"Success is not measured by what you accomplish but the opposition you have encountered and the courage
with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds."

Orison Swett Marden

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Is it possible I didn't spend my entire Saturday lazing away?

Have you seen those commercials for antidepressants? I think it's the Cymbalta one I'm thinking of. They ask things like, "What do you feel like doing when you're depressed? Nothing. Who do feel like being with? No one." And on and on. Whenever I see the commercial I roll my eyes and answer back like someone can hear me. Of course we know we don't want to do anything, be with anybody and a whole slew of other things. That's one of the reasons I really need to do my regular physical activity (remember, I don't use the word exercise). I sit around all day because I don't feel like doing anything. Sometimes all I can do is sit and eat...other times, food just doesn't taste good. (The Cheetos I'm munching on now taste good though).

In any case, that's most of my days. I find "things to do" that really aren't necessary; I sit and watch TV, now I can sit and play Wii all day. I don't exert myself at all.

But today was different.

Craig had two friends over last night for his birthday party. I was up by 10 because I needed to feed these kids before they left. Well, actually Allen ended up making the pancakes but I got out there in time to pour the juice! The boys were both gone by about 11:30. I sat with Craig for a while as he showed me some of the games on the new Wii disk we gave him as an early birthday gift. After that I came upstairs and saw the trailer in the driveway with the awning down. It's been down for a few days now because it needs to be cleaned. Moisture seeps in from the sides during the winter and it smells--well, it smells really bad. Don't ask me where it came from, but I heard myself saying, I've gotta clean that awning. No excuses or procrastination. Didn’t have to conjure up the energy with a pep talk. It was just time to do it so I grabbed a dishpan and got a Lysol and water mix going and grabbed my Swiffer.

As I'm doing this, I am not paying attention to the weather outside. The wind had picked up and if you know anything about awnings, they can be destroyed by winds. I saw it shaking around and then Allen, who was out on an errand, called to tell me to roll up the awning. So I hollered for Craig and we went to put it up. As long as it gets done before next weekend, it'll be fine. Here you can see it with the awning up. I couldn't find a picture with it down, but at least you can see our trailer here.

But now I was all ready to work with nothing to do. Until I looked out another kitchen window.

We put up a pool in our backyard every summer and I thought we should do it today. We’ll be gone next weekend and the following weekend I’ll be recovering from foot surgery so I won’t be of much help. It just made sense to do it today. So Allen was out in the shed getting things out and he hears a cat. Well, it turned out to be our completely indoor cat Claire. Somehow she got out…I’m thinking last night. Allen yelled for me and I ran out. She was huddled under the snow blower, just meowing a kitty-cry. I talked to her and finally got her out. Poor kitty. If she was out all night, and especially with the rain, she must have been scared to death. Here's the shed. She was under the red snow blower in the back.

One of the jobs I knew I had to do to get ready to put the pool up was to try and level out the ground better. I worked with the shovel to try move the dirt around, dig up weeds and make it more level. I also hadn’t clipped the grass around the sides of the fence for a long while and it looked terrible. Soon my wonderful husband came to help. He clipped and I followed with the mower and we did inside and out. Looks so much better now. Where did this couch potato get the energy to do that?

So then the pool. We couldn't decide if we should put it up or not because it was so windy and it looked like it might rain. But with the rain, if we didn't put the pool up, we'd have to wait for the ground to dry again. So we opted to put it up. Oh my stars. Even when we got it set up right, the wind would take it. Finally Allen ingeniously tied the pool to the fence in all directions to keep it from blowing down. And it worked great! You can see some of the ropes on the picture below if you look carefully.

So...let's go get the hose. For some reason I am always the one who gets to go in the pool and "play" with water coming at me that is probably 50 degrees or less. The bottom of the pool has to be completely smoothed out...there can't be any wrinkles or folds. So here I'm going crazy trying to get wrinkles and folds out that just don't want to come out! I was hollering orders at Allen and Craig to do this and that on the outside of the pool. It has to be done fast once water is going in. Just an inch of water in the pool and it makes it too heavy to move. Sounds impossible, but water is heavy.

Well, I managed to get it pretty smooth in the end but the side of the pool is twisted a little. I'm hoping (crossing my fingers and toes) that won't cause a problem. I just checked on it. It's four feet deep and 15 feet in diameter so it will take a while to fill. I think we started filling about 3 or 3:30 and I don't know if it will be full by the time we go to bed tonight. It's a lot of water, that's for sure. And tomorrow I get to start messing with the chemicals again. Can hardly wait.

