Wednesday, October 17, 2018

I was hospitalized (part 1)

This story has been calling me to write. It's been three years now and it seems now that it's time for me to talk about it. A fair amount of people in my life may know that this occurred, but probably little other details. The only people who know most of what happened are my husband and sister, who were there for me in any way I needed during that time. For that, I am eternally grateful.

In October of 2015, I was hospitalized against my will in a psychiatric program for about 5 days.

Content warning for psychiatric hospitalization, thoughts of suicide, medication overdose, and overall depressing experience.

With the way my memory works, I can only tell you that I remember having an increasingly hard time staying afloat. As the year continued, my mood tended to list more and more towards almost always depressed. I wasn't sleeping well. I couldn't concentrate. I wasn't enjoying much. I don't think there was something specific going on, just one of those extended periods of time in my life when my brain needed some extra help. I finally accepted it in the summer and sought out psychiatric help in the form of medication. I'd been off of any kind of psych meds for at least a couple of years, feeling very much in those years that they were only harmful to my quality of life and suppressed my ability to enjoy life while dampening the experience of depression. I had tried many different supplements to manage the depression back then.

Days before hospitalization (teal hair)

I've written a little about acquiring this new medication previously. It took some time to be seen (end of August), but I found a new doctor and was excited to have the opportunity to tell my story to someone new, having seen more than a few psychiatrists since I was first diagnosed with depression in 2004. I was happy to have the opportunity to say "I didn't like how all these SSRI's worked for me" and try something new. It's not uncommon for users of SSRI's to report that they feel their personality is muted or that while the depression is lessened, their overall experience of life is too (can't feel sad, but can't really feel happy either). The doctor told me there were other types of anti-depressants available to try, like SNRI's. I was prescribed Remeron.

The doctor advised that I should take it no later than 30 minutes before bed and not to get up after taking it, as it would make me very tired and possibly dizzy. Early on, I did get up a couple of times to use the bathroom and it was pretty scary. At the time, we lived in a 2nd floor apartment and you had to pass the open stairwell to get to the bathroom in the hall. I clutched at door frames very carefully. Even in the day, I was pretty tired. Weeks passed and I wasn't sure I felt much better yet, the fatigue was overwhelming.

I must have taken Remeron for close to a month. The doctor told me that this medication takes effect much faster than SSRI's, which can be about 6 weeks before you feel the positive effects (side effects crop up much sooner). At some point, I had bedtime thoughts while staring at my bottle of pills remembering my first hospitalization. "If I take more, maybe I can go to sleep and when I wake up, everything will be better." The same thoughts I had in 2004 before my partial hospitalization (and that time I did try to overdose). This time, they were just unwanted intrusive thoughts and I didn't think I'd act on them (again), but in the interest of honesty, I told my doctor during an appointment soon after. She was alarmed and told me she recommended emergency hospitalization.

I argued against it, telling her I felt safe enough, but as she continued insisting and essentially told me I had no choice, I started crying. She let me call my husband and have him take me to the ER, where they'd be expecting me. From there, I'd be taken to an available psych program (availability dependent on a "bed" i.e. space in the program). I didn't understand the implication at the time, but had I not turned up at the ER, there may have been legal repercussions (Emergency restraint and hospitalization of persons posing risk of serious harm by reason of mental illness aka Section 12, Massachusetts law). My poor husband didn't understand that I was being told to do this against my will, but it's probably for the best, as he never would haven taken me otherwise. I felt numb.

Thus began hours of waiting in a private room in the ER, bored in a hospital gown, eating crappy ham & cheese sandwiches, while they tried to find an available bed for me. I think I read some graphic novels on my smartphone and my husband kept me company the whole time. I wanted to let someone in my family know what was going on, so I texted with my sister. As I usually do for comfort, I tried cracking jokes with any medical professionals that came by for tests, probably confusing them a little as I was supposedly massively depressed. Finally, they found an opening at Walden Behavioral Care and they made me get transported by ambulance. My husband followed in his car. The guy in the ambulance was friendly and asked about my Sabriel tattoo. It was my first time being totally aware during an ambulance ride (and only my second ambulance ride ever) and I realized you could see out the back window while sitting up on the gurney. I wondered if anyone could see me.

When we got to the facility, they wheeled me down a hallway with some pretty dismal paintings of flowers. To this day, my husband rags on me for missing a golden opportunity to say "Wow, those are depressing." So there you go, I shared the joke with somebody.

To be continued...

