Saturday, January 24, 2015

Every Treatment Has a Price Tag

My journey with depression began at 14. At least, that's what I've always told therapists on the first day. I have what's called "major depressive episode disorder" which means that my life is a roller-coaster ride of ups (which means "basically functioning") and downs that go way down, sometimes down to suicidal ideation. My first depressive episode was at 14, which was also the year I started my period. Completely coincidental, I'm sure.

The second diagnosis on my chart is PTSD, which is a fairly new addition. It's been called Bipolar II and Generalized Anxiety Disorder before we figured out when it started. Finally, we were able to trace the crazy panic attacks and psychosis and fear of men to the year and a half that I volunteered at a rape crisis center in college. It took us forever to figure out because I was never personally raped, but during and after that time I exhibited the signs of someone who has been assaulted. Apparently, some people empathize so strongly with those they help that they suffer PTSD themselves; it's a common problem with those who work in hospitals, prisons, etc. It's why detachment is so vital for first-responders, therapists, ER doctors, and anyone else who works with trauma survivors.

To make things even more complicated, I experienced a semi-constant level of anxiety and fear - mini-traumas if you will - during my childhood. When I think back on my childhood, I remember feeling afraid, a lot: of our crime-ridden neighborhood, of burning in eternal hellfire, of emotional abuse at home, of being too poor to eat. Experiencing this high level of stress and fear as a child wore down my defenses, so that when I spent over a year listening to women who had just been raped and watching rape kit exams and sitting with survivors while they were interrogated by police, something in my brain went snap. 

Due to my not-so-happy childhood -  and the fact that my mom is severely depressed all the time - I have a hard time knowing what "normal functioning" looks like. Maybe that's why it took me so long to get help, and why my husband was the one pushing me to get it.

Over the last three years, I've experienced multiple kinds of mental health therapies: marital counseling, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), EMDR, in-patient emergency care at a mental health ward, and group therapy, not to mention the cornucopia of drugs. Let's see, I've tried Zoloft, Welbutrin, Lamictal, Ambien, Prozac, Effexor XR, Lunesta, Klonapin, Xanex, and probably other things that I've forgotten. Out of the entire above list, the things that have helped the most are Effexor and EMDR. Thus far I've only done one session of EMDR, and it's done more good than hundreds (not exaggerating) hours of regular talk or CBT counseling. Which makes sense, since PTSD isn't something you can talk yourself out of.

These years have taught me things about the illness through trial and error, mostly error. For instance, Effexor is more "effective" (heh) because it targets norepinephrine as well as serotonin, and most medications only target serotonin. (Wellbutrin is also different because it targets dopamine). Apparently my brain needed more norepinephrine, and all the Zoloft in the world wasn't going to help it. This also ties into PTSD because norepinephrine is regulated by the amygdala, the part of the brain effected the most by PTSD. This is what controls the fight-or-flight response, along with other kinds of vigilance, concentration, and response. All of which go hay-wire when you have PTSD. 

Some of the treatments were effective, in their way, but had unacceptable side effects. For instance, Wellbutrin did wonders for my energy and depression, but it also upped my anxiety, which was already at ridiculously high levels. Maybe with the right drug combo I could take Wellbutrin again, but I'm not willing to try it until I've done more EMDR. 

Twice now I've tried Lunesta for insomnia. Oh, it does wonders for my sleep, without the horrible headaches that some medications give. However, I recently stopped taking it again because I remembered why I stopped last time: it makes my poor memory even worse and decreases my (already poor) concentration. But without it I can't seem to sleep until 2, 3, or even 4 a.m. I haven't figured out how to help this situation yet. 

There's not really an end to this post, because I could go on all day about medications and therapies and treatments. At a certain point I get depressed just thinking about it, which doesn't help. I want to write about it though, in the hope that someone who sees it will feel... not so alone. Solidarity. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Seven Quick Takes: The Expert's Guide to Laziness


I come from a long line of women who would rather read than clean. Isn't that everyone you say? No, it is not. One of my aunts who married into the family does not own a single book - not one! - and her house is spotless. As an in-law she suffers with the family's laissez faire attitude about clutter, and she is not the suffering in silence sort. As hard as it might be to believe, there are women (and men!) who would rather mop floors and organize the pantry than read a book or a magazine or a blog. There are even some who find it hard to sit still when there are things to do. 