Of course, Willy is always where the action is. Between cutting grass, leveling dirt, getting the pool up, he always brings a ball to be thrown.

Allen and I finally made it back inside around 6. I was going all day. I wrote the word “motivation” at the top of this blog because that’s what I felt today. I can’t tell you when was the last time I had the physical energy or mental motivation to get as much work done as I did today. It felt good. I could have been sitting on the couch watching the movie I taped last night just before I went to bed and doing my crosswords. Or been in the basement playing with the Wii. Craig is at Grandma and Grandpa’s so Mommy can play all she wants! But I didn’t. I was a responsible home-owner today and took care of my home. It feels good. I wasn’t worrying about my depression, dreading upcoming events, or being bothered by self-destructive thoughts. I was what we call in the mental health circle, “mindful.” I was in the moment. Not worrying about the last minute or the next…just right now.

Well, I guess I was looking ahead a little. I’m praying for a hot summer and being able to get up and take a swim in my own pool in the morning. Nothing like a 10 AM swim for me.

Friday, May 21, 2010

This week at Nancy's Zoo

Happy Friday, everyone. Not a lot of poop in the zoo cages this week but I feel like I just completed two or three weeks in one so I'm a little out of it. I was discharged from the Partial Hospitalization Program on Tuesday so I’ve been on my own ever since. Hasn’t gone the greatest unless you’re counting how much sleep I’ve been catching up on. I saw my new therapist on Wednesday. I met with her once before for an intake and just didn’t remember her. Doesn’t seem promising to me. This week I’ve been dealing with a lot of strong emotions in regard to my former therapist and his walkout. Not sure what to do with them yet so they sit there and stew.

On the plus side, I have gotten started on my Wii fitness plan! Yay! I’ve done it three times already and plan to go again once I’m done with my blog. I’m only doing 15 minutes at a time but I figure it’s best to start slow so I make it a little easier to do. Once I get in a good weekly routine with that, I can increase my time. I also got a ton of paperwork done…which was grueling. I’m trying to apply for some financial assistance with my medical bills and I had to find a bunch of documents and complete forms. Today one of my goals is to deliver it all.

I can hardly believe it, but Tuesday, May 25th, my Craig is going to be 14 years old. I can still remember looking at him and wondering what he would look like when he was two. His birthday parties have run the gamut…from his entire class to just two other boys coming for a sleepover tonight. Two boys is much better than 20+ (especially in our small house). We’ll have pizza, snacks, cake. The boys will watch movies and play the Wii (so I’d better get my Wii time in during the day…I got hooked on tennis last night!).

I have a set of cards called “Angel Cards.” We used to use them regularly in day hospital and I liked them so I bought myself a set. Each card has a different word on it and the object for using them is to talk about whatever is on the card…what it means to you and such. I thought this might be a good thing for an occasional blog entry so I picked a card today. “Adventure.” Of course, you never want to stick with the card you pick but somehow I’ll figure it out!

Adventure. I can look at it two ways: positively and negatively. It’s kind of my nature to lean toward the negative but that defeats the purpose of the cards. As I look at the last few months and then again toward the coming months, I guess you could say it’s an adventure of some sort. What has happened feels very negative, but if I take the word at face value, all the new things happening in my life could be considered an adventure. After spending so many years with the same therapist, I am now forced to walk on my own two feet. I feel lost and angry, just to name a few things, but I have to figure it out for myself. If I try to think positively, which is usually hard for me, I could think of this as an adventure into self-discovery and hopefully on to self-actualization (reaching my potential). That would be ideal but unfortunately, so much of my life has been less than ideal that it seems like a very tall order.

On the other hand, I could use a different definition of “adventure.” The adventure of doing things in life: our camping experiences, for one. Memorial Day weekend, we are going to Upper Red Lake, north of Bemidji, to camp like I did when I was a kid. I want Craig to experience that and I can hardly wait. Not only that, but all of our camping adventures. We try to visit new places every year and experience new things. This is good for Allen and me but it also gives Craig memories he’ll keep with him for a lifetime.

Well, my adventure for the day is my Wii Fit, and then of course I’ll have to bowl or play tennis to cool down a little, then a shower and off on errands: making copies of paperwork and dropping it all off and grocery shopping for Craig’s party tonight. He’s also getting one gift from us tonight so I have to pick that up too. Just normal “mom stuff.” I guess that’s the way it’s supposed to be, isn’t it? Not all the drama of my emotional life. Maybe I can put it on the back burner for today and give myself a break. How does that sound?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Last week at the zoo

Haven't stopped by my zoo for about a week or so, so I thought I'd better come and check the cages. :) Been a busy week for me...dealt with some "poop" in a cage again. I've been busy going to my day hospital treatment (PHP--Partial Hospitalization Program) every day and just trying to cope. You know how there is always that one person in a crowd that just makes things more difficult for you? Well, I've definitely got one. I just walked out one day I couldn't stand her anymore. Turns out I'm not the only one who she drives crazy so that made me feel a little better.

