Friday, January 22, 2016

Learning to sleep, part 1

There are stories in my family about what a night owl I was, even as a baby. I was once found sitting on top of a bookcase that was just a bit too close to my crib, some time after I'd been laid down to sleep. When I started having sleepovers, at first, I called to get picked up because I couldn't sleep. I've never slept well away from home, but I guess that's not too unusual. Eventually, I learned to just lie there and wait. My friends would fall asleep pretty quickly (I could tell by breathing patterns or probably poking them) and I would be left to stare at the ceiling or try to covertly read/occupy my time.

For some reason, it never occurred to me to talk to anyone about this. I wonder what might've been different if I had. I have always thought it was mind-boggling that people claim to fall asleep within a few minutes!

I would like to sleep this restfuly.

As a teenager, and especially starting around the time I began experiencing depression, I felt perpetually tired. I could stay in bed until noon or later, just dozing. I remember staring at the clock and getting a very good sense of how much time had passed in the night without looking, being awake for hours at a time in the middle of the night. It's really no wonder that I was exhausted.

Finally, during my college years, I started falling asleep faster (maybe within 30 minutes instead of an hour or more) and stopped waking up during the night as often. If I did wake up, I could usually fall back asleep within 30 minutes. During my junior year, I started waking up once per night, several times during the week, feeling as though I'd stopped breathing. I would cough and catch my breath, then go back to sleep. I brought it up to my doctor and she suggested I might have "mild sleep apnea". It wasn't a problem as long as I slept on my side or stomach, just on my back. I had always preferred sleeping on my stomach anyway.

The apnea seemed to go away, or I wasn't woken by it anymore, after a few months. It would happen only a few times a year that I could remember. After college, my chiropractor told me to stop sleeping on my stomach because it was hurting my back, so I made back-sleeping my primary position. The apnea still didn't seem to be an issue. I was still "always tired", but sleeping through the night.

Over the past couple of years, the frequency has changed. I'm woken up by the sleep apnea at least once a month. My new psychiatrist asked me about my sleep quality about a month ago and I told him the usual: with a history of insomnia, I feel like my current sleep quality is adequate. How could I know what is really a "good" night of sleep if I've rarely had them? I can only remember a couple of times that I felt like I had good sleep, and those were very short periods of time (a month or two here and there). I have no idea what helped during those times. I refuse to make coffee-drinking a habit, especially because it seems like it is just covering up the issue without actually dealing with it.

With my husband's comments in mind (that I never seem to sleep well and that I do snore a bit), I went back to the psychiatrist and talked to him about my sleep history. He concluded that the sleep apnea may not be "mild" and it's very common to not remember being woken up by it, if the wakening is very brief. Even if I'm not being woken up by it, it's very possible, given my general affect of someone who is sleep deprived, that my sleep apnea is really affecting my quality of life. 30 minutes to fall asleep is not too terrible, but it is a bit long.

Next month during my annual physical, I'll be asking for a referral to a sleep clinic. My insurance will cover 80% of the costs after my deductible, which is $500. Fortunately, I have an FSA this year, so it'll probably all go on that. I'm now wishing I'd put more into the FSA.

Quite honestly, I'm excited about this. I would really like to wake up in the morning and feel like I'm ready to just get up and start my day. I don't know if I've ever felt like that before. I'll write a follow-up post when I have some more information from my primary care physician or the sleep clinic!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Getting back to me

Last year, I caught the weight-lifting bug from CrossFit and then ended up spending the rest of the year in physical therapy for my wrists, shoulders, and now back. To be fair, this was CrossFit on top of an insane amount of shoveling all on my own, so I don't completely blame CF for this.

Well, the back issues might have been from doing aggressive pilates at home. Who knows. I didn't get to ride my bicycle to work, something that I have looked forward to doing every year for the past several years.

I spent most of the year feeling pretty sorry for myself, so I guess in retrospect it's not that surprising that I ended up incredibly depressed starting around June. I pretty much crashed by October and the psychiatrist I was seeing at the time hospitalized me against my will. That's not an experience I'm willing to write about further just yet. It's safe to say that it was fairly traumatic to have that decision taken away from me, though the experience in the hospital was not all that horrible.

Now that my shoulders are better, my wrists are pretty much healed, and my back is improving, I'm getting back into working out. I got a membership at Gold's Gym and had a few free personal training sessions. I didn't entirely agree with the trainer's approach to fitness (though she was very supportive over focusing on strength over "weight loss"), but it was still helpful to get some outside perspective. I've done some of my own research on what kind of regular routine I'd like to do.