Friday, October 05, 2018

Life in the west so far

There are many things so far that are different about living in California as opposed to Massachusetts, but here are some of the highlights or most amusing ones:

  • The carwash phenomena: people line up in droves to get their car washed here on the weekends. There's plenty of pollen in the air and it's SO dusty out here. Central CA is pretty dang dry. Parking under a tree in MA might lead to leaves piling up and eventually pollen as well as bird poop, but it could take several days before that's an issue. Parking under a tree here isn't worth it to keep your car in the shade because it will coat your car in dust, pollen, and sap in one day. I can't see out of my back windshield at the moment. Fortunately, my apartment complex has a carwash station set up (aka. a hose under a covered awning, provided specifically for washing your car).
  • The weather really doesn't change: in MA, and many other parts of the country that experience inclement weather or all four seasons, it's very likely you could experience drastic temperature differences from one day to the next. Not only that, but you might have cloud cover, or it might rain, snow, there might be high winds... you never know (because the meteorologists definitely don't)! Here, it's basically sunny every day. Daytime to nighttime temperature differences can be pretty big, 30-40 degrees. This week the temperature has been lower in the daytime, in the 80s as opposed to 90s, so it may be cooling down for the season, but I've only seen clouds on a few days in the two months I've lived here so far. There have only been 3 days I remember being fully or mostly cloudy, and we've had about a total of 1 hour of rain. I do miss rain, but the sunshine in the winter will be good for my Seasonal Affective Disorder.
  • People here don't understand why the lack of weather is weird to me.
  • People here don't understand what "cold weather" can really be like.

And, generally, how am I? How is it living here? I'm okay. Life has its usual ups and downs, anxieties, joys, depression, rage, and calm. Life isn't "the same", but it's not that different either. I just can't get up and go see friends or family quite as easily, but I'm doing what I can to stay in touch. It still feels like a kind of weird extended vacation that I brought my cats and all my stuff along for. I still think of Massachusetts as home.

As usual, I want to make a Halloween costume, but I have no idea what to make and it needs to be something I'd wear again (either as regular clothing or for future Halloweens). I'm leaning towards a zip-up onesie of an animal. Unicorn maybe? I've always liked dragons.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Activism about... beauty products?

I want to sell you something and it is safer beauty and personal care products. Why am I/are you doing this? That question is for me, but I'll share my long-winded answer with you in a couple of blog posts. If you read any or all of this, thanks for your attention!


A couple of years ago, I decided I wanted to get more involved with activism and advocating for causes I believe in. It started out with just donating a few times of year to organizations I wanted to support. Now I'm wondering what more I can do... There's so much I care about and so much in the world that could use improvement! I'm still very interested in getting involved with resources for teens with mental illness, but until I figure out how to do that, I'll find something else.

[Enter Beautycounter]: I'll be 100% honest with you: I signed up to be a consultant for Beautycounter entirely for me. It was worth it for the discount alone because I knew exactly what I wanted to try for the rest of the year! I'm slowly replacing everything I use on my body with their products and I love them. So yes, now I'm a consultant and what does that mean? I can sell you stuff and maybe make a little money (basically like a commission). You can buy nice things that are good for your skin and help support a mission focused on safer beauty and personal care products. And for my sake, here's where you probably start to care about the "why" of it all.

Isn't it an MLM?

So, no.

Multi-level marketing is based on various tiers of people who sign up for the same company/service. Person A signs up and then person B signs up under person A's name, and person C gets referred etc. etc. The money ends up coming mostly from being able to continue networking. Who really knows that many people??? The answer is social media, but its still dependent on growing a very large audience. You have to be an "online presence" so I've found that (big time) bloggers tend to succeed and I've never heard of a personal success story through any degrees of Kevin Bacon (meaning people I know). (I don't know Kevin Bacon, that was a weird joke.)

Direct sales, which is Beautycounter, give consultants rewards and payments based on the direct sales that they make to other people (though I believe some amount of personal purchases also counts). You also get rewarded for recruiting new consultants and members (members get product credit with each order to use for future orders). But you don't need to build a whole pyramid of people because person B's members aren't going to impact your earnings in any way. I actually find all of this really interesting because I've never read a whole lot about these kinds of "work from home" opportunities (or schemes, as some may call them). You just hear "they're bad", but like all things, not all work from home opportunities are bad...

Anyway, this isn't an MLM. Beautycounter uses this method of sales to help spread their mission about safer beauty! It makes you talk to people! Wait, was this really a good idea for me...?

Got it? Okay, so if you're still with me...

Who cares about this?

I mean, hopefully you, but I'm sure at least one person you care about does and please feel free to share this with anyone. Here's the thing: beauty products aren't regulated enough.

"Companies and individuals who manufacture or market cosmetics have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their products. Neither the law nor FDA regulations require specific tests to demonstrate the safety of individual products or ingredients. The law also does not require cosmetic companies to share their safety information with FDA." source from FDA website


Okay, okay, okay. Companies can get into major trouble if they improperly label their products, we know that. But there's a lot of blind trust going on with the manufacturing of these products that we as consumers mostly know nothing about! I'm sure it would be difficult to start making regulations on the safety of cosmetic products, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't do it. If we don't do something that's hard, we'll never get anything important done.