Gentle reader, might you be one of these women? Might you suffer agonies at others' homes when you notice the dust coating on every wooden surface? Do you fight the urge to rip off those decades-old cartoon-clippings and bent school photos and expired coupons to reveal the fridge? Do you run into the bathroom and scream into a hand-towel when your friends' small children leave toys strewn across the floor - and the mother just sits there? 


Well suffer no more! I am here to teach you, in just four easy steps, how to embrace that inner slug. I know you have it in you. If you dig down deep you can relinquish the need for clean and discover that sticky, cluttered mess that lurks within. 


First of all, what do you drink? Not diet Coke silly: we're all friends here. What would you drink if you could be three sheets to the wind without some small person dying? That drink is what you need. Do you have to be sober? Then make something hot: a good hot cocoa or apple cider or tea. Do NOT brew coffee; this will have debilitating ramifications in about half an hour, when you find yourself cleaning the fan blades and sobbing "I just couldn't say no!" Don't let that happen to you. 

The best option, of course, is a hot toddy. 


Now, lazy weather can be one of two options. First, it can be broiling hot. We Southern girls understand why the South has a reputation for laziness: NO ONE goes dashing about with a duster when it's 100 degrees in the shade and so humid that your glasses fog up. The humidity is a crucial element. Y'all from out west cannot imagine how hot 90 degrees can feel when the humidity is 85%. That's why the heat index is what we check in the morning, not the actual temperature. When the heat is this bad, cleaning is hazardous to your health unless you can afford a gargantuan electric bill. So go ahead and wilt, preferably on a cushioned porch swing holding a mint julep.  

The second option, which might be more applicable for readers in January, is freezing cold. This is a relative term, by the way. Savannah closes down when there's a possible chance of sleet 40 miles north. Moreover, some of us simply cannot stand the cold. In DC I was basically catatonic for four months out of the year; it took at least 15 minutes just to put on all those layers of clothing. So you Michigan people can trudge in the snow all day long and feel proud of yourselves, but the rest of us will bundle up under an electric blanket when the thermostat says 30. 


Third, consider the worst that could happen. What if you DON'T do the next thing on your list? Did someone die? No? Well then. 


Find something you like to do that involves sitting. No judgement here: I've found ceiling fans riveting at the end of a long day. Knitting is an option if you absolutely must be industrious at every waking moment, but why? That's what Netflix is for. Pets are great for this, by the way. Only cold-hearted witches can push a sweet cat or dog off their laps. 

Happy Friday y'all! Be sure to check out the rest at This Ain't the Lyceum

** On a completed unrelated note, I didn't manage to get this published until after 5 p.m. even though I wrote it yesterday. Also, I took Benadryl last night - for allergy reasons this time - and had an even worse time getting up. Apparently this is my Friday tradition, and my work hours are late, which keeps me from improving myself. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

It's Sheenazing!

.... That I was nominated for this award. Since I have, like, four regular readers, y'all are the shit. Mainly because this is the only time my tiny blog will be in the same list with ANN FREAKIN' VOSKAMP for any reason whatsoever.

Mainly though, I'm happy at the chance to find so many new (to me) blogs. I skipped right over the life-style category because it makes me depressed and self-loathing. First I checked out my fellow non-Papists (snort). And that's when I discovered New Wave Feminists.

Whatever you're doing next can wait. Go check them out ASAP. I'm not sure how they're non-Papists - it looks like at least one of the writers is Catholic, but maybe they aren't all Catholic. In any case, they are the bee's knees.

If you clicked on my tiny blog from Bonnie's page and want to know who I am (and why I picked an obscure name like The Inklings Etc.), here are some posts that tell you what's up.

