Tag Archives: depression

Goals for 2012

 

I shouldn’t say that everyone makes a New Year’s resolution.  In fact, I think that the majority of people that make resolutions either want to a) lose weight or b) stop smoking.  Well, as it is, I have already quit smoking several years ago, so I guess I fall into the former category.  But instead of making specific resolutions, I am going to make lifestyle changes with specific achievements that aren’t necessarily goals, but if I achieve them it will be a signpost, if you will, that I am achieving the things that I want to do.

1) Goal: Get back in shape.  Lose weight, trim down, lower blood pressure.  These are all reasons that I would like to get into shape.  The last couple of years I have had halfway legitimate excuses for not exercising (recovering from three separate surgeries, after all.)  I still should have eaten better than I did.  So eating less, less junk fast food, regular exercise will be on the list. 

Signpost: Ride in the BikeMS Pedal the Plains.  I was excited to participate last year, but back pain sidelined me from training, and back surgery ultimately kept me on the sidelines.  If I do finish, I am contemplating getting a zipper tattoo on my scar to remind me of both last years disappointment and this years achievement.

2) Goal: Be mentally healthier.  The day to day moments of the last couple of years have really kept me down, despite those momentous moments that would otherwise have put me in great spirits.  Lifestyle changes will help, along with staying up to date on my medications and exercise. 

Signpost: Getting a job that I really enjoy.  Going for more money might not even be particularly important at this point.  I need to do something that doesnt add exponentially to my stress.

3) Goal: Read.  As I have stated before, the last half of last year, I started reading again.  My goal for my 35th year was to read 50 books.  The count now stands at 23, with most of those being back loaded at the end of the year.  I amended that to say that I was going to read 10 classics.  I still may be able to hit both goals.

Signpost: War and Peace.  It is in hand, and it will be conquered.  I am looking forward to finishing but not for the satisfaction of finishing itself, but for the satisfaction of a well told, incredible story.

4) Goal: Write.  Reestablishing this blog has been a good step.  Writing is an outlet, no matter if it is the truth or fiction.

Remington Typewriter

Image via Wikipedia

 

Signpost: Having a rough draft of a novel done.

Well, that’s it for me.  How about you?

 

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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

The Heart Attack Cyclones

I grew up in a football household.  To be clear, however, it was never a Sunday ritual.  Real football in my family has always been watched on Saturday.  Cheerleaders, traditions, marching bands, mascots, student *snicker* athletes.  College football.

I was born and raised a Nebraska Cornhuskers fan.  For years dad and I would make the pilgrimage to Lincoln, finding some tickets and cheering on the team, two tiny specs in the Great Sea of Red.  I used to lament the fact that a lot of times they wouldn’t win the big one, or their bowl game.  Somehow I didn’t know how good I had it, cheering for a team that won 9 or 10 or 11 games every year.

Logo for the Iowa State Cyclones.

Image via Wikipedia

My team would eventually become something completely different.  Sometimes hapless.  Often mediocre.  Occasionally decent.  I had adopted the team of my alma mater, the Iowa State Cyclones.  Being a fan of the Cyclones in great.  Incredible tailgating.  A great student section.
Our beloved mascot, Cy.  A heated rivalry with the Iowa Hawkeyes that has picked up steam in recent years.  But then you have to watch the football games.

It hasn’t been easy over the years.  In the years that I attended the University, my team would compile a record of 10-34.  Eventually they would clean up their act a little and go to a couple of lower tier bowl games.  But watching games was like anticipating a heart attack.  Sometimes I kid my wife that she should get on the phone and dial 91 and wait.  Seemingly no lead is safe.  A heck of a team to pick for someone who suffers from depression, no?

But then three years ago, Paul Rhoads was hired as heard coach.  Now, there haven’t been any National Championships.  But the culture is changing.  The Cyclones beat the Cornhuskers in Lincoln for the first time in over thirty years.  They beat the Texas Longhorns for the first time ever.  And who wouldn’t want to play for this guy:

I mean, seriously.  I am 35, out of shape, and not athletic to begin with, and I want to crash through a wall like the Kool-Aidguy.

Paul Rhoads

Image via Wikipedia

 

This year was sort of a break through.  Sure, their record currently stands at 6-6.  But there was a lot of fun in between.  There were come from behind wins, like the game against Iowa.  Beatdowns like the game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders.  But to cap it off was the incredible, come from behind, best win in program history against the then number 2 Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Cyclone fans are a little disappointed that OSU didn’t get a chance to play LSU for the National Championship.  If the outside chance that the Cowboys won, we could have said that our team beat the National Champions.  No matter.  This seems to be a team that is turning a corner.    Maybe I am, too.

 

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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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Filed under anxiety, blogging, coffee, depression

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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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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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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So, it’s been awhile…

Just wanted to share this, if you read my post The Elusive Quest.  Well, I was able to make headway on one of the two quests that I mentioned:

Now, it’s not quite the resolution that I wanted, but it is a start.  I had almost given up.  Truth be told, the previous two sentences describe my other quest as well.  That is a story for another day.  Welcome back readers, if you are still there.