My main focus now is starting at Orange Theory Fitness. I don't think I can explain it well, but it's basically hour-long classes of HIIT (high-intensity interval training). The class gets split between the rowers/weight section and treadmills, and you swap halfway through. You wear a heartrate monitor the whole time and the whole aim is to get your heart rate up and down to really put it through its paces. There's some possibly nonsense "science" behind all of this leading to weight loss or something. I'm just interested in feeling like my endurance is good (could run a mile if I needed to) and strong enough to jump/climb/lift as much as I might want.

And maybe I'll do barbell training on the side, we'll see.

Monday, December 07, 2015

My first Rent The Runway!

I read about this website Rent the Runway quite a while ago and thought I'd never try it, though the dresses are pretty. This fall, I realized that I had nothing suitable to wear to my husband's company holiday party and didn't really want to buy something new. I knew that a new dress would sit in my closet for a year or longer until the next remotely semi-formal outing came along. Why not wear something once and feel like I got my money's worth?

Rent the Runway is not subscription based, so you can rent whenever you like for no monthly/regular fees. My dress was around $40 to rent for 4 days (that stupidly includes the delivery day, which means I got it the night before the event on Friday).

It took me a little while to pick a dress. I think everything was way too formal at first. I finally narrowed it down to two possibilities: a little black dress, or the Rainwater dress. Typically, you can't go wrong at any event with an LBD, but I wasn't sure how the straps & neckline would look on my broad shoulders. I loved the colors on the Rainwater dress, so I read through the reviews, saw that the bust runs small (a good thing for me) and went for it.

My dress arrived just before 8 PM on Friday. I tried on my first size and couldn't get the zipper up. I really had no idea what size I wore, so I ordered my usual pants size, plus the next smallest size. The pants size was the right one, it fit perfectly!


First, I got to be confused about the package that had arrived. A... bag? Let me tell you, this looked highly suspicious sitting on my front steps. I figured out how to unlock it, unzipped, and then unfolded. It's a garment bag! Inside were my two dresses, a return shipping label, and two more little zipping lock things for the return delivery. One was broken, but I fortunately only needed one.

Sorry I only took crappy iPhone photos.

Yay! So cute. You can also see my lovely haircut.

I figured black tights were more winter appropriate and I wore my so freaking comfy black leather flats. Check them out here

I snuck a photo with the husband. Trust me, he looked dashing. The tie colors matched my dress.

The last part of my ensemble was a silver scarf, which I already owned. I thought that was a nice way to lighten up the colors, plus it went well with the silver accents in the dress. My earrings are vintage silver and the necklace I've just had for ages. Oh I also wore my college graduation ring, aka. Galadriel's Nenya

Oh, sorry. Lastly, this is the make-up I wore, except a little less "wing".

All in all, I do recommend Rent the Runway! Return delivery was easy: find a UPS store or drop-box and leave the package there! They do the cleaning for you and I even got to keep the hangers. They have a pretty wide size range, from women's 0 to 22, which I think is great, though I don't know how many options there are in the higher sizes.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Medication isn't so bad, for me

I just want to say that I'm sorry.

I'm sorry if I ever spoke disparagingly about treating any kind of illness with or without medication.

I'm sorry if I acted pretentious about treating any illness with diet and exercise alone.

And thanks for being patient with  me.

I'm back on an anti-depressant for the first time in years. I was angry at first, when I realized an episode of depression wasn't lifting and was just getting worse. A general physician told me to try anti-depressants before trying to pin the blame on anything else. It took a while to get an appointment to meet with a new psychiatrist, but when I finally did, she gave me something new to try. At first, I was encouraged. I really didn't want to try all the prescriptions I'd tried before because I didn't like how they made me feel. I wouldn't feel depressed, but also not really capable of joy. I could find something amusing, but couldn't laugh much. Without medication, the ability to laugh would come back, but so did the episodes of depression. In hind sight, this didn't change all that much when I used natural supplements to treat my depression either.

With the new medication came some really difficult side effects. At first, I thought it was helping, but I really wasn't sure. The doctor had told me it was her go-to prescription for depression so I trusted that it would be a good fit for me. Ultimately, it made things a lot worse and in an emergency, I ended up meeting with another doctor temporarily. He got me off the new med and onto something I'd tried before, but never on its own. After a couple of weeks, I felt much more sure that it was helping me feel better. In the meantime, I'd been meeting with my therapist again on a weekly basis. I felt encouraged just by meeting with that temporary doctor and feeling like they really supported me. It also kind of helped to have someone else say "That medication is NOT for you and should not make you feel that way". It can be hard to be your own advocate so it felt really good to have someone else stand up for me and my health. This gave me the confidence to go back and see the psychiatrist one more time: to get a refill and to increase the dose of the new medication. I felt like I could get a little more out of it, and a few weeks later, I was certain that was the right choice.