          - Why Lord of the Rings is awesome and deserves to be read at least twice

          - Why I pray the Rosary even though I'm Protestant

          - How his wife Joy saved C.S. Lewis from his misogynistic ways 

          - Why I usually hate sermons and wish church didn't have them

          - How Anglicans are the red-headed step-child of both Catholics and Eastern Orthodox

          - How that "does not rejoice in evil" verse gets twisted and makes me see red

Mixed in with a bunch of random nonsense. I'm not a mommy blogger, or a lifestyle blogger, or even a Catholic. I just like to read Catholic blogs - and some mommy blogs - and have some Catholic leanings in spite of my Calvinist background (that sound you hear is my grandmama flipping somersaults in her grave).

Happy reading!

Friday, January 16, 2015

7 Quick Takes: Benadryl-Induced Fog Edition


I'm in a funk yo: I took Benadryl at about 1 a.m. to help me sleep. And, um, it worked. 


Plus, I just got done with an EMDR therapy session a couple of hours ago - more on that when the hamster wheel starts turning again. So now my emotions are weird too. I've been really good at self-care recently too, doing all the stuff my therapists tell me I should do: lighting lavender candles at night, drinking more water, upping the vegetables and good fats, walking and exercising more, etc. I've even been doing those super-annoying-but-ultimately-magical breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation. The result is that I feel both awesome and emotionally fraught at the same time; my poor brain doesn't know what's going on. 


Eventually, I'll post the 5 or 6 brilliant (sort of) posts that are percolating. I've got a 7QT on rap, a 7QT about periods, a regular post on CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and EMDR, and one on body image/sexuality. Woohoo! Yeah.... eventually I'll get to it. 


Have you ever taken a Myer's Briggs personality test? It's probably not very good based on more recent research (what, you expected a link or something? What part of Benadryl-Induced Fog did you not understand?). However, research be damned, it's awesome. Once you take it, it's hard not to obsessed with looking at yourself and friends through its lens. The idea is that there are four parts that make up a personality, and two possibilities per part. Everyone knows about extroversion vs. introversion, but there's also intuitive/sensing, feeling/thinking, and judging/perceiving. Here's a link to the test. 


When I took the test I came up as ISFP - introverted, sensing, feeling, perceiving. One of the quirks about it is that it shows how "hard" on the extremes you are. For instance, I am a very hard introvert (no surprises there) but more in the middle when it comes to sensing vs. intuition. My husband is ENTP, so we're almost complete opposites. We both live by the seat of our pants, which makes life... interesting.


The difference between judging and perceiving types


And that brings us to seven!! Have a good weekend lovelies!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Pictures Around Savannah

Sunset in November

Happy Graffiti 

The work of 2 people. First one says "Vaccines cause cancer and they know it." The response: "Just like you're mom."


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Review of The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

Note: there will be spoilers, but you know that already. It's a review.

Drawing from XantheUnwinArt

Oh Peter Jackson. What to say. 

Against my better judgement, I went to see the final Hobbit installment with my husband and a couple of friends. Since my expectations were so low, I liked it more than I anticipated. There was a definite improvement from the first Hobbit movie (I didn't see the second one because the first traumatized me). That said, the usual Jackson problems were in there in abundance.

Ridiculous, gravity-defining Orlando Bloom stunt that looked like a rip-off from Mario Cart? Check. 

CGI bunny sled of doom that rushes in to save the day? Check.

Galadriel going all Satanic-eyes on us before fainting? Check. 

Plus, this time we had an absurd dwarf/elf/dwarf love triangle. I already knew about that one going in; however, it was worse than I thought possible. The love interest couple wasn't drawn too poorly (although, the dwarf was sexier than a dwarf has a right to be). But when Tariel cries over her beloved's dead body, she asks her elf brother Faren why love has to hurt so much. Faren, who has spent the entire film mocking Tariel and her love for a mortal, has a sudden change of heart and says "because it was real," and the emoting fairly seeps onto the audience. At that point I started rolling my eyes.

In general, however, the film fails because it elicits the exact opposite desired emotion at every turn. The battle scenes, which are supposed to be awe-inspiring in all their CGI glory, are unintentionally hilarious because every other minute another troll or orc trips on his own feet or runs headlong into a stone wall. The emotional love scenes are embarrassing, not just for the kids in the audience, but for adults who have seen good acting and directing. The scenes where Thorin screams about gold are so obvious and overplayed that it gets tiresome rather than thought-provoking. Jackson has a hammer called "thou shalt not be greedy" (unless you're stretching one book into three movies) which he swings at every opportunity. I've heard revival sermons that were less dogmatic. 