Look at all that bread!

Take the USDA. The US Department of Agriculture exists to try and help people be healthy when it comes to food choices. Their recommendations are based on peer-reviewed research (which means qualifying experts have seen the research and agree with the findings), but you still have plenty of people out there who think their recommendations are absurd or wrong. Over time, their recommendations have changed, as all things should as our technology advances and we are able to perform more in-depth and accurate testing. The USDA isn't necessarily wrong, but just because it approves of something, that doesn't mean it's right. Trust but verify (and come to your own conclusions)! 

When it comes to the FDA, I'm saying its the same. Of course you can't put illegal ingredients in your personal care products or cosmetics and your facility should be clean etc., but... kind of anything goes as long as its not mislabeled. There are still plenty of people out there who think that some of these ingredients should not be used. There's not enough evidence out there right now for the government to completely vilify all of them, like parabens and sulphates. We need more studies! How can we make that happen? I don't know.

That's a lot of pressure for us lowly consumers, right? How are we supposed to know if something is truly safe? How can we decide if the ingredients are ones that we want to use or avoid? Why can't I just pick anything up off the shelf?

To be clear, I'm generalizing on a lot of this. I'm not a scientist. I work in IT, I was an English major. I may sound a little like conspiracy theorist, but its worth it to share something I'm passionate about. Just reading that FDA page was enough to tick me off. 

Next time, on the Nameless Wonders: I'll actually tell you about Beautycounter.

(and yes, if you buy through my Beautycounter links, I'll get some commission.)

Monday, July 09, 2018

Feelings are sometimes a choice

I periodically wonder if there's any purpose to keeping this blog. It's essentially a public journal, more for processing my own thoughts and feelings than any sort of social interaction. Though, I have to be honest with myself and admit that I do like to know when people are reading.

I recently turned thirty years old. I'm about to embark on the biggest move of my life, across the country to California. I've been married five years. My cat is finally at a normal weight. I'm almost done getting my entire left leg tattooed. So you can see there's a lot that's been going on.

I will miss my dirty city.

Turning thirty is not a huge deal and I actually kind of enjoy telling people that I'm thirty now (and still haven't ever broken a bone). Every year around my birthday, I think about what it feels like to be a different age. It's all relative. Age really is just a number. I am just as insecure in some ways as I was many years ago, but there are plenty of other ways in which I have grown. I'm fairly proud of the person I am now and who I continue to try to be. It's very true that you're only as old as you feel and that includes emotionally as well as physically.

Sometimes I still feel like I am a lost teenager inside, with an inadequate vocabulary to intelligently express myself and exceptionally low confidence. Every age I have been or phase I have lived through is still a part of me. I get to become a more complex person as every moment passes and can choose to keep or throw away different aspects of myself. It's pretty amazing.

With that self-awareness, I have discovered that I sometimes (more often than I'd like) choose to be miserable. Being depressed felt like a default state of being for a long time and it's easy to slip back into that mindset. More often now, I am able to recognize that choice of being self-defeating and reconstruct my thoughts towards something more productive. Rather than just wallow on the topic that makes me feel upset ("woe is me, my life sucks, I hate everything"), I take a doubt that's floating around in my head and try to address it.

As an example, if I am really stressing about the move to CA, I try to answer one of the questions that's bugging me. "What if the moving truck catches on fire?" Well, we have renter's insurance, so we'll submit a claim and get a much money as we can to replace our belongings. "What if insurance won't cover enough?" We have friends and family who would be willing to put us up until we get back on our feet. If I don't answer those questions, I tend to just keep spiraling into what-ifs until they get really disastrous. The worst questions are the "What if someone I love dies?" and that's the only one I try not to think about.

And when I'm really really struggling and I'm alone (because otherwise David would be the one to soothe my worries), I think about Baba. I think about how proud she would be of David and me. I think about the stories she told me about her move to America with her family and how brave she was. I think about the stories I would get to tell her about my move and any crazy obstacles we had to deal with along the way. She would believe in me.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Memory Eternal

I cannot accurately say how much I miss her.
May 13, 2017

Before Baba died, I knew she was ready for it. We all did. She was impatient for her time to come and more than a little grumpy with God for not having taken her yet. That's not an easy thing to be around, though I think I was one of the few people that appreciated her morbid jokes about it. I'll save those for another time. Frankly, it was hardest when she talked about her inevitable death for the seventeen years between my grandfather's passing and her own. "When I die, do you want the bedroom set or the dining room set?" I was probably in my early teens the first time I remember that coming up. Conversations with Baba could easily become one-sided, but I never minded.

