Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Last Post

Hello. It's been a long time. I've decided to post one final goodbye so that it's clear - this blog has run its course. I loved writing it, and loved the response I got for it. I will leave it up for as long as people keep sending me emails telling me they like the blog or the blog helps them in some way. That was the whole point of the blog.

So much is different now. One huge difference between when I began writing and now is that the children are older. They are 5 and 7. Their lives have expanded beyond Mommy's breast (literally and figuratively). They can dress themselves, go to the bathroom by themselves, brush their own teeth, get themselves a glass of water. They even set and clear the table at dinner time. They are each other's best friend. And Jonah now reads. He will sit and read for long periods of time, while Audrey sits and draws fairy tales on pieces of paper, which she then gathers into "books." Thus, more space and queit is available in the family. Also, we've put both kids in a wonderful Waldorf school. This was one of the best decisions we have ever made as parents. The school feels like our co-parent and our safety net.

I am still at 30 mgs of citalopram, daily. This is a smidge less than I used to take, but life has thown us a new challenge (which is beyond the scope of this post to describe) and my naturopath and I have decided to leave well enough alone for awhile.

All of my work and study and reasearch, not to mention experience, regarding women/mothers and mood issues, and spiritual work and study, nurtures my work as a prenatal and postnatal yoga instructor. I have actual classes at actual studios for which I get paid actual money. The schedule is not more than I can handle. Every Saturday morning begins my teaching cycle, and I am always grateful for it.

Thank you to all my readers. Peace to you.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Gun Shy

Dear Readers, I am sorry. I have been remiss. I don't write, I don't call, I don't stop by unexpectedly with flowers. This, after all of your support and loyalty!

The truth is that this story, or the blog-flavored part of it, may have run its course. While I planned to include the chronicle of a Mother of Two Going Off Meds and explore its universal themes of motherhood, spirituality and brain chemistry, The Eldest Magician* has other plans for me.

I'm going to stay on meds.

For the first time, I am too scared to even take the first steps of going off the medication. Life is so full, so rich, and I have come to believe (based on past experiences) that my staying medicated allows it to be so. I am pretty sure that the house of cards that Matt and I and the kids have going will collapse if I suddenly go off the rails.

Let me back up a little. A couple weeks ago, I went on a backpacking trip with my good friend, Sara. We camped for four days on Shi Shi Beach, which is just below the Makah Indian reservation on the northwestiest tip of the Washington state. Shi Shi is a place of total wilderness. If you break a leg there, you're screwed. We captured and filtered our own water, kept a constant driftwood fire alive, and stared out across the ocean for four days.

No kids. No computers. No cell phones.

When we came back, as we finally had to do, I re-entered my regular life armed with a few new guidelines:

1. Pull the wires out of my ass. Disconnect from the laptop. Start a paper calendar. Unplug more often.

2. Stay on the meds. They make everything else possible.

Upon my return, I was crushed by everyone's needs. Even Matt's. He needs me to decide about dinner. He needs me to help him put things in boxes. I am the lynch pin of this family. I have raged and railed and fought against this ever since my first baby was born. Now I am trying to grow up and accept the fact that I matter in this family.

Earlier in the summer, I felt more brave about exploring a meds-free life. Then, I didn't know that my hubs was going to have to take a long trip for work in the fall. (Picture me having a meltdown while my man is gone and I flushed all my pills.) Then I didn't feel the pressure of my kids entering a new school where a huge amount of parental involvement would be required. (You should know by now how much I loathe get-to-know-you potlucks and forced play dates with people I don't know, not to mention having to find a place in a new community.) Then, I thought my new diet would make everything better.

The diet was an interesting experiment and I lost a little weight and I felt light and mostly happy. But I was still on the drugs, and now I really doubt that it's going to make me "better."

Also, my man is a lot less willing to be my constant safety net than he was during the early years of our marriage. He needs to have his own periods of emotional precariousness without fearing that it will send me over the edge. My fragility made him feel unable to ever let his guard down. Do I need to say how unhealthy that is for a marriage?

We depressed moms don't experience our depression in isolation. Our nuttiness cuts a wide swath through the family fabric. As an emotionally unstable twentysomething, the worst that happened is that I tortured my boyfriend and spent my lunch hours in the office stairwell crying. (No one ever took the stairs there. It was a perfect sanctuary.)Now, when I get pulled down to the doldrums, everyone suffers.

And it's not just the checked-out, zombie side of depression that hurts the family. My angry outbursts and simmering rage (picture PMS as a daily occurrence)keep everyone unhappy. The last thing I want is for my kids to be afraid of me. Also the anxiety that always accompanies the rage and the sadness can be crippling and can overshadow everything else about me.