I'm meeting with a new psychiatrist soon because I don't feel comfortable working with the first one anymore (for a few reasons, mostly that I don't feel like I can trust her). I've realized that it's totally okay to look for a new doctor when one doesn't click with me. I need to feel comfortable with my doctors so that I can put my health in their hands, if need be.

From the doctor who gave me the working medication, I also got a prescription for something to help with anxiety. I've never had something specifically for anxiety before! Let me tell you, it's so nice to have something that helps quickly and takes the pressure off struggling with my own brain. Longterm, I would like to handle my own crazy thoughts with better skills and practice. When that feels too difficult, I have a real crutch to fall back on. I've finally accepted that this is a totally acceptable form of treatment for me.

I used to be such a jerk about using medication to treat psychiatric disorders. Maybe it is possible to treat them without prescription drugs, but I've tried and I'm not willing to do that right now. Right now, I have something working and I am lucky enough to not have any noticeable side effects. I'm not worried about any "what if's" right now, which is a new feeling! I've always been a big worrier due to my anxiety, but now I can tell my brain to set those concerns aside and focus on right now. Right now, this works and I don't want to try anything else.

To anybody out there who is treating mental illness with or without medication: I support your decision. Please do not stop fighting for yourself. Please consider trying different doctors until you find the right one that will support you. You deserve to find balance and peace in your mind!

Monday, October 19, 2015

To write a book... or not.

I think I first wanted to be a writer when I was very young. I can remember writing short stories, things I hoped could expand to epic tales or novel series, on my parents old Macintosh computer. We may have still had dial-up internet at that time. On and off over the course of my life, I've taken up the hobby of writing. Poems, prose, short stories, never much longer than that. And journals. Lots and lots of hand-written journals, whereas most of everything else ended up on a computer.

I don't have it anymore. Any of it, except for what survived my archived files from college, and that's just some work from creative writing classes. Any other computerized writing never survived the many transfers from family system to family system, and I think at some point, I went and deleted anything that was so juvenile it seemed "embarrassing". Possibly the worst travesty is my decision earlier this year to purge all of my hand-written journals, the contents spanning thoughts from over ten years of my life. Sometimes I maintain that this was a wise decision to forge ahead and try to let go of past events that I may be lingering over too much, but I clearly do have some regret over it. I guess have some forgiveness to do.

Many years ago, I re-read an old journal and was depressed by what I'd written. I made a rule then, and stuck by it, that I would never read anything in my journal again after an entry was written. The only exceptions were to reference dates in the most current journal. I can think of very few times that I violated this rule. I considered a few years ago going through all of the journals to extract some entries and compile a memoir of sorts, but that option is lost to me now. Now it would be half-fiction, but maybe that's not such a bad thing.

The earliest story I can remember writing is one about the cat I grew up with. I wrote that my sister and I discovered Mourka could talk and that she lead us on some epic adventures. She introduced us to our neighborhood friend's cats, who could also talk, but had been hiding the ability until Mourka deemed it was appropriate. At some point in the course of the story, I knew I wanted Mourka to rescue us from a kidnapper and/or vise versa, but I never knew how to get from the introduction to the action, so I skipped ahead, thinking I would fill that in later. I never did, but I think the story ended up being something like 17 pages in Word (probably your old standard of 12 point font, Times New Roman). I'm still impressed with that.

Perhaps due to my own arrogance about my creative writing abilities, I never learned a good editing strategy. Maybe this is a more common flaw among writers than I seem to think. The only writers that I've ever spoken to were peers, who always sounded so much more confident than I was. They knew more technical terms to describe their story composition or writing methods, at least. Some that I have spoken to are published now, at least with articles somewhere online, or still seem to write regularly. I'll admit that other people's successes tend to scare me away from even trying.

The prevailing theme behind all of my fictional stories has been some kind of rescue. Whether that was someone else helping the main character, or the main character figuring shit out for themself, they'd get a happy ending. It was something I couldn't see for myself at times during my depressed adolescence and it made me feel better to write about it or imagine scenarios while it could about. It took me a long time to figure out that I had to rescue me, I had to write my own happy ending in life (though life is a journey, not a destination), and really accept that responsibility. I still struggle with it. So I imagine that any book I'd write would be kind of in a journal form, with entries spanning many years, and inspiring hope in any young, depressed readers who might come across it. That's what I'd want anyway.

