Like Swimming.

In December of 2015, my OBGYN put me on a dusting of fluoxetine (10 MG). I was having a rough time, not too rough, but rough enough to ask for help. I know she’s an OBGYN, but she’s been my doctor for over a decade and I feel particularly close to her. I trust her deeply. Plus, this medication was supposed to help alleviate period pain, which I experience a great deal of.

The dusting seemed to take some of the edge off, although given the low dosage, I have to wonder if I was experiencing the placebo effect. Who really knows. I was still a touch moody; felt socially inept and my anxiety was still ever-present. I still occasionally experienced periods of mania. While things were dialed down a touch, I was still very much the current version of myself.

The one thing that turned out to be extremely helpful for me was my inability to stew. All my life, since as early as I can remember, whenever something bothers me, I beat the living shit out of it, myself and all of my emotions involved. I investigate the situation from every angle. I replay it over and over again in my head. I mean, I put my thoughts to work! My brain doesn’t get a moments rest. I basically emotionally abuse myself.

I immerse myself within the situation. Forgive me for the bad metaphor, but here might be a better way to explain it: say every problem or situation is a swimming pool, instead of recognizing that I can get out of the pool and look at the situation from outside of the damn pool. I stay in the pool and swim through the situation until I feel like drowning or I become so exhausted, I have no other choice but to get out.

That’s not healthy and the dusting of prozac helped me with that. It didn’t get rid of it completely, but it definitely helped.

So I stuck with that dusting until late last summer when things started to take a turn once more.

So, back up for a moment: summer has always been rough time of year for me. I do not enjoy summer. Even as a kid I didn’t particularly enjoy summer. I much preferred the continuity and safety of a school day. I liked to be with friends. I enjoyed having a schedule, I guess. I don’t particularly like the sun either. So the long days bug me. I don’t like the heat. I loathe pools. (Given the above metaphor, the irony here doesn’t escape me.) I can’t stand being on the beach. (I do like the ocean, however!) And the one thing I love doing most, the thing that helps me cope with my head and my issues is running. It’s my therapy. And running in the summer fucking sucks. (Although I do it! Every day.)

I am simply not a fan of summer. They apparently have a term for this, although I am by NO MEANS self-diagnosing myself here, but it’s called Summer-Seasonal Affective Disorder. Just knowing that there’s a term; knowing that other people don’t particularly enjoy the summer and suffer from depression during said season, well, that alone made me feel better.

Anyway, last summer hit me pretty hard. Things became bad enough that I ended up crying in front of my (brand spanking new!) primary care physician. I was lost. I was feeling suddenly so unhappy about living here. I couldn’t find peace. I was dreading the long days and the heat and the bugs. I felt afraid, like everything I was doing was some different color of failure.

She listened. She gave me the names and numbers of therapists. (Incidentally, I called every single one and not one person was taking new patients. I am by no means severely mentally ill, but I would definitely benefit from talk therapy. I can’t fathom what it must be like out there for someone suffering from severe mental illness when it’s so damn hard to find someone to talk to. We need to fix this shit, America.)

After we spoke, she decided to up my dusting of prozac to 40 MG. (I know, a rather enormous leap.)

I started taking it right away.

For the first week or two, I lost my mind to irrational levels of jealousy and fear. I felt like a teenager again. Even though people told me, “Give it time! You need to adjust!”, I panicked and had her call in a 20 MG prescription instead. This was all while we were in Disney. I would step it down again once returning home.

But by the time we got home, however, I felt better. In fact, I felt AMAZING. I entered some bizarre euphoric state. I felt like I could do anything. I hadn’t ever felt that secure and amazing in all my life. I felt sexy. I felt capable. I didn’t care what anyone around me thought about me, yet I worked to be positive and happy and to try and make others happy too. I wanted to be around everyone. Nothing bugged me. I felt like I could rule the world. No kidding, it was as though someone slipped me some ecstasy. Every single morning.

Toby was convinced my serotonin was set into overdrive and I was basically acting as though I was on MDMA.

I won’t lie: it was awesome. Toby was thrilled. After those initial first two weeks, I was golden. I was happy, outgoing. I made new friends. I started throwing parties—ALL the parties! So many parties! I was throwing parties for complete strangers. My goal was to overcome everything we’d experienced on the previous street and bring people together. And I loved that goal. I loved me. I showed up to events. I became a super version of myself, a version I hadn’t ever experienced before. It was outstanding.

