Becoming Jill: Adventures in Adulthood

I Feel Lucky
January 10, 2011, 5:32 pm
Filed under: Depression, Positive Thoughts

I hope that I am not a shallow person, but sometimes it takes events like the shooting in Arizona over the weekend to remind me how very lucky I am. I have struggled with mental illness for over a decade now, and it’s easy to get caught up in regrets, and wishing that things had worked out differently, and feeling despondent that I haven’t achieved very much in my 30 years. Then something like this happens, and reminds me that I *am* lucky, because I have people in my life who care enough about me to make sure that I get help.

The more I read about the young man who caused all this sadness, the more clear it seems that this tragedy was not the result of over-inflamed political rhetoric, but rather from untreated mental illness.

While my own particular issues have never made me want to hurt anyone else, I can understand how it happens. I don’t know if this young man was aware that he was ill, but I do know how hard it is to get treatment. For one thing, when you are mentally ill, it’s just hard to get anything done. A lot of days, taking a shower is more than I can accomplish, and let me tell you, getting mental health care is a whole hell of a lot harder than taking a shower. If you don’t have insurance, it becomes an even more monumental task. If you do manage to get to see a doctor, can you afford to purchase the medicine they might prescribe?

I am so very, very lucky. Over the years, I have had family members and friends who would take me to the doctor if I couldn’t get there on my own. I have parents who could pay the bills, even if it meant making sacrifices elsewhere. Sometimes I have even had insurance. Right now, I am going to a great non-profit clinic where each visit is 10 bucks, and they give me sample medications for free. If I couldn’t get samples, my depression meds would cost $145 per month.

I don’t know anything about this young man’s situation, but I can empathize with the many people in this country who can’t get the help they need. I am so thankful that I can.


Chapter 15: In Which I am Obviously Grateful for my Family
January 1, 2011, 6:41 pm
Filed under: Depression, Positive Thoughts

So, in counting up all the positive things in my life, the most obvious place to start is with my family. Oy. How they drive me nuts! But underneath it all, we all love each other (I hope) and that’s always a good thing.

My family is kind of complicated due to divorce and remarriage, etc. but one thing I really like is that we are constantly absorbing new people and making them part of the big group. We even claim people who aren’t related! Our holidays usually include at least one or two “adopted” family members, and I am pretty sure my mom likes some of my friends more than me (just kidding… I hope!) So “family” has a pretty generous definition in my life, and I am grateful for all of them, even when my Papa Coats introduces me as “my granddaughter, the Obama-lover.”

There have been several periods in my life that I wouldn’t have made it through without my family, and 2010 was one of those times. When depression hits and my life falls apart, they are there to help me put it back together again, and ensure I don’t end up out on the streets. I hope to repay them by getting my shit together and making sure that I stay on top of my depression from now on so that my life no longer spirals out of control every few years.

You really can’t chose your family, so I am happy that I got such a wonderful, supportive, inclusive one!

2010: A Most Uncomfortable Year
January 1, 2011, 6:27 pm
Filed under: Depression, frugality, Updates

So, 2010 kinda sucked in a lot of ways. My depression returned, I lost my job, I lost my step-grandma, and I spent a lot of the year in Missouri helping my various relatives recover from their various surgeries. Of course, it wasn’t ALL bad! I got to spend a lot more time with my family than normal, due to the unemployment and subsequent unskilled-nursing. I found a new depression medication that seems to be working, even if I’m not 100 percent back to normal, whatever that is. I learned a lot about financial responsibility, and how to live a lot more frugally. I started writing more, due to this blog, and working on my NaNoWriMo novel (I didn’t meet the deadline, but I’ll keep going!) I think I did a lot of growing up in between the adult-diaper-changing and the bank-account-balancing. Growth is rarely comfortable, however, so I didn’t always enjoy all these lessons!

I’ve been thinking a lot about non-medication ways I can help alleviate my depression, and one of the things I return to is trying to cultivate a more positive outlook on life. I am not even sure if this IS something that can be cultivated, but more positive thoughts can’t be a bad thing, right? To that end, I am planning to blog daily about one positive thing in my life. Hopefully it will be good for my brain as well as my writing! I fully anticipate that things might get a bit esoteric (i.e., “I’m thankful for grass! It’s green and pretty!”) but I think the exercise in positive thinking  will benefit me in lots of ways.

Of course, I am still working on the whole adulthood-thing, so I plan to keep writing about that, as well. I definitely think I grew up a lot this year (AND turned 30, ugh!) but there’s still a lot of work to do. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Chapter 14: In Which I Have Various Panic Attacks in Public
November 14, 2010, 1:42 pm
Filed under: Depression, Updates

So, I have been on the Cymbalta for a few weeks now. The most noticeable difference is all the BATSHIT CRAZY DREAMS. I have never been a big dreamer, or at least, I rarely remember the ones that I have. One weird side-note: most of my dreams are narrated.  Anyway, since day 1 of the Cymbalta, my nights have been filled with rape, murder, kidnap, and general mayhem. I wake up in the middle of the night, hyperventilating, with every muscle in my body clenched in terror. Fun, huh?

