Category Archives: anxiety

I may have over-promised

I have learned that a crucial element of my depression is my energy level.  The less energy that I have, the more down I get and the more anxiety that I have.  Sometimes I try to combat this with coffee or SodaStream Energy, but ingesting large amounts of caffeine is not so good with somebody with high blood pressure.

Which brought me to Sunday night.  With two little ones and Christmas coming up, our house looks like it has been hit with several tornadoes.  Having a lot of energy, but wanting to just have fun on the weekend, I told Lovely Wife that I would clean the entire house in the next few days.  My exact words, in fact, were “If I’m not done by Wednesday night, you can literally flog me with a wooden spoon.”  She seemed pretty accepting and excited about this.  Whether that was due to a clean house or the anticipation of a flogging, I do not know.

Unfortunately, Sunday night into Monday morning I just could not get to sleep.  It was like my body was playing a cruel trick on me.   I told Lovely Wife as much yesterday morning.  She didn’t seem all that concerned, as I still had two days to make good on my pledge.  I laid low yesterday, my mood wasn’t too shabby.  I went to bed early.

Then I woke up today.  Let me just say that housework is high on my list of Things I Do Not Like To Do.  I honestly don’t mind the cleaning part.  I can spray, scrub, vacuum, whatever.  Even toilets.  But clutter just turns my anxiety knob to 11.  I hate picking things up, because I don’t know what to do with them!  If I didn’t have this problem, there wouldn’t be toys and clothes and papers and all manner of other things strewn about.  And dishes!  Argh!  When I said that I don’t mind cleaning things, I meant I don’t mind cleaning things other than dishes! And this is even despite the fact we have a dishwasher!  ARGH!

Mello, mellow, mellow.

Wooden Spoon 1909, University of Cambridge

Image via Wikipedia

Even with an early bed time last night, I woke up this morning with not a lot of energy.  Mood: down.  Anxiety: up.  So here I am on the Tuesday downhill, and I am still just looking at things and fretting.  I was hoping that blogging my conundrum would help me get motivated.

Please pray for my posterior.  It may have an appointment with a wooden spoon tomorrow.
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An Early Christmas Gift

Surgery
Image by Army Medicine via Flickr

Let me set the scene for you:  Last December I had surgery to repair two hernias.  In June, I had surgery to repair a ruptured disc in my back (according to the surgeon, one of the worst he has ever seen).  This December came, another hernia repair.  Apparently things just come squirting out of all the wrong places all too often on me.  On top of these surgeries, I had visits my general practitioner, gastroenterologist, neurologist, nephrologist, orthopedic doctor, and psychiatrist.  Let’s also not forget the chiropractor, counselor, and group therapy.  Oh yeah–and drugs.  All of this on top of time off of work.  The long and short of it is that even with insurance, we were tapped out.  Bills were getting paid, but we didn’t know where the money was going to come from to pay the next ones.

A few weeks earlier I had applied to have the bill from my back surgery reduced.  It looked like either we would have to set up a payment plan with the hospital or with a collector, either one with a hefty interest rate to be sure.  Then, last week I got an envelope from the hospital.  I opened it, expecting a bill.  Instead there was a letter notifying me that the charity committee had met, and reduced the remaining portion of our bill 100%.  There was a detailed statement attached that confirmed this.  Total remaining owed: $0.

Here was proof in black and white that you don’t get anything if you don’t ask.  But more importantly, after such a stressful year, this was probably the best Christmas present that I could get.

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Filed under anxiety, bills, Christmas, depression, doctors, surgery

Medications and Stigmas

I attribute part of the comeback in my mood to a change in my medication.  First a disclaimer: I am only writing about my experiences, and everybody reacts differently to medications.  This is not meant to be advice, support for, non-support for any particular drug treatment program.  I am only following my Doctor’s recommendations.  See a mental health professional to discuss your personal situation.  OK, off soapbox.

