Tag Archives: counseling

Good-Bye 2011

2011 is almost over, so time for me to assess the good and the bad of the year.

Bad:

1: continued depression

2: back and hernia surgery

3: worrying about things that I cannot control

Good:

1: surgeries have and mental treatment have helped my well being

2: Growth of my family relationships: working through “for worse” and “in sickness” with my wife; watching my children grow; new honesty and openness with my parents and sister; meeting my brother and continued growth and reconnection with my biological family

3: blogging as a tool to help organize my thoughts and feelings.

Thank you all for reading and commenting.  Tomorrow: looking forward to 2012

 

 

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Filed under adoption, blogging, depression, family, life, personal, siblings, surgery, writing

A Slight Diversion.

I had to share this quick thought.  Tonight before the kiddos went to bed, we all laid on our bed: Lovely Wife, Baby Girl, Little Guy, and me all cuddled up together, with Wonder Pup at our feet, reading stories.  Have you ever had one of those moments that you wish would never end?  Those few minutes were the happiest I have been in quite awhile.  I now have a new “Happy Place” when I am stressing.  What is your extra-special-go-to moment?

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Where I have been.

Yesterday I alluded to the fact that my quest for mental health is looking up, just as my quest for getting a great photograph has.  It hasn’t been easy.

Over the past two years I have been battling some health issues along with my depression.  This all came to a head over the summer.  Out of disability time at work and out of room for appeals, I was let go.  Luckily my wife has a good job and good insurance, because in June my back, which I had problems with on and off for years, threw an all out hissy fit.  I couldn’t stand, sit, or lie down without pain.  When I saw the doctor and had an MRI done, it turns out that I had a ruptured disc.  It was so bad, in fact, that he didn’t even give me a choice.  Surgery was necessary, and as soon as possible.  Afterwards, he told me that the rupture was so big (about the size of a thumb) that they named it.

Recovering from two surgeries in six months (I had two hernias fixed in December) and depression really took its toll on me.  I was lethargic, irritable, but most of all apathetic.  I just didn’t want to do much of anything.  I would drop the kids off at daycare (I was in no shape to care for them on my own), come home, and go back to sleep.  It was a pretty miserable existence.  On top of everything, I was only hurting my relationship with my wife, and possibly my kids, but I didn’t feel that I had any power to change.

Life didn’t follow my lead, but instead continued to change with me along for the ride.  Not all changes were bad.  I told my parents and my sister about my contact with my birth mother and my siblings.  It was a huge burden off of my back, and I think generally well received.  However now I think they are having a little trouble working through their feelings about it.  At least now I am in a place where I am more comfortable to talk about it and work through their fears.

Life wasn’t completely bleak either.  I attended my brother Adam’s wedding and had a great time.  Watching my kids growing and learning made me feel good.  Most of all, knowing that my wife was sticking by me in the most difficult part of our marriage got me through a lot of bad feelings.

Although I hadn’t hit rock bottom, I could see it from where I was standing.  My wife and I went to see my counselor.  He could tell that my mood had gone completely off the rails.  Rather than trying to work through it himself at that time, he referred me to the local behavioral health hospital.

My wife and I went there immediately.  I did a short assessment.  Rather than admitting me as an inpatient (I was neither suicidal nor homicidal) I was admitted to the “partial hospital program”–in effect I would be considered an inpatient, attending group sessions most of the day, but I was able to go home and spend the evenings with my family.  Since that time I have transitioned to the intensive outpatient program.  Basically the same, but I am limited to a certain number of hours per week that I am able to attend.

Perhaps one of the most valuable things that I got right away the first week of treatment was a diagnosis: Major Depressive Disorder.  Although it sounds worse than just “depression”, it has actually helped me.  It is not part of me anymore than a bad back was.  It is just an obstacle that I have to overcome.  Giving it a name rather than a nebulous concept gave me something to combat.

It’s a work in progress, but it is already bearing fruit.  I feel better.  My wife is happier.  I am happier.  There will be bumps in the road.  I know that I will be able to overcome them.

Next time–medications and stigmas.

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Cultivating a Garden

The summer after lovely wife and I moved into our house, I decided that it would be fun to plant a vegetable garden.  We already had a pretty nice spot where the previous owners had their garden.  We borrowed a tiller from the neighbor.  We went to the store and bought an ambitious assortment of vegetables for our first go: tomatoes, onions, garlic, bell peppers, cayenne peppers, cucumbers, cantaloupe, and probably others that I am forgetting.  Since our dog was still very young, active, and curious, we got little pickets to put around the perimeter.  He could still take a running jump and get in, but it would have to be something that he wanted to do.

What a debacle that first garden was.  The garlic and the bell peppers never grew.  Our one cayenne plant gave us a total of two peppers.  The rabbits were somehow still able to get at the tomatoes and the cantaloupe.  We were too impatient for the onions.  The most frustrating thing, however, was the enormous number of weeds that infiltrated the plot.  I could spend most of a Saturday afternoon picking weeds, and it would seem like I would wake up Sunday morning and they had all replenished themselves.  It felt as if I would have to retire and make weeding my full-time profession if I wanted to make this garden a go.