During that time, I apologized to Toby repeatedly for having had to deal with my mood-swings all those years. I felt bad, but promised I’d continue to make it up to him. I felt worthy, excited. Guys, life was really fucking great.

I became the poster child for treatment.

Of course it didn’t last. By November, things had leveled out. I was no longer euphoric. I was still quite social. And I no longer stewed. There were no pools to mention. Instead I stood on the outside looking in and I was able to watch the problem and not give it too much thought.

I also totally stopped crying. Which is crazy. I cry ALL the time and have my entire life. But on 40 MG of prozac? Nope. I simply could not squeeze out a tear. They were gone. My brain just didn’t allow for tears.

Also gone? My disdain for the mundane. I no longer pined for something else or better or different. There were no real “ups” because the downs were gone too. Life became even.

And then my clothing stopped fitting. My face grew fatter. And I felt tired a lot.

I hopped on the scale in February: 163 pounds.

When I started taking 40 MG of Prozac I weighed 142. I had gained over 20 pounds in 6 months.

Yes, life was even. Yes, my periods were tolerable. But my hatred toward myself grew with every added pound. I was, and continue to be, miserable about the weight gain.

One morning I told Toby, “I need to lose this weight. I feel like the more I weigh, the more space I take up in the world so there’s more of myself to loathe. I don’t want to take up this much space in the world.”

Again: not healthy.

I am absolutely certain at this point that prozac ruined my metabolism. It explains why I would fall asleep at 8 or 9 PM and sleep like the dead until morning. (Well, whenever Walter wasn’t waking me up every hour.) I had such little energy. I still ran, but my pace dropped from 9-minute miles to 11 plus minute miles. It is not unheard of for me these days to run a 12-minute mile. I changed even though the only thing I actually changed in my daily life was medication.

About two months ago, I had had enough. I visited my OBGYN again. I topped out that day at 168.

We discussed tapering. She was shocked at how much that other doctor had upped my dose, but agreed that that much weight gain is likely linked to the medication.

She ran a my thyroid levels: all fine. Everything checked out as normal, the same.

I stopped the meds. I couldn’t take it anymore.

That was a little over 2 months ago.

My weight is SLOWLY going down, although nothing to write home about; I’m still considered overweight and I can’t fit into any of my clothing, which is heartbreaking for me. My running pace has moved up a minuscule amount, so I’ll take it. The bouts of insomnia are back, which admittedly sucks. I had forgotten about so much that the prozac had been treating. My periods are downright awful again. Those things I can handle.

But the biggest problem I see with the untreated me is that the insecurity is back. The fear of human interaction has returned. I am up and down and sometimes moody as fuck. There are days I can barely say hello to a person let alone have a conversation.

I know I come off rather shallow that I gave up a medication that was doing a lot of OK for me because it was making me fat. But it’s the truth. And now I am facing the fact that I am back and because I was someone else for a while, I am now very much aware of all the things I could be.

So that’s where I am now. I’m trying to mentally turn myself into that person regardless of how I actually feel. Fake it to you make it? Maybe if I force myself to rework my initial feelings, I can rewire the way my brain works? I’ve got to try something.

I don’t know why I’m writing today, frankly. I guess it just feels good to mark it down. Maybe since I can’t seem to find a doctor, and if I continue to pour my guts out online, maybe I will begin to feel better as I muddle through all of the bullshit.

Godspeed, friends.

Stories About Nothing

I’m getting older. And the wrinkles are calling their friends and those friends are calling their friends and it’s a wrinkle party on my face and I’m trying to embrace growing older and on most days it’s ok. Most. But then the metabolism slows down too and the brain starts to deteriorate after all the years spent dealing with hormones and emotions and sleep deprivation and some days? Some days it’s just sad knowing the past is gone.

Reminiscing finds me both joyful and melancholy.

But mostly joyful.

Recently I had the cancer spot frozen on my right eyebrow. You can see it below. And at first it turned brown and then pink and then it healed and it’s still there. Damned spot; probably needs to be cut out after all that. And so I’m starting to think I’ll have another scar in my future, which is what my doctor and I were trying to avoid.

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I went off antidepressants recently after 9 months of pretty OK-ness. I went off because they were making me slow in too many ways.

Life is hard, my friends. It’s beautiful and it’s worth it but it’s pretty hard too.