I was thinking about my depression tonight and thought it would be good to give you some information on what clinical depression is. This list of symptoms comes from the Mental Health Association of America.

Symptoms of Clinical Depression:
•Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood
•Sleeping too much or too little, middle of the night or early morning waking
•Reduced appetite and weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain
•Loss of pleasure and interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex
•Restlessness, irritability
•Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment (such as chronic pain or digestive disorders)
•Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
•Fatigue or loss of energy
•Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless
•Thoughts of suicide or death

If you have five or more of these symptoms for two weeks or more, you could have clinical depression and should see your doctor or a qualified mental health professional for help.

To see the complete fact sheet, visit http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/information/get-info/depression/depression-what-you-need-to-know/depression-what-you-need-to-know . WebMD also has some good information. http://www.webmd.com/depression/default.htm is another resource for you to learn more about depression and what can be done for it.

For me, that short list above is pretty inclusive. I deal with most of them on a regular basis when my depression is acting up. What's hard is when a person with depression runs into someone who has a "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" attitude. Sure, there are times in everyone's life when things aren't going our way and maybe we feel a little sorry for ourselves and we just need to get over it and keep living. But that's not depression. With depression, you don't even have bootstraps to pull up. Those symptoms listed above sap everything out of you, and with some people it even saps the will to live out of them, much less leave them with the strength to just "get over it."

In the "biography" I started with my first post, I left off at the summer after high school. If you recall, I overdosed on my antidepressant and ended up in ICU. I'm sure you've figured out by now that I did end up making it. I spent about six weeks on the hospital psychiatric floor. I started seeing one psychiatrist but shortly after I went under the care of a new one. His name was Dr. Gaughan (just like "gone"). He was great. I saw him for about a year--that was freshman year in college. The sexual abuse and a lot of other "stuff" was buried deep down so that didn't come out at all. Therapy was mostly about coping and living my life day to day. July 1983, I opted to quit seeing him.

My life changed a lot after that. I met a man who I thought would be there for the rest of my life. We were very close, even though I had some trouble committing at first. I didn't realize the seriousness of what happened to me, but it was still brewing underneath. To make a long story short, which I can seldom do ;), as I got closer to this man, the more the emotions and turmoil came to the surface regarding the abuse I endured. And it was noticeable. Even to my boyfriend. So, I went back to seeing Dr. Gaughan in June 1984. That is when we started talking about my abuser a little bit. At my last appointment in December I told him I was going to quit coming. Looking back, I think I was subconsciously scared to death. We were getting closer to things that I didn't really want to talk about, feel or admit about the abuse.

During this time I was also making some changes in my school goals and spent some time with a career counselor at the college. As we talked, my depression came up and he told me about a Depression Management Group that would probably be a good fit for me. Well, it was. We met weekly...just a small group. What was most helpful was that in April I fell apart (I was "single" again by this time). My counselor called Dr. Gaughan's office for me and relayed my situation...extremely depressed, suicidal, hopeless, and overwhelmed with it all. Dr. Gaughan ended up calling me back and I seem to remember talking with him for over an hour. We finally decided it would be best if I checked myself into the hospital.

Initially, Dr. Gaughan did not put me on medication, but after about three weeks or so, he felt I should be getting better. He thought my symptoms were purely related to the breakup of the relationship with this man but if that were the case, I would be getting better. He placed me on a medication and we waited for it to take effect.

Well, that brings us up to May 1985. '85 is what I call "The Year From Hell" so that gives you an idea of what is to come. Enough for tonight.

So, what is to come this week? I'll start PHP again tomorrow and we'll see what happens. I finally started my Wii fitness the other day so my goal for the week is to keep that up and then I’ll be keeping an eye on all of my “cages” to see they stay relatively clean! Here’s to a good week to you also. :)


I just wanted to write a note about comments. You are always welcome to leave comments on my blogs...and I hope you'll be nice. :) Or at least constructive! Well, it's really easy to do but you do have to have an account on some type of network. Once you click on the "Comment" button beneath a post, you will see a dropdown menu listing six sites that you can create an account on so that you can comment. To create a Google account, click on https://www.google.com/accounts/ and create your account. Use that sign on information to sign in when you want to make a comment on my blog.