Looking back, it wasn’t all bad news.  The cucumbers grew like crazy, although we did have to remember to pick them before that got too big and bitter.  Since the rabbits decimated most of the cantaloupe crop, I did rescue one that was about fist sized at the time.  It was honestly the sweetest, most delicious cantaloupe I have ever had.  After that summer, we gave up on the garden.  We did have one summer where it mysteriously became a little field of daisies, but that was OK by me.  Since then the grass has taken over, and a small indentation in our yard is the only evidence that something was once there.

My counselor said something interesting to me a few weeks ago: “Having depression is like trying to make Jell-O without a mold.”  An interesting concept.  Without support, without guidance, the Jell-O would just go everywhere as it cooled in your fridge.  Earlier I had made a goal that this summer I was going to have another garden.  This time it would be a little different, however.  I was going to try a potted garden.  It would also be on a much smaller scale, probably tomatoes, onions, and peppers. 

As I thought about it, the pots and the vegetables were good stand-ins for the Jell-O metaphor.  Keeping them off the ground would be a good way to keep them from the rabbits.  I still expect that some weeds will somehow make their way in, however there won’t be nearly as many and they will be easier to control.  I need to build some kind of defenses, some kind of pot, to keep the negative influences in my life on the outside, and to be able to better manage the ones that are able to sneak into the party.

Depression.  Tomatoes.  Onions.  Peppers.  When I get it all figured out, you are all invited to try some of my salsa.

FRIDAY FUN: WDOTW (Weird Dream of the Week)

A little back story on this one: we had a toilet in our house that needed to be replaced.  It leaked from the tank to the bowl, which is a little frustrating to think of how much water we wasted.  On top of that, somehow the bowl also leaked, even after I went through the trouble of replacing the wax ring.  Skip forward to this week, when I installed our new throne.  I got it all in, turned the valve back on and…  nothing happened.  I thought maybe the valve broke in the off position sometime in the process, but I saved it for the next day.

Enter my dream.  I am working on the john.  In my dream, there are several lines going into the tank, and I am getting confused and frustrated.  Who shows up in crazy dream world to help out?  Why, Charlie Sheen, of course.   Mr. Sheen starts tinkering with everything and sends me down to the basement to check out the situation (because in dreamland putting in a loo takes multiple floors, apparently).  I get to the basement and see an incredible mess of disconnected water lines and wires (bet you didn’t know about electric toilets).  I start furiously trying to hook everything back up, when that joker Mr. Sheen turns the valve back on which of course sprays me from every conceivable angle.  Another time when I woke up thinking OK, now what the hell did that mean?

As I side note, when I took another look at it, the reason it wasn’t filling wasn’t the valve, but that the float was stuck in the up position.  An easy, Sheen-less fix.

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Confession of a Book Lover

I felt a little dirty after doing something the other day.  How could I stoop to this level?  What on earth am I talking about?  Let me explain.

Lovely Wife joined me for a counseling session on Monday.  By all accounts it went well.  LW and I came away feeling like we understood and communicated with each other a little better.  She also now understands why I like “my” guy so much.  He isn’t a miracle worker (if he was, he could just wave a magic wand and rid me of depression), but has certainly been a trusted ear and a thought-provoking advocate for me.  Near the end, she asked him if there were any books that he could recommend for me.  He suggested two titles.  LW had to split to go get the kiddos, but I stayed and chatted a little while longer.  The first suggestion he gave me he assured that I could find at Barnes & Noble.  The second one was trickier.  He advised me to go to a little local place, where the proprietor likes to keep this particular author in stock. 

I went to Barnes & Noble to pick up the first title.  I don’t know about any other of B&N’s stores, but at our location, it seems as if the main aisle as you walk in has been taken over by a giant kiosk selling the nook.  As I tried to scurry past, the nice lady behind the counter made some sort of inquiry of whether I would be interested in hearing about the nook.  “No thanks,” I muttered, without breaking stride.

My love of reading and writing goes beyond words.  I love books.  Newspapers.  Magazines.  I’m not a luddite.  I am a blogger after all.  There is just something romantic about a book.  Something about the tangible document brings the words to life better than words on a screen. Words that can be erased with a click, disappearing into the ether.  Having a book is like a declaration of the knowledge or entertainment that you have transcribed into your brain.  I look forward to the day when my kiddos will ask me for a good book to read and I can hand them the copy of To Kill a Mockingbird that I read for my High School American Lit class.  How much more satisfying will that be than saying, “Here.  Download this file.”