When I originally went to my family doctor, he prescribed Wellbutrin.  I noticed a few of things from the Wellbutrin.  Besides helping with my depression, I felt a surge of creativity and strange, often entertaining dreams (both of which I have written about previously).  The problem was that it also seemed to be amping up my anxiety, which would eventually short circuit any gains I was feeling in getting rid of the depression.

When I first went to the psychiatrist to address my issues, he switched me to Celexa for depression and Klonepin for anxiety.  Again this seemed to work, but eventually the gains ceased.  Now I had become unmotivated and apathetic.  Depression back.

So when I went to my group sessions, the therapists and doctors were able to better assess my situation.  I have now added Wellbutrin back into the mix, and am taking all three.  The side effects (namely the anxiety and apathy) so far are cancelling each other out.  In addition, my creativity (and weird dreams) seems to be returning.

It’s hard to talk about medication and depression to people.  I don’t think most people think about depression as a big deal.  Everybody gets the blues, the conventional wisdom goes, and you just need to get over it.  What the don’t realize is that it becomes hard after two years of trying to “deal with it”.  It hasn’t been a bad day or bad month.   The pervasiveness, the physical reactions, and the filter that depression puts in your head (in effect making your emotions lie to you) just make it harder and harder.

I feel like people with depression get off easy with the stigma attached to it.  People only see us as weak.  Other people with mental illness have more serious accusations leveled at them.  People with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Bi-Polar Disorder, and Schizophrenia are labeled as crazy and potentially dangerous.  Autistic people are “weird”.  Those that suffer from Tourette’s are treated as an endless source of comedy.  Well let me say that people with mental illness aren’t weird, crazy, dangerous, or funny.  In fact, there are many people living with these disorders who do not come forward because of these stigmas.  People aren’t really different, they just need help.

A good place to start is The National Alliance on Mental Illness.   NAMI is a nationwide advocate for those with mental illness.  They have support groups in many cities and towns across the country, and offer information and support to both those suffering from mental illness, and for the people who support them.  For more information, visit their website: http://www.nami.org.

Next time: Mindfulness, Meditation, Prayer, and Faith

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Watching the Clock

True to my goal to get more in touch with my creative self while at the same time using as many eclectic projects as possible, yesterday I finished a clock.  It was actually very quite simple in design and execution.  I didn’t put any numbers on it, and bought a movement that was basically ready to go.  Here is a photo of the finished project:

The picture doesn’t quite do it justice, as the light parts actually have a more stained look than what the photo shows.  But you get the idea.  Basically I took the plaque and placed masking tape in the cross shape to help signify the 3,6,9, and 12 positions.  Then I put a couple of coats of stain over it.  When that was dry I took the tape off and applied another couple of coats before placing the movement and the hands.

As I was doing the project I was thinking about how I have always been fascinated with clocks and watches.  I think that it has something to do with being able to measurably observe something that is for the most part intangible.  The other reason is probably my preoccupation with time itself.  I probably spend more time than is necessary thinking about the past, either reminiscing about happy moments or dwelling in the memories that I wish I could change.  In perhaps a meta sense of time, I can remember the particular watch that I would wear daily from junior high school on.  The first had a baseball player that was waving his bat back and forth as if waiting for a pitch, while a baseball circled around as the second-hand.  In high school an all metal that was black with gold-colored accents.  Through the years I have worn watches that are fancy, and ones that are simple.  My current go to is a classic looking Timex.  Tells the time, day and date.  What more could you really ask for? 

Of course, having more than my share of anxiety, clocks and watches also are a gauge to the ever approaching future.  For whatever reason, I hate being late.  I will get to places extra early, just so I don’t have to worry about it.

I wear a watch at all times, really the only exception being when I am in the shower.  The funny thing is that I have an excellent internal clock.  From the moment that I wake up a few minutes before the alarm goes off, throughout the day I would probably be able to tell you what time it was within 15 minutes without looking anywhere.  Yet I can’t divorce myself from the habit of wearing a watch.  If I don’t have one on, I feel quite uncomfortable, even when I consider I can simply check my cell phone or computer for the time.  I think that I would be able to if I could quit worrying about what time it isn’t.