It's a blast!

As I write this, I am thinking of a hundred arguments against everything I am writing. For example, proper diet and exercise can make all the difference. An acquaintance of mine, who is a therapist and a longtime depression-sufferer, told me about all kinds of research out there that says 40 minutes of cardio per day can literally replace antidepressants. Can I do that? It takes so much time! But the kids will both be in school, so maybe I can...and what if it doesn't work and I go into a tailspin and the next drug I try doesn't work? (Depressed people tend to become increasingly drug-resistant the more they go on and off drugs.)

I can talk myself up or down a hundred times a day. My action right now is to take no action.

Who wants to argue with me?

Somebody please argue with me!

*"The Eldest Magician" is the name of a Godlike character in Rudyard Kipling's story, "The Crab That Played With the Sea." I read it to my kids last night.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Anyway, About My Transition...

Yes, I posted about the meds thing and then promptly went off on some other tangents about relaxation and anger management. These are related in a holistic sense. But I meant to update you about what's happening meds-wise.

My naturopath advised me to finish the cleanse before eliminating my antidepressants. This was disheartening to hear, as the cleanse is taking what feels like forever and I want to make my transition before the weather gets dark and gloomy. So I just keep reminding myself that I have to do this right, or I will never know if I really did this right.

I have about two more weeks. I am on the last phase of eliminating potentially irritating foods. This week's irritating food to remove is anything in the nightshade family. That includes potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplants and tobacco. Hot peppers and sweet potatoes are not actually in the same family, hence cleanse-legal for me.

I take full advantage of everything that is cleanse-legal. That's probably why I haven't dropped any weight. (Again, not that it matters; I'm just sayin'.)Certainly my newest discovery, Coconut Bliss non-dairy, sugar-free frozen dessert, is keeping my weight, um, stable. It packs a walloping 209 calories per serving, 124 of them from fat. I also snack on a lot of nuts to replace my cheese-cracker habit. This is better for me because it trades empty carbs for protein, but you don't want to know how much FAT nuts are hinding in their innocent little bodies. And avocados? Lord, have mercy.

The very last, superfatty-but-delicious legal food I want to tell you about is halvah. If you're Jewish, you know what it is. If you're not, here's the scoop: halvah is a flaky, dense, chewy stuff made from sesame seeds. You can buy it sweetened with honey or not sweetened at all and marbled with pure cocoa. It has the kind of mouth-feel you're looking for when you reach for a Butterfinger. In terms of avoiding a blood-sugar spike and crash, it's great. In terms of calories, well...let's just say a four-inch bar of it is on par with a piece of cake.

Not drinking alcohol has to cancel some of those calories out, though. That is mostly fine, not drinking alcohol, a lot easier than I thought it would be. Just please don't somebody write me and say pot is a nightshade or that Percocet is derived from cow's milk. I will seriously weep.

I really could go on for pages and pages about the diet and all I have learned from it, but I realize that not everyone has been obsessed with these things most of their lives like I have. So I'll spare you. (Feel free to use the comments section to share your own insights or ask questions, though. I really get a boner over this stuff.)

After I'm done with the elimination, then I start adding things back to see what kind of reaction I have. If my original problem doesn't seem to get worse in this phase, then the doctor says we might have to look at a hormone imbalance. Now, eliminating a food would be much easier than playing around with hormones. However, if I do have some kind of imbalance, what great info to have when I try life meds-free. This is one of the reasons that I have stuck with the diet and not gone to a specialist to fix my original complaint. (This presented as a skin problem.) In naturopathic philosophy, It's All Related, Man. So let's find out what It is.

Two weeks. Two weeks and I get to start cutting pills in half.

Whatever happens, I'll still have my Dark Chocolate Coconut Bliss.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Make Way for the Crazy Lady

Yesterday my kids and my step-mother-in-law strolled through Boston Common in the sun. A vendor roasted peanuts. A young brunette woman stood in flip-flops and played her violin for change. We rode the Swan Boat around the pond as a young Bostonian frantically pedalled us. We found the bronze sculptures of the ducks from "Make Way for Ducklings." We sniffed the freshly cut grass and blooming trees. I felt that, if it weren't for the traffic, we could've been in another time altogether. We were one of a million families who have strolled along the curving paths of that grand park in the last century.