I have already surrendered to progress when it comes to music.  I remember being a little kid, putting the Beach Boys’ Endless Summer  on the turn table, lowering the needle, and being engulfed in the music as I stared at the large, amazing artwork.  Soon, though, I graduated to cassettes that I could listen to in my Walkman.  Then came CDs.  “Side B” means absolutely nothing to today’s generation.  And while I still own and buy CDs, I will admit that I have purchased individual songs on iTunes.  In my mind I imagine a revision to the drawing on Endless Summer–in this one, the Beach Boys all have tears in their eyes.

I bought my book and was on my way to the next book store to purchase the other recommendation.  The woman helped me look for it, reiterating to me how much she liked the author.  No dice, though.  She didn’t have a copy.  In fact it may be out of print, she informed me.  She suggested I check at a second-hand store, and if they didn’t have it to give her a call and she would look into ordering it for me.

I went home and looked for it on Amazon.  They had several copies at decent prices.  I could order one.  I could call the nice lady back and have her order it for me.  But that would probably take at least a week in each case.  Then I saw that I could purchase a Kindle version.  I don’t have a kindle.  No worries.  I could download Kindle for PC.  So I did.  I stopped to consider that I could still order the book for cheaper.   But I wanted it now.  I bowed to my own pressure.

So now I own a book that exists as nothing more that a grouping of 1s and 0s.  Time marches on.  I resolve not to march with it.  I mean it this time.  For now.

THURSDAY FUN: Book Recommendation

Since we are talking about books today, how about a recommendation?  A couple of years ago there was a book fair at work, and I came across On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  Sitting there on the stand, it almost seemed as if was placed there for me.  A book about history, literature, music, and sports.  Not to mention that I have always admired Kareem as person and an intellectual in addition to his athletic exploits. 

What I found was even more than I expected.  Kareem traces the history of the Harlem Renaissance through his love for literature, jazz, and basketball, and how these connected to a larger movement.  It opened my eyes to the writers of the era.  For example, I had heard of Langston Hughes, but I didn’t know much about him.  I love jazz, but didn’t connect its history through ragtime, minstrel shows, and the blues.  I had never heard of the all-black Harlem Rens, nor their friendly rivalry with the all-white Original Celtics.  I found the book entertaining, but more importantly I found it informative.  I am still not an expert on African-American culture, but it opened my eyes–and my mind.  I highly recommend you pick it up.  In book form.

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The Elusive Quest

For the past couple of years, I have tried and tried to succeed in an elusive quest.  There are two cardinals that hang around in our backyard, and I would like nothing better than to get a photograph of at least one of them.  Now, I will admit to not knowing much about the cardinals.  I don’t know if they actually live in our yard, or somewhere near.  I don’t know if they go someplace during the coldest months–it seems like that spend at least part of the winter here, but also seem to disappear for a couple of months.  I don’t even know if these are the same two cardinals every year.  But I do know one thing: they are quite beautiful.

But every time I try to get that photo, they flitter away.    Perhaps if I didn’t have to get so close. 

I got a happy visit from the FedEx man a couple of days ago.  He was here with my new camera.  Yesterday I also saw  one of my red-hued friends hopping around the bushes.  I ran back into the house to grab the camera, feeling optimistic that the better resolution and more powerful zoom would allow me to capture the image of my friend.   I saw him for a split second in the frame, and then he was gone.  I switched to the viewfinder so I could scan around a little easier.  Nothing.  I tried looking with my naked eye.  Nada.  Argh!

The other day Lovely wife looked up cardinals on the internet, and found that they are fond of sunflower seeds, and also that they like to bathe themselves.  The previous owners of our home did have a bird bath in the back yard, but I removed it when it started to crumble to pieces.  No doubt I will be setting one out this spring, along with a feeder full of tasty sunflower seeds.  In addition, I am going to buy a tripod for my camera.  I am confident that with these tools and a little patience I will succeed in my quest.

While ruminating on this today, I realized that the Epic Cardinal Photo Quest is allegorical to my fight with depression.  Every time I seem to have a more permanent happiness within my sight, it flits away, just beyond my reach.  I have become frustrated, and yet I am hopeful and patient.  Recently I have added tools new and old to help me kick the depression.  Medication.  Counseling.  Exercise.  A creative outlet.  I am confident that with these tools and a little patience I will succeed in my quest.

I will get a great picture of a cardinal.

I will be happy again.

LATE FRIDAY/EARLY SATURDAY FUN: Fruit & Veggie Challenge

Today Lovely Wife and I were picking up a couple of things for supper at the grocery store before we picked up the kiddos.  Lovely Wife noticed that Mangoes were on sale and asked if we should get one.  Now, Lovely Wife and I are quite familiar with and fond of Mangoes, but to my knowledge Little Guy and Baby Girl had never tried any.

I have to report that the Mango was a rousing success.  In particular our usually picky Little Guy gobbled up his pieces and asked for more.  He kept asking what it was.  “A Mango,” I would say.

“Mingoes!” he would reply.  We’ll work on that.

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