So. Among my many endeavors, hopes, and ambitions in life, I am adding back "to write a book". It might never happen, but at least I can say I tried.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Stitch Fix - July 2015

Today, I received my second order from Stitch Fix (referral link, I'll get credit to use towards a purchase if you sign up and place an order through this link). It's a personal styling service which will mail you clothes & accessories based on a style profile that you fill out. It also helps to keep a Pinterest board of inspiration images with notes about what you like. I first used the service in February or March of this year and kept everything that they sent me! I wear 4 of the pieces constantly, but rarely wear the bird scarf. I realize now that it's because I don't know if I like wearing so much black bundled around my neck, even though I typically like black clothing.

As you can see in the first image, they send you a styling card and a little note from your stylist about some of the things they picked out for you. I have until July 30th to decide what I want to keep (just under a week).

The first item was this clutch, called the Juno Small Folded Clutch. I don't really like gold tones for accessories or jewelry...or anything. It just doesn't work with my skintone, but the color of the leather is really lovely. I like the idea of having a small purse for just my phone and wallet, if I don't want to worry about pockets or carry my large bag. I think I'll keep this one, but I'm not sure. $38 (Edit on 7/27, decided to keep)

My husband helped with some photography.

I love this one. I popped on a skirt that I already own, but I can see myself wearing it with jeans, to the office, or...anywhere. It's very soft and flattering on my shoulders. I can also wear it in pretty much any season, which is what I requested for this particular Fix. Morlan Halter Top - Keeping it! $48

 Yeah, this one was a failure. It would definitely work better with jeans, but the garment was damaged anyway (the hem was sewn onto the body of the shirt in one spot). I didn't like the fit on my torso, it felt loose in a baggy way, unlike the cobalt blue top. Sending it back - Laguna Embellished Neckline Blouse, would've been $48 (Edit on 7/27: decided to keep, I emailed Stitch Fix about the damage and they offered 15% discount on it to go towards repair. I'm going to see if I can make it work)

 Okay so I'm sold on the striped Parma Open Cardigan ($48) though probably not paired with this dress, but on the fence about the Jakobe Chevron Print Maxi Dress ($54). I think the fit of the dress is much better in these pictures than I saw it on myself in the mirror.

I took this last one to get a sense of what it'd be like to use the clutch. Hmm...leaning more towards keeping it.

So if I keep everything, I get a 25% discount on the whole order, plus $20 off from my styling fee, and $5 off from a referral. That brings the total to $152, which is right around what I wanted to spend. But I'm not sure if I want to keep the clutch or the dress. I'm only really certain about keeping the blue shirt, the striped cardigan, and sending the black shirt back.

What do you think?!

Edit 7/27: I decided to keep everything and get the discount on the whole order.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Loneliness as a learning experience

"So I leaned into the loneliness, and when I did, I felt an enormous wave of love wash over me. I was feeling lonely because of the incredible love I have in my life, in this home. I missed my husband and my son so much, and in that longing for their companionship, I began to run through my mind all the times that I longed to be away from them--all the times I lost my temper or took out my frustrations on them.

It was icky and nasty, and I leaned into it. "

quotes from Neghar Fonooni, in a recent newsletter

When Hulky and I are apart, I get lonely very easily, but I have realized that there's a lot of love in that loneliness. Without the love that we have in our relationship, I would not feel so sad at my partner's absence. I have found the time to be motivated, improve on myself, run some personal experiments, all while looking forward to seeing him again.

"When we lean into [loneliness], invite it to stay for dinner, give it the room it needs to breathe--then we experience the freedom that comes from opening up to what's in our hearts. When we allow the discomfort the space it needs to dissipate, we can stop resisting, and start living."

Last night, loneliness caught up with me and I stayed up very late, watching Jurassic Park III. I ate a bunch of ice cream (Ben & Jerry's, of course) and cuddled up under the most fuzzy blanket in the world. I emotionally checked out and just let my brain rest. It was needed. Today is back to the grind and I'm feeling ready to take on a few more small projects before Hulky gets home on Friday.

If Depression was a pool that we wade in, and sometimes drown, I probably only get to my knees on the worst days in recent years. More often, it's just ankle-deep, and sometimes I just stand at the edge with small splashes on my toes. It's always present, I always see it even if I don't feel it. Just like loneliness, I am sometimes able to let depression just exist and explore it. It is in those times that I remember depression and feeling depressed are not the same thing. One can linger for weeks at a time, the other typically passes much sooner and is a lot easier to work through on your own.

I might think of my periods of feeling depressed as episodes of healing. They are short enough that I can't really do any deep-wading and I tend to make some helpful internal observations during those times. This is very relevant after seeing the movie "Inside Out" which was adorable, by the way. The primary message I got from it is "Sadness has a purpose." Sadness allows us to process our feelings and It's when sadness lingers and becomes Depression that it can be a problem, when we end up stuck wallowing instead of using grief as a way to heal.