The other site I am familiar with is AIM. It is an Instant Messaging service through AOL. You do not have to have AOL to use AIM. Use http://products.aim.com/ to create an account with AIM.

Don't be afraid to create an account on any of the six sites available, especially the two I've mentioned. You shouldn't have trouble with them and I would love to read your comments!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Cutting, Taping and Gluing..and feeling Unglued

Day three of my scrapbooking retreat at Dakota Getaway. I finished my 17th page a while ago. Had the 18th and 19th setting out, but my concentration engine has finally blown a gasket for the day. I have taken a few breaks so it’s not like I’ve gone nonstop but that’s it for tonight. I have had a lot of fun using all the new-fangled scrapbooking gadgets they have here that I am not fortunate enough to have at home. You will definitely be able to tell the pages I did while here since they have very nice die cuts and the like. Oh well, I do the best with what I have. I suppose I can rationalize buying a Wii for the whole family more than a “cricut” scrapbooking machine for me (even though I’m making these scrapbooks for the whole family). Yeah, I know. Trying to use a guilt trip won’t work.

This concentration thing is really not a good deal. Even though it’s easy to understand why someone couldn’t concentrate very well after doing basically the same thing all day. But concentration problems are one of those lovely symptoms that come with depression. Oh, that’s right. I haven’t even told you my official diagnoses yet, have I? Well, if I’m letting you into my life, you need to know that. Major recurrent depression, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and Borderline Personality Disorder. Oh, let’s just throw in my migraine headaches for a kick too. I’ll give you some more details on what all those words mean some other time.

Tomorrow it will be back to normal life for me…well, at least as normal as things can be for me. I meet with my whole team of caregivers on Monday morning because they want to see how the long weekend went. When I start formulating some ideas on what to tell them, I am reminded of a question on one of our psych forms. In a depressed person, even when good events happen, they can react in several ways. If their depression is not bad, they might react normally to a happy event. However, the more depression is affecting them, the less normal that “happy” feeling is, the less genuine it is, and less time a good feeling will last (don’t quote me…I’m not reading this out of a textbook right now). Coming into this weekend I have been thinking about that question a lot. How am I going to react to being with sixteen “normal” women in a “normal” environment doing a common activity? Will I be able to come out of my shell a little? Will I be able to feel some genuine happiness being able to scrapbook—something I haven’t had the chance to do for quite some time? Will my depression be lifted at all by getting out of the mental health environment and doing something normal? Actually being with other women?

Well, the weekend isn’t over, but I already made my discovery. No, I have not come out of my shell, though I have not been completely silent. Because of the lack of concentration at times, I know that my depression is still working hard on me. And a happiness quotient? Well, we use a one to ten scale at the hospital. So, where would I put my mood tonight? It’s not bad, but it’s not really good either. It’s a bit on the indifferent side. Not saying that these aren’t lovely ladies to be with…it’s just me and my little world I have to work around. I wish I didn’t have to work so hard in it.

And speaking of coming out of my shell…someone just said something about someone’s health and their medication. Perfect opportunity for me but I just can’t put myself out there. I’ll share with you though. …I knew this guy once who had a virus. Nothing really serious but he had to take medication for it. He died though because he couldn’t take the medication. He was allergic to cotton.

On that note, my friends, I'm not going to fight my sleeping medication anymore. One of these days I’ll come up with a signature sign-off but right now is not the time for my brain to come up with one!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My Andy Cat

May 5th. A special day for me to remember. My cat, who was my dearest companion for almost 21 years was born on this date in 1985. I had gotten him from a friend and I was so excited when I heard the kittens had been born. After he died on February 15, 2006, I found solace in making a scrapbook/memory album. I started with an 8x8 book, thinking that would be big enough, but I didn't realize how many pictures there were--I ended up doing a second book! And when he died I got so many nice emails and cards from friends, so I included them in the book too. Sometimes it was hard, as I would sit and cry over my loss, but I really found it most healing. I got to relive our life together and see again how a part of my life he was. It was such a trip down memory lane as I was only 21 when he came to live with me and in my 40-somethings when he died. And now I have a beautiful keepsake that I can look to anytime I want to bask in the memory of my Andy. Here are just a couple of pics.

Andy kisses

He liked to sit up on this ledge

My 1993 Christmas pic--one of my favorites



Never underestimate the power of a pet.