Today I spent $92.00 on bird paraphernalia because a blue jay recently built a nest and had her babies (yesterday) right outside my window. I was kind of hoping to attract more and so I spent hours setting up a makeshift bird sanctuary outside my window and wouldn’t you know! A few showed up and they called their friends and their friends called their friends and before I knew it, there was a small bird party outside my window.

But at some point during my bewildered awe, my sheer gleefulness at the spectacle outside my window; at some point as I watched the birds chase away the squirrels and dance among the greenery; at some point my beloved cat, Murray, came running into the house, right in through the screened in porch. He came running right up next to me and so I looked down at him hoping to share my joy with him and that’s when I noticed that he was holding a bird between his teeth.

And I screamed. I screamed loud and long and without a blemish of shame. And I’m pretty sure I aged a little more. I’m certain I’ll have more wrinkles after today. But at least I will still age. I can’t say the same about the bird.

Star Wars Half Marathon

I’m supposed to run a half marathon on Sunday and I am NO WHERE near capable of doing anything remotely close to what I have done in the past. I suffered from a stress fracture and broken toes back in January and stopped running/training for 8 weeks. I stopped everything, except for eating. I did a lot of eating. I have been running a bit again lately, biking a lot more, but nothing like what I should be doing at this point. I ran four miles yesterday in the heat and had to walk a great deal. It was rough.

I’m not sure what to do. Do I “run” it anyway and just have fun and walk whenever I need to? Or skip it entirely and just know that one day I’ll be back to where I was before?

I wish I’d had the wherewithal to have signed up for the 10K. That seems much more approachable. I’m nervous as hell right now.

I’m also 15 pounds heavier than I was in December. I need to change my ways.

Rambling. Hoping I’ll look back on this down the road and be in a better place.

Latest Cake: Sweet Sixteen

I had SO MUCH fun making this cake for a Sweet Sixteen birthday party for twins.

The cake is vanilla pound cake made with all organic ingredients as well as free range eggs. The filling is swiss meringue buttercream icing. I used Satin Ice Fondant for the outside as well as gum paste and numerous different edible food colors. (Please see all my cakes here.)

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S Town

This podcast changed my life. It was beautiful, tragic, heartbreaking and life-changing. If you haven’t started it, you should. But be warned: you can’t ever unlisten. Made many guttural sounds while out running. Tears streaming down my face. Heartbreaking and wonderful.

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Praise the Lorde

I can’t dance to save my life. I mean, I can dance. I dance just fine. My body moves in relation to however my mind feels. Sometimes, I find a beat. But most of the time I just flail around a lot. I used to not dance. I used to be embarrassed to dance. I was once told I had no rhythm and while that may be true as far as what a dance instructor desires, I could still dance. I just chose not to for too long.

I’m 43 now and I have three kids, two of them will dance with wild abandon. The oldest one is entering a stage in life where kids are being kids and they’re starting to tease one another and that sucks, but I think he’ll make it out on the other side still dancing.

Here’s the deal: even if you’re not Beyonce good, even if you’re not Lady Gaga good, dancing feels and looks fantastic. Dancing is like laughter. I think we need to do it. I think we need to seek it out. I believe dancing could save people.

Hell, even animals dance.

Anyway, I love Lorde. No, I did not misspell the other name for Jesus. I love the singer Lorde. I have for years and years. Her music is top on all of my running set lists. I put her on during our parties. I listen to her on road trips. I sing along to her on the top of my lungs in a minivan with three kids in tow while they roll their eyes. I have become that mom.

Lorde brings me a great deal of joy. I find her music to be layered and difficult and perfect and imperfect and offbeat and on-beat and danceable and nearly edible. Like, if my ears had mouths, I would eat her beats. I think she is a wonderful singer, one of the most talented artists alive today. The fact that she’s 20-years-old is downright mind-blowing. At 20, I was working at a video store. My biggest claim to fame was having the best “Employee Pick” movie shelf.

Guys, this post isn’t going to be pretty. Forgive me in advance for all the swear words, because I think there are going to be a lot of them.

I wrote this pissed off.

This is about Lorde’s dancing on Saturday Night Live and how the Internet backlash she received was downright stupid offensive. People made fun of her, saying she doesn’t know how to dance. They suggested she hire someone to teach her. Some people ridiculed this amazingly talented artist, a person who emits more creativity in a single fart than most of us create over an entire year.