Lost in my thoughts, I followed Gail as she led us toward Boyslton Street and our car. Jonah trailed behind. As we passed a low wall spread with a street artist's half-finished canvasses, I was only vaguely aware that Jonah had hopped upon the wall. He always hops upon walls in parks. I had glanced quickly at the guy's work - crude, amateurish, but he obviously worked hard to produce the dozens of boards that lay spread all over the wall and stacked against a wide, shade-giving tree. I wondered how he made out. I was about to joke to Gail that my artist brother-in-law probably had a low opinion of these artists who sell their work in parks, when I heard a man shout, "HEY!" and turned around to see a tall, greasy man stalking toward Jonah. "Get off of my stuff!" he shouted at Jonah. "You better watch out that you don't touch other people's stuff, or you'll go to hell early!"

Was this guy kidding? I moved toward Jonah, who had already jumped off the wall and stood frozen. I folded Jonah in toward my body with my hand on his knobby spine and led him away from the crazy man. I did not even stop to look at the man's face. These things happen from time to time when you live in the city, and the golden rule is just to walk away. I would console Jonah as soon as we were out of this man's orbit.

You never, ever provoke the crazy people.

I looked at Gail. "He didn't step on the guy's paintings, did he?" I would've been shocked if he had, but if he had, I did want to at least apologize to the guy and be on our way.


"No," said Gail. "He didn't even come close."

I drew the children like ducklings under my mama wings and began walking away. "Jonah, please don't worry about this guy. You did not do anything wrong."

"I know," Jonah said, shivering.

"You should raise your children better!" the man called after us, still amped and indignant. "You need to teach them not to mess with other people's stuff, you know!"

Without a thought, I reached behind me and held up my favorite hand signal to show the fellow my opinion of his parenting advice. It was dumb. It was crass. It was far from yogic.

I got the response I expected.

"Hey fuck you, Lady! You're going to hell early, too!"

Everyone was silent as we walked away. The atmosphere still buzzed around us with baby strollers and little kids eating giant pretzels. We, however, were all sunk in our bad feeling about the man. I needed to say something to break the tension, to let the kids know that they were okay, that nobody had done anything wrong (except, secretly, me), that the man wasn't really mad at us, he was sick and probably couldn't help the things he said. Gail came to the rescue.

"Sometimes when someone yells at us it's really hard not to let some of it get into your heart," she said.

"Yeah, said Audrey quietly.

I thought for the whole drive back to shady Belmont about why I had done what I had done. I have had other such incidents where my anger management was very weak or nonexistent, all of which I came to regret. In fact, what my husband and I joked morbidly about as my "rage" was one of the main things that led me to quit teaching school. I could not be trusted to handle things well when the rage took over. I didn't know how to change myself or fix the problem. Even with the children, I have these moments that are sheer tantrums. They typically come when I feel I've been insulted, kicked, or taken advantage of one too many times.

I have some notions, thinking about it now, where this comes from. But I don't have the notion how to change.

Someone gave me a little jokey notepad that says across the top, "I meditate, I drink green tea, and I still want to smack someone." There is a reason that person gave it to me.

I am a flawed woman.

But I do raise my children right.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Unexpected Grace

Among my friends with children, it is widely acknowledged that "vacations" to visit one's family are not vacations at all. This is usually the case for us when we fly to Boston to be with Matt's family. It's not that there's anything horrible happening, or that we have to sleep on dirty floors next to the cat box, it's just negotiating the days with tiny kids and their issues and equipment can feel like scaling the mountain of Sisyphus. Add to that a couple divorces, a variety of jealousies, and New England reserve. Tensions - kept under wrap in company, exploded behind closed doors - can run high.

For whatever reason - the summer skies, the beauty of my father-in-law's rose garden spilling over with fluffy white blossoms, the Siamese cats who tolerate the children's attentions - everyone is relaxed. We spend our time drifing from the pool to the patio to the cool, open living room. We snack on the FIL's wife's phenomenal cooking. We lounge on the humongous Roche Borbois sofa and - readers, brace yourselves - we read.

I have read an an entire novel in four days, much of it during daylight hours. Do I need to tell those of you with children what a rarity that is? I have even had time to write long, luscious entries in my journal. I believe the reading and the writing and the time all bond together to create a perfect mental environment for even more elevated reading and writing. And thinking long thoughts.

This is Summer. This is Grace.

Monday, June 22, 2009

About the Blog...

Hello, Friends. I think that I am almost done with the blog, but am hanging on just until I get to the point where I can chronicle my going-off-meds experience. I had hoped to be able to do this many months ago, but the fates did not allow it. I had to stay medicated.

I feel it would be a fitting end to this blog if I successfully go off the meds and stay normal for awhile. It would be just as fitting if the experiment doesn't work and I, like millions of other depressives, need that daily chemical adjustment in the form of a pill. I am hoping for the former as an end to this public story.