Apparently this is an unofficial side-effect of many antidepressants, but not one I had encountered with any of the others I have tried. According to my psychiatrist, they should abate eventually… in the meantime, I have a nifty new anti-anxiety/sleeping medication to take a bedtime that should hopefully help. It did ok the first night, but last night was pretty terrifying… sigh.

In other news, every time I go out in public, I have a panic attack! I know you’re jealous. These have been induced by: being squished on the bus, having people stand too close to me in line, and having to wait for my prescription at the chaotic Target pharmacy. Let’s hope these anti-anxiety drugs start working, STAT!

We had a pretty terrific snow storm yesterday, hooray! I love winter, and I love snow, so this all makes me quite excited. We probably got about a foot of very wet, very heavy, very slippery snow. When I tried to venture out to perform some cat-sitting duties, I promptly slid straight off the road. Luckily, I was able to extricate myself without the aide of a tow-truck! Since I had not made it fully 4 blocks from the apartment, I decided Karen and Jeremy’s cats could fend for themselves for a day, and went home.

I love looking out the windows and seeing everything all fluffy and clean and white! I know that later in the winter, there will be times when the snow on the sides of the road is dirty and icky, but for now, I can revel in the beauty and peacefulness.


View out my window. Note the plowed-in car... sucker!

But not for long! Early in the morning, the kitties and I will be loading up the car and heading south for a few weeks. My dad is having surgery, and I’ll be lending a hand while we recovers. I can’t claim to be overly-excited about the prospect, but hopefully it will all go ok. I am a little worried about my mental state, seeing as how I can’t be near people without flipping out, but I have high hopes that I will start feeling better any day now. Gotta have faith, right?

The kitties will be going “on vacation” with Mom and Larry, and I am happy that they will have a big house to play in for a few weeks! Pipper has been especially bad with the out-0f-litterbox peeing lately, so it will also be nice not to have to deal with that for a while. He only seems to do it in my tiny apartment that he hates, so he’s usually pretty well-behaved at Mom’s house.


My name is Pip, and I disapprove of this apartment

Anyway, hopefully it will be a good trip. I’ll miss the Minnesota snow, but it will be nice to be with my own family for Thanksgiving.

Depression Hurts… Cymbalta Can Help! Hopefully…
October 29, 2010, 8:58 pm
Filed under: Depression, NaNoWriMo, Updates

So, per my doctor’s instructions, I got myself hooked up with a psychiatrist and therapist, in hopes of eventually returning to semi-human status. My psychiatrist switched me from Paxil to Cymbalta. He says the Cymbalta has a lot more “get up and go,” which I could definitely use in my life. I’ve only been on it about a week, so I haven’t noticed much of a difference yet, other than a few dizzy spells, and some crazy dreams, that I think are more related to dredging up memories than the new medication.

I had a wonderful birthday weekend, and have survived several days of being 30! My wonderful friends arranged a trip to 3 different wineries for tours and tastings, and then we capped off the day with a bonfire, yummy food and wine, and good company. An excellent time was had by all! At least I hope so…


with my favorite girls at Winehaven Winery

My mom and Larry sent me flowers via my best friend Karen, so that was a nice surprise! I’ve had to keep them high up so Kitten can’t eat them or knock them over, tho.


pretty birthday flowers!

I’m looking forward to beginning my NaNoWriMo novel on Monday! I’ve been working on characters and plotting, but I can’t officially begin writing til November 1st. I decided to do a novel set in the Regency Era, since I know lots about it and will have to do minimal research. I am billing it as as “Jane Austen meets Jane Eyre.” I don’t have a title yet, but I am super excited to get started!

We had a first few little snowflakes this week, which made me happy! I love snow, and I can’t wait for the first big storm.

I’ve been toying with the idea of posting my novel on the blog as I go along, but I haven’t made any definite decisions… thoughts?


Chapter 9: In Which I Make Discoveries that Others Find Completely Obvious. Enlightenment is Achieved.
June 20, 2010, 6:42 pm
Filed under: Depression

CHANGE has always been a four-letter word in my vocabulary. There’s not a thing about CHANGE that I like. I hate to admit it, because it sounds so boring, but I really like routine; knowing on Monday what I will be doing on Friday makes me happy. Once I figure out a good way to drive to a certain location, I use that route each and every time. Detours make me crabby. They have sometimes involved panicked phone calls to my mother, trying to walk her through using Google Maps to figure out where the hell and I am, and how to get where I am going. Usually, these conversations devolve into screaming on both sides. Fun!