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Filed under depression, life, photography

Guitar Anti-Hero

In my sudden burst of creativity that I have chronicled, I realized today that there is a part of my creative persona that I have been neglecting.  Long before I ever even dreamed of trying my hand at visual arts, I was always involved in music.  I think that I was about 7 or 8 when my parents enrolled me in piano lessons.  I hated it.  Or at least I thought that I did.  It turns out that the years that I spent haplessly plunking away at the piano gave me a solid back ground in music theory.  When it was time to pick out band instruments, I chose the trombone.  Now this I loved.  I can modestly say that I was pretty decent at playing the trombone.  Furthermore, whatever I lacked in talent I was more than willing to make up for in volume.  It was around this time that I realized that my musical tastes were often dictated by the instrument that I was playing.  Piano playing (for me) was limited to classical or similar sounding pieces.  The trombone became an instrument of jazz, baby.  Even if I wasn’t the greatest, I learned to improvise a little with my trombone.  Tell me, is there anything better than a grimy, growling portamento as only a trombone player can play? It was during high school that I realized that my most versatile instrument was my voice.  Singing became, and has remained, such a pleasure. 

After I became an adult, I wanted some kind of instrument that would allow me to accompany myself singing.  I think it was maybe our second Christmas that Lovely Wife bought me my favorite gift that I have ever received:

A thing of beauty, not only in looks but in sound.  I have never taken a lesson, but I have constantly tinkered.  Depending on my mood, or how it is sounding for me on a particular day, I vacillate between using a pick, strumming with my fingers, using my thumb for an alternating bass line, or finger picking.  Mostly I just strum easy chords that allow me to sing along without thinking too much.  It is amazing to me how much a simple accompaniment can add to the overall sound.

I routinely play country and folk songs.  I do like to tinker around with more “electric” sounding songs, usually making them slow to mid tempo and giving them a whole different sound. 

Invariably, however, I will from long stretches of playing to equally long stretches of it hanging there on the wall, looking at me mournfully and silently calling out “play me!”  I am in the midst of one of those latter periods.  I can’t say why.  I have always wanted to write a song, and with my current creative output it would seem like now would be the time to do so.  Then I think (or perhaps depression thinks for me) that while I am pretty good at stringing some interesting chord progressions together, I seem to have a mental block as a lyricist.  I have confidence in my writing, generally, but my ramblings have neither the brevity nor the poetry needed to make a decent song.  Playing can bring out a catharsis of sorts, so maybe I need to strap up and spend some time with my friend, even if it just playing the old favorites. 

FRIDAY FUN: Naming Suggestions

OK, I know I have at least a few readers out there.  I am giving you the opportunity to weigh in–I feel like my guitar should have a name, but as of yet it remains anonymous.  While I don’t think giving it a moniker will ever make me and it as talented as duos such as B.B. King and Lucille, Eric Clapton and Blackie, or Brian May and his Red Special, I almost feel as if I am depriving myself and it of something.  But I just can’t think of anything.  So, leave a comment on what you think a good name would be.  I tend to think that it is a “she”, but don’t feel constrained to that criteria.  If I have enough, I will take a few of my favorites and perhaps have a poll down the road.  Let’s hear some ideas!

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Two Girls Revisited

Earlier this month, I wrote about my two wonderful nieces who happen to have Autism Spectrum Disorders.  As I have noted, April is Autism Awareness Month.  April also happens to mark both of their birthdays.  These incredible young ladies are on my mind quite a bit, and I wanted to share something that I think it is not only important for parents and family of kids with autism, but for all parents in general.

When my older niece was diagnosed with autism, my sister and brother-in-law were able to enter her into an early childhood preschool program to help her develop social skills.  There were still struggles, but as the time to send her to kindergarten drew closer, it became evident that she would be able to enter a “normal” elementary school.  Going to mainstream school seems to have helped her flourish.  Maybe it was the extra interaction with kids, maybe it was the structure, maybe she was just ready.  In any case, like I have stated before she now looks and acts pretty much like a typical tween.

My younger niece would follow the same footsteps.  She attended the early childhood program preschool.  Although she wasn’t as advanced as her older sister when it came time for kindergarten, program administrators along with my sister and husband agreed that she would be able to attend an elementary school in a normal classroom setting.  The one difference is that she has always had an individual aide assigned to her. 

Flash forward to a couple of months ago.  She is now in third grade.  The principal requested to meet with my sister.  The school had made the decision to transfer my niece to a special education classroom at a different school.  This was quite distressing for my sister.  Like many kids with autism, changes in routine can be traumatic for my niece.   It turns out that being in a smaller classroom has had an incredibly positive effect on her.  She genuinely enjoys going to school now.  She won an award for citizenship at her school.  She has even been able to go off of one of her behavioural medicines, which has had the added benefit of letting her slim down considerably.  The other day she had a swimming party for her birthday where she invited kids from her old class.  It was so great to hear the kids tell her how much they missed her.  Although I am sure that she misses them too, I can’t help but think she is happier now.

As parents, how many times to we try to fit a square peg into a round hole?  My nieces have taught me that each child is unique, valuable, and respond differently, whether they have a “disability” or not.  We worry that Baby Girl doesn’t talk as much as Little Guy did at the same age, but we neglect to remember how incredibly verbose he was for his age.  Yet, she seems to have motor skills that are far ahead of what his were at her age.  It seems that we will never stop learning from our children.

As a reminder, please visit Autism Speaks for more information on children with autism spectrum disorders.

UPDATE: Please visit this awesome site.  Autism Love Hope.  She makes awesome jewelry that you can use for gifts or to help spread awareness.

WEDNESDAY FUN: My first artistic endeavour

Earlier this month I spoke about my sudden desire to create some art, and I wanted to share my first painting:

I was actually pleasantly surprised.  While I obviously have amature level skills, I went about it without much of a plan.  The sailboat is going away from stormy waters towards calmer seas and the sunrise, an obvious metaphor for overcoming depression.  What I didn’t plan was that the side representing the future is much more blurred, and the brush strokes follow no pattern.  An added, but not purposeful metaphor.

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