THURSDAY FUN: Music favorites

I Got a Name, Jim Croce

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Filed under anxiety, art, time

Our Lady of Lemonade

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  An oft heard proverb.  How many times do we listen to this type of advice and follow it?  How many times do we instead roll our eyes, shake our head, and go about our business sucking on those lemons?

One of the fun things about being a senior in high school is looking forward to the next chapter in your life.  “What are you going to do?” we would ask each other.  “Are you going to get a job?  Are you thinking about joining the Armed Forces?  What college do you want to go to?”  For me, the answer to the last question was always quick to roll off my tongue.  The University of Notre Dame. 

There were many things that attracted me to Notre Dame.  The academic prestige.  The history and tradition.  The Catholic identity.  Perhaps the mythos.  And yes, the football team.  How I love college football.  I have also been a wee bit curious how a school with such a francophonic name ended up having the “Fighting Irish” as its mascot.

I dutifully filled out the applications, essays, had recommendations written.  There were a handful of Bs on blemishing my report card, yet I was confident.  I had a good SAT score, lots of extracurricular activities, community service, and recognition by the National Honor Society to bolster my cause.  So, I sent my application in, and waited.  And waited.  And waited.

Letters came in from the other institutions to which I had applied.  Acceptance letters from Washington University (a good sign–Wash U is also an academically prestigious institution), Marquette University, The University of Nebraska, The University of Iowa, Iowa State University.  One denial letter so far, from Northwestern.  The letter from Notre Dame took the longest.  Although I read the news with a heavy heart, I refocused my sights elsewhere.

I ended up choosing Iowa State.  A very well-respected Land Grant Act institution.  The campus was beautiful.  I was far enough away from home to feel on my own, yet close enough if I needed to make a weekend visit.  The football team was . . . well, they had a football team.  I even thought to myself, maybe I could be like Rudy, study hard for a couple of years, and finish out my degree at Notre Dame.

In the process I fell in love with Iowa State.  I lived in a Fraternity and enjoyed the brotherhood and camaraderie.  I lived down the street from the Catholic Church, which somehow seemed tolerant with other viewpoints while still toeing the official line.  I never missed a game from our sometimes hapless football team, and yet I was always proud of our gridiron warriors.  Four years later, I proudly accepted my degree.  I would go on to get a Master’s Degree from another school, but will always consider myself an Iowa State alumnus.

Way back when, in a slim business sized envelope, Notre Dame sent me a bunch of lemons.  I packed up the lemons and took them to Iowa State where I made some delicious lemonade. 

Somewhere along the way, however, I have misplaced my lemonade recipe.  Maybe depression hid it from me.  Maybe anxiety whispered into my ear that I won’t be able to find it.  No matter.  I am looking for it again.  I will find it, and when I do, you are all invited to have a drink.

WEDNESDAY FUN: Cooking Experiment Successes

I love to cook, and I love to come up with my own creations.  For a while I had been bugging my wife to let me try to make fish tacos.  We love fish, we love tacos.  How could it go wrong?  Still, she was nervous.  Finally I just did it one day.  I grilled up some white fish filets (I think I used tilapia) which I then separated with a fork.  I mixed some taco seasoning in with sour cream and a little lime juice.  To top it off, I had a mango salsa, cheese, and a little cabbage and onions for crunch.  I’m sorry that I can’t provide a recipe, as I never write anything down, but try it some time.  Delicious.

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My frenemies, beer and coffee

One of the tough parts about coming to terms with my depression and anxiety is slowly weaning myself from two of my great loves: beer and coffee.  Now, I don’t drink either with any of the regularity that I once (read: college) did.  But I also gained much more of an appreciation for the finer points of each.