What annoyed me the most, however, was his treatment of women. As a feminist, I have no problem with a film without women, especially if the source material calls for it. Truly, it would not bother me in the slightest if Jackson had left out his elf-love creation and let Galadriel stay in the earlier films. Instead, he puts women into the script at random intervals, as if checking off boxes on his feminist sheet, with no regard for the actual plot. 

What's worse than a film without women? A film in which Bard's teenage daughters cower and shriek at every turn while his young son heroically climbs to the tower where Bard faces off with Smaug. A film in which a lady character is created out of nowhere to form an insipid love triangle that no one cares about. A film in which the unfunny "comic relief" character shows how cowardly he is by dressing in drag, while a group of brave women tell him to "be a man" as they rush into battle. Because courage is what men (and a few tomboyish women) have, and the best way to show a man's cowardice is to show his slip. 

There were positives too though. On the whole, it had more get-up-and-go than the first Hobbit movie and did a better job of engaging the audience. Benedict Cumberpatch was splendid as Smaug, as everyone expected: those scenes were by far the best. Some have criticized Martin Freeman for his lack of emotion, but that misses the point. Hobbits are known for their stolid, practical nature, for combining tough-as-nails interiors with plump, comfortable bodies. In a film loaded with excess, Freeman's Bilbo was a breath of fresh air. I also liked the ending, with its comfortable return to Hobbiton and gentle humor. I feared that Jackson would mangle the concept of "There and Back Again," but it was nicely done. 

Tolkein, be glad you weren't there to see it. RIP, old friend.

Friday, January 2, 2015

7 Quick Takes Friday: Happy New Year from Savannah!

Happy third anniversary to me! 

My husband and I got married three years ago on December 31, 2011. Since then we've lived in two states, been through his seminary program, had some crazy good times and a lot that were just crazy. We celebrated at a Thai restaurant and then met up with friends on River St. in downtown Savannah with all the crazies to bar hop and look at fireworks over the water. 

Can introverts like crowds?

Sometimes I do. It's got to be a good natured crowd, and it's got to be outdoors. It cannot involve shopping. It's best when we're all there together, celebrating, possibly tipsy or even drunk, at night. Strangers say happy new year, cheers go up when couples kiss, and the general atmosphere is one of good will. I didn't see any fights (though I'm sure they happened somewhere), but I saw a lot of friends having fun. It was a good way to start off the year. 

I'm finally getting bored with the internet.

God heard my plea and knew that the only way that I'd stop being addicted to clicking mindlessly like a monkey on crack would be to get bored. And bored I am. I don't want to look at Facebook anymore.    I've taken every quiz that mankind can devise, from the intellectual to the inane. I still like watching videos, but only if I'm watching them with someone else who can share in my joy. 

Political exhaustion

One reason for this is sheer exhaustion. If I never read another sentence about Ferguson or abortion or feminism or religious freedom or gun control or ebola or police shootings or waterboarding or Supreme Court decisions it will be too soon. This is not to say that keeping up with what's going on isn't important, or that I regret writing about these things. It's simply that you can't live on it without suffocating. It's to the point that the social media, especially, surrounding events is so predictable that you can play Chose Your Own Adventure with particular writers or speakers. I'm gasping for air and groping for something that can't be split along party lines.

Cuteness Addiction

Is there such a thing? If so, I have it. The one thing on the Internet that never gets old are babies and baby animals. I think it's just longing to be pregnant, but I have baby radar that roars into play whenever someone under 2 is within a 5 block radius. Is this a problem? 

Which is distinct from Beauty Addiction

I'll talk more about this soon. I have a real thirsting and longing for beauty, and when I'm in the presence of the truly beautiful or awe-inspiring it's like getting a hit from a drug. It's probably to the point of idolatry. 

My patron saint for the year is Saint Jude

You know, lost causes and all that. There are several lost causes in my life right now, but I'm not giving up!