I have prepared my body. With the guidance of my naturopath, past research and some supplemental reading, I am on a Program. I do a level II yoga class twice a week. I do an exercise class called Body Balancing twice a week (this involves a lot of balancing on balls and isometric actions. I think soon I'll be able to crack a nut between my thighs). I try to walk for at least 30 minutes three times a week. And I meditate three times a week.

I drink green tea daily, and no longer drink coffee, even the cheating half-decaf drip I was making at home for awhile. No black tea, neither, so no more chai latte indulgences.

Some other things that are off-limits: processed sugar, wheat, baking soda and powder, processed soy, food additives like preservatives and fake colors, alcohol, and cigarettes. For the cleanse I'm currently on I will also go off dairy and nightshades for a time, but I won't be making that a regular part of my life. The rest of it, except maybe the leavening, I intend to stick with. I feel so good.

All of this is in preparation to go off the meds. And to see if I have sensitivities to any of those foods.

I let go of these things by degrees over the last month. Dairy may be harder to transition away from than coffee or alcohol, which is why I'm putting it off for another week. I can't deal.

The amazing thing I'm discovering is how much there still is that I can eat. Now, I confess, I am one of those annoying people who really could eat brown rice and broccoli most nights of the week and be perfectly happy. As long as I can also eat my new favorite dessert: mascarpone cheese sweetened with honey, sprinkled with strawberries and slivered almonds. It's not a low-calorie food, but it is 100 times more healthful than a donut. Or a muffin. And I'm not in this to count calories.

How I feel: Light. Energetic. Clear-headed.

At first I felt confused and frustrated. The first week of the no sugar/no wheat part of the cleanse I nearly cried because I missed my favorite foods so much. What the hell kind of comfort does a salad give you? None! Giving up coffee again made me somewhat miserable for a couple of days. I felt sleepy and depressed. (It passed.) Giving up alcohol, though, has proved to be less difficult than I thought it would be. I miss the taste of wine, but I do not miss the way I felt and the thoughts I had after a couple of cocktails. Drinking always throws me into a somewhat dark tailspin, and I don't need that.

My blood-sugar is stable because I'm not eating sugar or a bunch of high-glycemic-index carbs to send it shooting up and plunging down. I eat a little bit of protein every three hours. And I eat protein with every meal. I always have hard-boiled eggs and a pot of quinoa in the fridge. And bags of almonds.

I must confess to you that I was hoping this would all result in me dropping a dress size. Hasn't happened. Which brings me back to one of the reasons I want to go off meds: weight gain. The weight gain was minor, about 7-10 pounds, and even though people tell me to get over myself, I really wish I was back to my pre-meds weight. (Some people gain a lot more. I am lucky.)

I hope you will stick with me as I embark on the journey forward. Tomorrow I see my naturopath. It's my hope that she will tell me I can start cutting my pills into tiny pieces.

I'll be reporting shortly.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Whenever, Wherever, However

In my Baghavad Gita study group, my fellow yogis and I often struggle to find relevance between the practices recommended by Lord Krishna and the lives we lead. We sit on the carpeted floor of my bright attic and our faces contort with concentration, as if in trying to understand this book we are twisting our very brains. This can be too much, so often one or another of us will get up off the floor and wander over the refreshments table. (That person is often me.)

"Look," said my teacher, Denise, one evening of particular group denseness. "These ancient texts were written for renunciates. We're all householders. We live regular lives. We don't live in monestaries."

Sadly, no, we must take care of other people and lend our energies to things besides finding the exact location of our third eye point. And this can be a serious hindrance when one endeavors to create a meaningful meditation practice, for example.

"Here's what one of my teachers told me," Denise continued. "If you have a busy life and you want to meditate, when should you do it? Whenever you can. Where should you do it? Wherever you can. How should you do it? However you can."

I flashed on a mom I know from a mom and baby group a few years ago, who told me about the time she time she drove to Nordstrom for "that essential makeup item," on a Sunday, only to find that the store didn't open for another half hour. She chose to spend that time sitting in the parking garage meditating.

Way to go. That's W.W.H. (whenever, wherever, however) in action.

I did a similar thing recently while in the bathtub. I lay back, let my ears fill with water, and listened to the sound of my breath for some minutes. I called it meditation because I was able to let my mind float in one place for a bit. While my body bobbed and bumped up against the sides of the tub, I wasn't planning what article of clothing I would slip on after the bath was over, which shoes I would wear to walk to my daughter's preschool, or thinking about anything but the sound of breath reverberating deep in my watery ears.

Later, I checked it off on the little spreadsheet I've made for myself to keep track of all the stuff I'm supposed to do to prepare for the upcoming Medication Renunciation. Hot bath AND meditation at the same time! Check!

Is that cheating?

Hey, W.W.H.