Like the typical American college student, the kind of beer that I would choose for a weekend looked something like this: cheap, cold, and wet.  As it turns out, once I started appreciating the craft of brewing more, and looked more for quality rather than quantity, my tastes started to sway from typical American pilsners.  I particularly enjoy beers with a high hop content, such as IPAs.  This led to further experimentation with different styles.  In particular, I have fallen in love with nearly every offering from the Boulevard Brewing Company

Coffee and I have had a much simpler love affair.  I never really got into the Latte-Cappucino-Mocha-whatever thing.  This is how I like my coffee:  black.  Run some hot water over some ground up beans and pour it in a cup, thanks.  That said, there are two different things I have come to realize: 1.  There really is a big difference in taste–even inexpensive stuff–from one brand to another (e.g. love the coffee from a certain donut joint, but can’t stand the joe from a particular fast food titan.  2. I really love freshly ground beans.  My mom bought me a coffee grinder for Christmas a couple of years back–such a simple gift and yet so wonderful.

At first blush, it almost seems like these two characters would help me.  Alcohol can seemingly help with anxiety. Just ask any guy who wasn’t able to approach the pretty girl at the bar until after he built up a little “liquid courage”.  The caffeine in coffee conversely can take the edge of depression when you are feeling more active and alert.  It really is a Faustian bargain, though, isn’t it?  For while each does its part to help with one side of the depression/anxiety coin, it does so at the expense of sabotaging the other.  To wit: Alcohol is a natural depressant, and caffeine can make one jittery and, well, anxious.  Not to mention that it isn’t advised to add these guys on top of the meds that I am taking.  And please don’t mention non-alcoholic brews and decaf coffee.  Ew.  Just can’t. 

So for now I am slowly bidding a fond adieu to a couple of long time friends.  I’ll drop by every once in a while, on special occasions.   Hopefully someday my mood will be significantly better and our roads will once again cross on a regular basis.

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SUNDAY FUN: The Fruit and Veggie Challenge

In an effort to be more health conscious, our family has decided to eat more fruits and vegetables.  However, the thing we found is that we were limiting the kinds of produce that we were eating.  For example, fruit consisted mostly of apples, bananas, and grapes.  Over and over.  So Lovely Wife and I decided that we are going to try something “new” (or at least something that doesn’t show up much in our household) each time we do our grocery shopping.  The first experiments: pomelos and ugly fruits.  I definitely loved the pomelo.  After peeling off the rather thick rind, the wedges were fairly easy to separate, and it tasted delicious.  Kind of like a slightly sweeter grapefruit.  In fact it made me envision that this is what eating a Squirt would taste like.  The ugly fruit, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as satisfying.  It has a similar–if not a little sweeter–taste than a pomelo, and is also very juicy.  But the pulp was just so fibrous that it just wasn’t that enjoyable.  I ended up just sucking the juice out of each wedge.  Stay tuned for further fruit and veggie adventures.

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

When dealing with depression and anxiety, there are definitely good days and bad days.  Right now the bad days seem to outnumber the good days.  What is really frustrating, however, is when the bad and good manifest themselves in the same day.

A couple of weeks ago Lovely Wife found a deal on a local Groupon-type website for a night’s stay at a local hotel which has one of those indoor water parks.  She also told my sister (who has three kids of her own) about it.  They decided to use the coupons on Wednesday, as the older kids didn’t have school Thursday or today, and Little Guy and Baby Girl didn’t have daycare.  I was all in for this little staycation.

Close to the time that lovely wife was going to meet me to head out, my sister called me.  She had left her coupon at her house and was already at the hotel attempting to check in.  No problem–I agreed to run to her house to pick it up and take it out to her.  I called Lovely Wife to let her know about the small alteration of our plans and that I would just meet her and the kiddos.  What followed was a frantic back and forth phone call session between me, Lovely Wife, and my sister.  I could feel the tension building up until it reached critical mass.  After about the fifth phone call I took on the way to my sister’s house (we live about a mile apart) I snapped and started yelling over the phone at Lovely Wife.  In the past she would have probably become defensive and it would have escalated from there, but recognizing what was happening, she stayed calm and talked to me until I calmed down as well.  It wasn’t a major anxiety attack, but my mind was racing until it just shut down and stopped taking information.

