having a career but no kids. I need to feel like I’m having a meaningful impact on society; having some kind of income would be wonderful. (It will also be necessary if Fox and I ever want to move out of my mother’s house.) I’m trying to be hopeful but mostly I’m afraid. And sad. It’s not even that I can’t see any open doors, I don’t see any doors at all. Only windows.
And I don’t know how to talk about it. I spent a whole week not knowing how to talk about it, before I wrote Update. As much as I wish I could take care of myself the truth is I can’t; I need help, and I need that help to include some kind of vocational guidance, training, and employment.
This weekend has given me some hope (even though I chose to end it by staying up too late writing about my most painful thoughts and experiences for the past 3 months). It started with Banji’s parents showing me respect on our way to visit with her (Creating a Space for Me). I’ve spent the weekend making a conscious effort to assert myself more, with satisfying results. It hasn’t exactly been my ideal weekend – I’ve been cold, awake when they’re sleeping and sleeping when they’re awake, and going online while Banji finishes unpacking. Dad kicked my ass at the same board game twice. But it has been a good weekend, what one could call a corrective family experience. As much as I might be tempted to isolate myself, I’m part of this group. My views are respected, my needs taken into consideration, my self valued. All I have to do is speak up – and more importantly, I know it’s safe to do so!
I know I can assert myself around other loved ones, too. I’ve seen positive results from doing so in the past. I needed this opportunity to practice in a different setting, a group with a (generally) much calmer and slower dynamic. I needed to see and feel their respect for me; sometimes I have a lot of trouble doing that in other groups. Maybe now that I’ve had this experience, I’ll be able to request the help I really need – and deserve.