I watched her dance. I found it refreshing—normal, beautiful. I found it real. I found it powerful.

My husband put it well, “I don’t understand the big deal. It just looks like a person dancing.”

Lorde’s dancing was inspirational. She made me want to get up and dance. She set an example for every little girl and boy: you don’t need a team of choreographers in order to dance. You just have to fucking want to dance.

Lorde is an inspiration. Again.

So: fuck the haters who made fun of this female artist for the way she danced on SNL. Had she been some indierock guy, you damn well know everyone would have suggested how “cute” and “trendy” and “adorable” his dancing was; how the dancing was unlike all the rest.

But she’s female and for some reason she is held to some stupid standard, some bullshit norm created by a bunch of fucking insecure douchebags.

Who decided what dancing is supposed to look like? People don’t ridicule the sound of laughter. Why would anyone make fun of another person for dancing? What the fuck is wrong with people?

One of my biggest regrets in life, and something I am trying desperately to teach my children to avoid, is that I spent far too much time comparing myself to others and feeling insecure about it. I was afraid to be different. I was afraid to do something new. I was simply afraid. That changed over time. Once I hit college I started to get it. I started to find myself a bit more. But I do wonder: had I realized this sooner, who would I be today?

I do know this much: I definitely would have danced more.

 

Alas, Babylon: A Book Review.

Back when I was planning what books to read and in what order, I skimmed some of the reviews for Alas, Babylon. I was surprised to see that SO MANY people reread this book every year. I figured they were exaggerating. Why would one do such a thing when there are so many books to read and so little time?

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But I get it now. I get why this book is one to reread. I think it’s possible to take away something new every time you read it. The subtleties are abundant.

Thus far, out of all the books listed here, Alas, Babylon sits comfortably among my top three. It is such a captivating story. Every character exists, all are believable. They are all flawed. And they are all perfect because of those flaws. What I found truly remarkable about this book, however, was that it was written in 1959 and still stands up today. It is timeless.

I was also surprised by how hopeful this book made me feel, and how positive it is. I know that seems a little unbelievable. How can a book where millions of people die due to a massive nuclear war between Russian and the United States end up leaving a person feeling hopeful? But it did. Life went on in the most subtle and sometimes beautiful manner.

Life persevered.

Alas, Babylon brought me back to my sophomore existentialism class. I hated my sophomore existentialism class. I was so excited going into it, and it just failed miserably at giving me the rich thoughtfulness I so much desired. The books we read fell into the cliché category. The topics we discussed became a bore. I never experienced any enlightenment. I never left chewing on any new thoughts. It was just blah, which is kind of ironic actually.

However, during that same semester, I also enrolled in a literature course taught by a woman in her 70s. She brought a Yorkshire terrier to class with her every single day. She wore the most elaborate and colorful outfits—long shawls and flowing scarves—and moved around the room like one of those unique deep sea creatures. She taught with her entire body. Her jewelry clanged and jingled as she moved. She was so full of life! And she went on the most spectacular tangents about the books and poems we read. Class discussions were so much fun—never a dull moment—and when class ended you felt as though you UNDERSTOOD something momentous. New ideas shot out of the back of your mind like paint pellets, coating the inside of your head like a Jackson Pollock painting.

That was the class where I learned the most about existentialism. Life stands in the most glorious, clear, and beautiful manner when it appears to be over. Everything is amplified and crisp and cherished when you’re not given the guarantee of a tomorrow. Suspended from fear, hovering within a now.

What a necessary and important concept. And Alas, Babylon touched upon that once more.

Sometimes, amidst death and destruction, compassion and appreciation swell. People start to pay attention to what matters most.

When a forest is burned to the ground, new growth often flourishes.

Alas, Babylon, a book about nuclear war, turned out to be one of the more positive books I’ve ever read.

 

Dystopian Book Reviews

I’ve been reading a lot of dystopian – even apocalyptic – literature lately. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I take comfort in this dystopian literature. I used to read a great deal of science fiction as a kid and in my 20s but in the past decade, I’ve avoided genres with too much gravity. I’m not sure what changed – or when – but I’m sure it was a side effect of becoming a wife, mother, homeowner, baker, suburbanite, news-junkie, and a couple dozen additional roles or personalities.

One must wonder, though, if there’s more to it. After all, most people grow up and take on crushing amounts of responsibility and they don’t stop enjoying uplifting titles like The Road or Breitbart News.