When we finally starting swimming, though, I was feeling better.  After awhile, Lovely Wife and Little Guy (almost 3) went off to play on the slides, leaving me in the super shallow end with Baby Girl (1 1/2).  What followed was the most serene feeling that I have had in weeks.  Watching Baby Girl splashing, jumping, smiling, and giggling put a huge smile on my face.  It of course didn’t hurt that she would stop every couple of minutes to give me a big hug.  In the placid, chlorine soaked indoor pool, I was riding a wave of euphoria.

The good feeling didn’t last.  Perhaps it was the adrenaline from the anxiety episode, or maybe the good feelings, or maybe just the discomfort of sleeping in a hotel bed, but I didn’t sleep that night.  As in, at all.  Does anybody else experience this wide range of feelings in a single day?

JUST FOR FUN – The World According to Little Guy

We are always so proud of little guy.  For his age he speaks quite well.  He is always curious and asking questions.  Of course this can often lead to quite a few humorous moments.  The following exchange took place a couple of weeks ago:

Little Guy (holding up empty pop–soda for those outside the Midwest–can):  Is this beer?

Lovely Wife: No, it’s pop.

LG: Can you show me beer?

LW: No, eat your cheese.

LG: So I can have beer?

LW: No, you can’t have beer!

LG: Oh.  Can I have bubbles?

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Growing old before your time…

INTRODUCTION AND MENTAL FITNESS

I never realized that depression would feel quite like this until I was deep enough into it that I realized that is where I am.  I had admitted to myself on particularly bad days that I was depressed, but I didn’t think I was “clinically depressed”, whatever that was.  I’ve never felt the deep pits of despair, never even considered ending it all.

But all of a sudden I realized that I just wasn’t interested in anything. Going out, being with friends, reading, writing, playing music, listening to music, exercising, cooking, photography–all those things that used to help define who I am just didn’t seem all that much interesting.

Luckily I’ve had my family with me–Lovely Wife, Little Guy, Baby Girl–who do still matter.  In particular, Lovely Wife has been so supportive in helping me realize what was wrong and facilitating getting help for me.  Long after many spouses may have thrown up their hands in exasperation, she is taking those vows seriously.

Along with that jerk Depression, his good buddy Anxiety is always there with him working in tandem.  It seems like whenever I have a handle on one of them, the other decides to crank himself up to sabotage my mood. 

As of today, I am starting this blog as a journal on my journey back to health.  I hope to pick up some readers along the way–those of you that can help or encourage, or perhaps be helped and encouraged by me.

PHYSICAL FITNESS

A few years ago, when Lovely Wife and I were a newly minted married couple, I had discovered the joy of working out–specifically running.  I used to think that “Runner’s High” had to have been an oxymoron.  But that summer, as the days went by, the miles piled up, and the scale went down, I learned to really take enjoyment from the activity.  Then I suffered a bout with back spasms, and have been off the exercise rails pretty much since.   Messieurs Depression and Anxiety haven’t helped the cause.

So part of my journey will also include physical fitness.  There are many boogey men that getting in shape will help me keep locked away in the closet.  The word “Moobs” comes to mind.  So does the phrase “Type II Diabetes”.  In order to be accountable in this area, there has to be a quantifiable measurement, so *gulp* here goes: 273 lbs.

As part of my total fitness goal, I have signed up for Bike MS: Pedal the Plains.  Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that affects more than 400,000 Americans.  Not only will the ride help me towards my fitness goals, but the money raised will be going to a great cause.  I encourage everybody to click on the link in the sidebar to visit my page and make a donation.  If you are in my area, I also welcome you to join my team.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

I have decided to always end with something a little less serious.  The subject will change, but expect some common recurring subjects.

One of the things I love is music.  On a great tip I have recently been listening to Ray LaMontagne.  This particular song reminds me of where I am right now. 

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Filed under anxiety, depression, fitness