I think she knew what she was doing. She prepared us for her passing as best as she could. She wanted nothing more than to know that we were all taken care of. She passed on so many stories and so much wisdom to every life she touched. Those are the things that make someone's memory eternal.

So I miss her and I am glad she is at rest. I keep thinking "I'm glad she's gone," but it sounds heartless and she isn't truly gone. My religious or spiritual views are variable at best, but I still like to think that her soul is happy somewhere without the burden of her body and that she is reunited with my grandfather.

And if I ever need to talk to her, I know where she is. This time, she will be the one who gets to listen.

December 24, 2017

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Understanding grief

Every day of this process has made me realize how removed I am from death. When I was eleven years old and my grandfather passed away, I did not want to see his body. We got the news as we were driving up to Maine on Christmas morning, my dad pulling over in a parking lot to take the call on one of the family's first cellphones. We went straight to the hospital from there and I would not go in to his room. At the funeral, I would not go into the visitation room until the casket was closed. I remember seeing the top of his head just peeking over the edge of the casket as I glanced from the hallway. It was unnerving. That head, which had been his, but wasn't anymore.

My mom has likened a dead body to that of a glove, after the hand has been removed (I always internally added to that, "but retains its shape"). We come up with all kinds of analogies to explain death because it's not something we are exposed to often, and then when we are, we are not ready for it. We use analogies to explain all kinds of things about the human body. We explain things in terms of machinery and computers, when the reality is, our bodies are the inspiration and source for all of those patterns and mechanisms.

I polled a few people in the days preceding the funeral. Have you been to many funerals, especially as an adult? Did you view the body? Was it weird? I did not want to tarnish my memories of my grandmother with the image of her vacated body. I was afraid it would look like her, but somehow wrong. Ultimately, I realized that as much as she meant and still means to me, this made her body the best and not worst for me to view as exposure to death.

I was actually impressed at the care taken with her body when I finally stepped up to see it. She looked like herself on a good day, still old, but maybe less tired. Some of the wrinkles were smoothed out, but in a relaxed way. It was like a very accurate wax figure, where it really looks like the person, there are just a few things that simply cannot be recreated. The one thing I did expect turned out to be true: it is eerie to see a body that does not breath and where you cannot see a pulse. Something in my brain kept telling me that it should move, like the moment you watch a sleeping pet or loved one and you aren't sure if you saw their chest rise, but then it does. Except in this case, where it never rises again.

There will be more to say and more grieving to do as time goes on. My feelings are confusing to me now. When I am surrounded by my family, I can feel their grief, but not my own. With my husband by my side, I can feel anchored and calm, and can then quest inward to find my buzzing thoughts and questions. I am still as impatient ever. I hate the unknown. I hate the waiting. There is a lot to do of both.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Thoughts for the week #9 - Stitch Fix #3

I've got some money burning a hole in my pocket because I don't have free time for a new tattoo :(.

So new clothes it is! Just in time for a new job.

I got my stylist fee waived from this order, so if I hadn't bought anything, I could've sent it all back with no charge (usually $20). If you want to try Stitch Fix, click here to read my last review and here to use my referral link to sign up!

This was a mixed bag. I'll start with the two items I kept for the discount, but sold on a Facebook group (so I got the 25% discount for keeping everything).

Clement Scoop Neck Blouse

Eh. It felt too loose to me, especially around the armpits. The color is not good either. I learned today that summer tones are best for me. That means pink, red, and orange have to have a blue base in order to look okay with my skin tone. Yellow can only be pale, but I don't like wearing yellow anyway. Even with how small these flowers are, I just didn't feel like it worked. Status: sold to someone who wanted it.

Malaika Henley Blouse

Eh, again. The second photo of the skirt shows the only way that I felt like I could wear this. And I don't wear high-waisted skirts very often. The colors were okay, but I felt like it emphasized my shoulders in a bad way and was just too flowy for me. Status: sold to someone who wanted it.

On to the good stuff!

Nancie Pointelle Detail Open Cardigan

A good color on me and very soft! This was a no brainer. Status: kept.

Phillip Printed Straight Leg Trouser

Whoa. Okay. My first thought was "Grandpa". And then "Grandpa whose pants shrank." I'm not a fan of cropped pantlegs. It especially sucks that I can only wear one particular pair of sneakers right now so I look extra dorky in these. Buuuttttt the color is good for me and it's something different. I'll risk it. Status: kept.

Dorianna Skinny Jean

My favorite item from the box! Cropped pants again, bummer, but the color works for me, I think. Plus they're really soft, look great on my bum, and are insanely comfortable. I'm not sure I could make these work appropriate because they're technically jeans (business casual with the right blouse?), but I'll definitely wear them outside of work. Status: kept.

Overall the total price for the order with the discount was $279, which is more than I usually pay. That averages to $55/item. I hope they hold up well!