I'm off for a few days now, taking a little time for myself. I am going on my "first ever" scrapbooking retreat. I have been looking forward to it for quite a while. With my current health issues I wasn't even sure I was going to be able to go but I'm going to try it. Hopefully, once I get there I will relax and have fun. My craft room at home has been a disaster for so long so it's been a while since I've been able to scrap so it will be nice to work on my books again.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Zoo That's Out of Control

Oh, and how my Zoo is out of control. Backlash. Ever get that when you didn't even know there was backlash to be gotten? And from people who are supposed to be "family" nonetheless? That's just today's poop in the zoo cages.

So, my blog is all about my zoo of a life. What makes my life a zoo, you ask? What am I going to write about that might interest you? Holding nothin' back here, I'm a "mental patient." Have been for about 30 years. Well, that's how long I've been diagnosed anyway. I've been hospitalized numerous times...and I mean numerous...and have all kinds of stories that I can share. Some funny, some scary, some just weird. Then of course, there is that struggle of changing the poop out of the zoo cages in my day-to-day life.

Basically, the purpose of my blog is to let you into my life. If you currently struggle with a mental illness, you may find company here or with any luck you may find something useful. If you don't have a mental illness, maybe you can gain some understanding. Just to clarify something for you though...just because I have a mental illness, it doesn't mean I'm stupid. I'm sure you've seen that long list of names of famous people, like Albert Einstein, who have dealt with mental illness. I certainly don't claim to be an Albert Einstein, but my IQ isn't just in the double digits. In fact, many people believe that those with mental illness tend to have higher IQs. Now if we could just use that intelligence to make better medications or find a cure, we could all leave our zoos.

First things, first...you need to know what the hell is wrong with me....

If you ask a person with a mental illness, you may find that many of us will tell you that we have felt out-of-place for most of our lives; feeling like we never really fit in anywhere. For me, I describe it as though I fell through the cracks in my early years. There is no one thing that contributes to an illness. There may be the "straw that breaks the camel's back" but there usually isn't one thing that we can pinpoint that caused our problems. There are also two main factors to consider: the presence of situational problems that can be the basis for mental illness and an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain (chemicals that make neurons fire to make our brain "work"). For me, there is nothing specific I can identify that caused problems early on for me...like my poor self-esteem. My behavior didn't really make me stand out either so no one really did anything to intervene.

My behavior took a drastic turn when I hit age 12 however. I began to isolate; coming home from school and retreating to my room, coming out for dinner and phone calls. I didn't have a good relationship with my parents and since I had not developed good mental health skills (I slipped through the cracks, remember?), I didn't know how to identify something was wrong or was I able to start building skills from scratch at that point. So, I slowly continued to get worse. By the time I was 13 1/2, I experienced my first suicidal urges, though I did not act on them.

When I was 14, my world changed. I became involved with an older man and was subsequently mentally, emotionally and sexually abused. Those terms don’t seem to “pack the punch” that they used to because they are used so often. So I’ll put it to you this way: he spent about three months getting his claws into me and then I was repeatedly raped for the next ten months. Unfortunately, because I didn’t know how I was supposed to respond or how to ask for help, it continued. Eventually, however, after five tries, I was able to break loose from him with a little help from my parents. He did some stalker-like stuff for a few months after that but it eventually stopped.

So then, I had to get on with my life. There are a lot of years there so I’ll try to give you the Reader’s Digest version.

Not able to deal with the “leftovers” of abuse, I tucked it away deep inside and started self-medicating with alcohol and I was introduced to a few drugs as well. By the middle of my senior year of high school, I was a mess. Having already spent a lot of time in my counselor’s office over the years, I walked in there one January morning and spilled my guts as much as I could. It wasn’t good. I saw the school psychologist next who gave me a bunch a tests. Then I was off to a social worker who seemed to think I could get better if I just read a book on assertiveness.

The night of senior prom I went with an older friend of mine to a party and got really drunk. His friends liked to play drinking games with me…they got a kick out of getting this “high school girl” drunk! That night, not only did I get drunk, I lost my sense of self and took a half a bottle of Excedrin. Enter first suicidal gesture. That earned me a trip to the psychiatrist who put me on an antidepressant. Two months later, just after my 18th birthday, I used that same antidepressant to overdose. I landed in ICU in a coma with a 50% chance to live.

Boy, this can get depressing, can’t it? I don’t think I’d better throw it all at you at once. :)  But that’s my beginning. Jumping many years forward, today is Sunday and my husband and son are in the basement playing with our new Wii, which we purchased yesterday on a impulsive whim (though we were planning to get one some time anyway). So why am I sitting at the computer when I could be with them, forgetting about my troubles, throwing strikes in bowling or totally missing the ball in baseball? Good question. I think I’ll go cut myself a piece of my diet cake and join them.