And why has it pivoted recently?

Mental Health is Weird

I suffer from a great deal of generalized anxiety. I never realized how much it affected me until I began working with a doctor.

Sometimes, my anxiety goes into overdrive and invites my imagination over and the two spin in an echo chamber, making each other stronger, and I’m dragged along for the ride. This doesn’t happen very often but when it does this type of shit takes place.

Let them bring out our old pal depression, and the party quickly looks like The Garden of Earthly Delights.

The instant relief provided by certain medications can be a real eye-opener. For example, a  beta-blocker or benzodiazepine like Klonopin – when taken at the appropriate therapeutic dose – doesn’t really seem to do anything (aside from being a bit lazy or sleepy at first). It isn’t like medications or drugs that get you high or have undeniable effects.

Compared to things like PCP, crack, and magnesium citrate, the power of anti-anxiety medications for people with chronic, generalized anxiety is that those substances remove symptoms you may not have even noticed.

Imagine taking a pill and, an hour later, you realize not only that you’ve had fire ants biting you constantly for the past three decades but that they’re gone. The discomfort you’d gotten so used to as a baseline is zapped and suddenly, feeling neutral is much better than even the best high.

It reminds me of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club and the shock their bodies must feel when they go from a hot tub to the icy Atlantic.

Meds can be useful (especially in early therapy), while learning cognitive behavioral therapy (changing thought patterns), new coping skills, and mindfulness.

Because of Three Mile Island and 9/11, there is a section of my brain that believes it’s only a matter of time before the human race suffers from something colossal and terrifying. Part of me believes a plague could knock out a large chunk of mankind. I believe a nuclear mishap could take down entire continents. I believe climate change and extreme weather patterns will eventually wipe out cities and towns. I am better now that I’m being treated for anxiety and depression in the sense that I can now stop my brain from going to insane levels of delusions and worry. (Like the time I was CONVINCED we had a meth lab next-door to our apartment in Brooklyn? I had the maintenance come out twice, and begged Toby to come home from his business trip early. I moved the kids into the far end of the apartment. We all slept in one huddled mass in Emory’s room for two nights. And I posted all sorts of shit on twitter about it.)

It’s not that bad anymore, but it’s still there. And I suppose I read these books because it’s nice to sit with likeminded weirdoes at the book table. It’s nice to know you’re not alone. It’s also kind of nice to be prepared should the apocalyptic shit hit the fan.

Just kidding.

There is something beautiful about science fiction and the amazingly intricate worlds people create. This form of escapism appeals to me. When it’s done well. it’s truly remarkable, like hallucinogenics (not that I know a THING about that). Anyway, it’s good to be back here, to be able to thoroughly enjoy it again and not enter some other delusional dimension.

All that said, I think I’m going to start doing some short book reviews about all the books I’ve been reading lately. I was trying to read a book a week, but I’m finding that rather difficult given some of these books are 700 pages long and I have a family to care for. But I’m doing pretty ok!

SINCE JANUARY 1, 2017

Books I’ve Read:

Normal
Alas, Babylon
The Library at Mount Char
Man In The High Castle
On The Beach
The Wolf Road
Station Eleven
The Girl With all the Gifts
Dark Matter
The Last Tribe  (Didn’t finish.)
Wool
What Alice Forgot (Vacation Book)

I am trying to stick with dystopian and science fiction, but I’m finding that I’ve needed a few vacations here and there. What Alice Forgot was a vacation, for example. A much needed, and quite enjoyable one, I might add.

Currently Reading: Next To My Bed: 

Homo Dues: A Brief History of Tomorrow (Nonfiction)
Before the Fall

Upcoming: On My Shelf: 

Divergent Series
The Giver
The Handmade’s Tale

So, I will start tomorrow. It’s going to be a bit difficult as I haven’t made any notes on the books I read months ago, but they are still there. And down the road, I will write reviews and thoughts right as I finish, perhaps even while I’m still reading. I hope you will stick by and help me out. I would love to get your point of view. I will desperately try and avoid spoilers in the body of a post but may add them in the comments. If I do add any spoilers, you will be warned at the start.

I think this may help me to focus some of my misplaced energy lately. (Also: I still can’t run so this seems like a decent/healthy enough pastime.)

Thanks for reading, friends. Please feel free to drop me some suggestions. I love suggestions.