So when I read this article last night, it all became clear to me! In my quest for adulthood, I CHANGED pretty much every aspect of my life overnight. As a person already predisposed to depression, the huge amount of CHANGE simply overloaded my coping mechanisms. No wonder everything fell to pieces and I got depressed! I am not sure why it took so long for this to make sense. Surely the best way to go about CHANGE is in small, manageable increments? But in my black/white existence, small and manageable increments rarely make appearances. If I can’t CHANGE everything all at once and be perfect overnight, I feel like a failure!

So, this is my goal: pick one thing to focus on each week, and give myself a chance to grow and evolve over time. Notice how I avoided the use of the evil word! Perhaps if I think of “growth” and “evolving” it won’t be as scary…

I’ve managed to do a pretty good job sticking to my financial goals, but some of the household ones have fallen by the wayside, so this week, I am focusing on having all the dishes washed before bed each and every day. Dishwater hands await!

Next time: In Which I Discover the Meaning of Life. Ha! Just kidding…

Chapter 8: In which I deal with an old, unwelcome foe, Depression. Medicine is taken.
June 15, 2010, 6:18 pm
Filed under: Depression | Tags:

Depression runs in both sides of my family. It’s something I have struggled with since my freshman year of college, and at this point, it seems like something I will have to deal with for the rest of my life.

I started feeling down shortly after Christmas, but, true to pattern, tried to pretend nothing was wrong. Every morning it was a little harder to get out of bed and get to work on time. The effort I had to expend to get through the workday exhausted me so much that I would just come home and sack out on the couch for the rest of the evening, avoiding most social interactions so I would be able to get up and do it all again the next day.

Why didn’t I call my doctor and have my meds boosted, you might ask? Why didn’t I tell my family and friends what was happening? Well, extreme stubbornness runs in both sides of my family, as well, and I hate to admit that I need help. With anything, really. No matter how many times I go through this cycle, I am always too ashamed to reach out until it’s too late.

Eventually things came to a head, as they always do. I finally reached the point where I couldn’t get out of bed, no matter how much I knew that I needed to. In a way, that was a good thing, because I was finally forced to face up to what was happening, tell someone I needed help, and try to get a handle on things.

Unfortunately, I waited too long. Although my VISTA supervisor was extremely understanding, his hands were tied—I had violated my contract, and the state office told me I had to resign. Luckily, I was allowed to take a medical withdrawal, which is much better than simply resigning or being fired. I was upset that I wouldn’t be allowed to finish the last few months of my VISTA year, but I am grateful that I was able to leave on fairly good terms.

Since then, I have been slowly getting better. My doctor boosted my meds, which has helped, and just being honest with myself and others about what was happening made me feel more in-control of my life. I have been searching for a new job, and hope to find something soon!

They say that every cloud has a silver lining, and I guess it must be true. Since I didn’t have a job, I was able to go home for 3 weeks to help my family through a difficult time. In the space of a week, my grandfather had a full hip-replacement, and my mom had knee surgery. Mom and Larry are the full-time caretakers for my 97yr old Grandma Denzel, and with mom’s knee out of commission, Larry wouldn’t be able to take care of everything alone. It was a long 3 weeks, but we all made it through! Although cleaning up another person’s bodily fluids is not high on my list of favorite things to do, I was glad that I could be useful. Of course, if I had still been working, I would not have been able to get away. Paychecks are nice, but family is important, too!

I’ve been back in Minnesota for about a week and a half now, and back into the swing of my job search. I am trying to treat it like a regular job, so I get up at a decent time and spend normal working hours sending out resumes and such. Some days that plan works out better than others!

In general, the depression is better, although by no means gone. I still feel the need to isolate myself a bit just to get by, and it’s still a struggle to do the things that need doing. However, I am ABLE to do them, which is the difference.

Depression is difficult for me to wrap my head around… Even though I have been through this cycle again and again, I often feel that if I just tried harder, it wouldn’t keep happening. My brain knows that it’s about brain chemistry, not willpower, but it’s hard to accept that when you feel like a perpetual loser. On the upside, each time I get depressed, I seem to handle it slightly better, and reach out for help a little earlier. Still not early enough to prevent a crisis, but I do know that I am making a bit of progress, which is encouraging.

I am enjoying being back in my own little shoebox, and seeing my friends fairly often. My friends Karen and Sarah are training to do a triathlon at the end of the summer (they are superstars!) and I am joining Karen on the days she goes swimming! Swimming is my most favorite form of exercise, and I know that it should also help with the depression. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the water, so my muscles are sore, but my brain is happier.

Now that I am feeling more human, I plan to return to blogging! I am sure you are all thrilled, ha! I do have some funny stories stored up to share, so be on the lookout!

Thanks to everyone who has supported me through this, and if I have been out of touch with anyone, please don’t take it personally. I’m back, and hopefully soon I’ll be better than ever!