Happiness is a choice!….and Cake Suicide (part four)

Turns out, Zoloft was the magic pill. It took about 3 weeks of dosage adjusting to completely stabilize and I’m now a different person. I haven’t been depressed since early February. This is SENSATIONAL for me. I can’t believe I get to be happy – an emotion so foreign to me. The veil of sadness has lifted. I feel like my world has exploded with Technicolor and I’m experiencing everything for the first time.

For those of you skeptical of anti-depressants, let me say it doesn’t create a new, rose-colored world of alternate reality. It just balances out your hormones so that you can DEAL with life. My insomnia is still here, and still raging. My GI still gives me the middle finger every day. I’m not jumping from one puffy pink cloud to another, coasting on a manufactured bliss. All of my health issues persist, and in some ways are getting worse. But not being depressed has helped me be able to cope with them in a much better way. It’s not the end of the world anymore.

I’ve started dancing again, consistently. That should always be the first warning sign for everyone: if Erin stops dancing, call the doctor. It stopped bringing me joy, so I stopped going.

But now?? Oh man…now, I’m experiencing it on an epic level of ecstasy. Seriously guys! Dancing makes me insanely ecstatic. My instructors, Eric and Karla of Danca Ma Mi Kizomba have brought so much happiness back into my life. Their classes are full of light and laughter and playfulness, and I look forward to every Thursday like it’s Christmas. I remember my first class after the meds had really started working and there was so much freedom and creativity flowing through me I was exploding with giddiness. This is why I dance. And it had been taken away from me for so long, that now that I have it back, I’m soaking up every second. I love the people I have met through kizomba – their warmth and openness and kindness. I love how Eric and Karla have opened up a new world for me. They focus on making learning so freaking fun, and teaching us so many aspects of the dance and African culture. What was always a sacred place for me had become scary, and they made it safe again. I’m eternally grateful for the joy they have brought to my life through African dance.

My boyfriend, my family, my friends. How can you describe a diamond, a fistful of jewels, chests full of gold? How can you convey its true beauty unless you are there to see it for yourself?

My parents and I have developed a special relationship because of my illness, and adding depression to the pile further strengthened it. I was hesitant to share with them what was happening to me. They grew up in a time where mental illness wasn’t discussed openly, and only “crazy” people went to psychiatrists. Not to mention their own lack of experience in having to deal with a mental illness themselves. I was afraid they wouldn’t take me seriously. That they would tell me to “choose to be happy”. Regardless, I shared everything with them – and of course, they were wonderful. They had seen me continually spiral downward and morph into someone they didn’t know or understand. When I finally shed light on my depression, it all made sense. They gathered me in their arms, and we cried together, and they promised we would get through this and find a solution. I would never have to deal with this alone. It was never “weird” to them that I had depression and needed medication. Whatever I needed to get well, they would support. No questions asked.

My sweet, sweet friends. I reached out to those close to me so they would know what was happening. Everyone responded with love and understanding and support. They were so proud of me for getting help, which in turn made me proud of me too. Then came the outpouring of love, because that’s how the people in my life are. It’s never a surprise, but it’s so spectacular to witness. Like the aurora borealis! (Side note: never seen the northern lights, but c’mon…wonderous!) Some friends backed away so that I wouldn’t feel pressure to engage in the friendship until I was ready (they told me they were doing this – it wasn’t just like they ghosted on me). Others checked in every day, filled with concern for my progress and offering to fly to Houston immediately to be with me. I have friends connected to the world of medicine who checked in every time there was a medication switch, and were always on call if I needed help, even connecting me to doctors in the middle of the night at particularly critical moments. All of them reminded me how special I was, and that I had no other option than to get better….that was my gentle way of paraphrasing: “you better not fucking kill yourself, because I will be so pissed.” My friends🙂

Rodrigo has always demonstrated enduring patience with everything that happens between us, and this time was no different. Neither one of us understood what was wrong, or why I was behaving this way, but he was by my side through all the pain and confusion. Once we realized it was depression, our relationship instantly smoothed out (the Zoloft helped too) because I was better able to communicate when I was feeling low and what I needed that day, instead of completely shutting him out. And he understood what I was going through and was able to support me however I needed it. Now that I’m better, I told him it’s so much fun being with him when I’m not depressed. We were joking around, but there is a heavy truth to that statement. He really is so fun! I used to be too, but Fun Erin had gone away for a looooong time. Because of that, so much had changed between us, and I didn’t realize the strain my depression caused until I was on the other side. To be honest, I’m surprised it didn’t break us. I guess we are both stronger than we give ourselves credit for.

Depression is rampant and there is such a shame stigma attached to it that people are afraid to talk and get help. Especially about suicide. No more! Let’s discuss this stuff freely! Suicide suicide suicide. This isn’t Voldemort – we can actually say this word out loud. I want you to say this word out loud. Remove the shame from it – this is what I want people to understand. It’s ok to go through moments where you don’t want to be alive, and you think about death. It’s okay. It’s like…cake suicide. Cake and suicide, they are both words. That’s it. Just words. Let them have the same effect. Unless you’re diabetic. Then choose suicide. Except don’t. (too soon?) My point is, it should be just as easy to say “suicide” as it is to say “cake”. I think if that were true, more people would be open about feeling suicidal. And if they were, we could then ask:

“Why do you feel that way?”
“What is happening right now?”
“What can I do to help you?”
“I’m coming over right now.”
“I am here.”
“You are never alone.”

If you are silent, you can’t receive help. Receiving help is CRUCIAL to being a well-rounded human ya know. If you aren’t good at asking for help, let me challenge you for the month of April to go out of your way to ask for it. I’ve become a pro at this since getting sick and it’s a beautiful way for the people in your life to express their love for you. Who would not want to witness that? Let me tell you, it is an HONOR to be loved by the people who love me. You guys hear that? All of you who supported me in overcoming this? My family, my boyfriend, my friends…it is MY honor that you love me. Thank you for giving me your boundless love. I am the privileged one. I survived because of your love.

If you see me and want to talk about this post or my experience or share yours with me then please do! I’m happy to share and would love to listen and empathize. I am not ashamed of my depression. I mean, I write about having fingers in my bum, so it’s pretty clear I don’t have many boundaries. But seriously, let’s make jokes at my expense, let’s talk about your cake suicide, and let’s laugh, because when you stop laughing about shit, the whole world goes dark.

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Happiness is a choice!….and Cake Suicide (part three)

I was very hopeful that the meds would work. 2 weeks later, I’m still sobbing uncontrollably every day. I feel like there is someone sitting on my chest – this heaviness that I can’t explain, like a vice of sadness that is squeezing me all day long so I don’t forget it’s there…and I knew I should be feeling better by now…even if it was just a tiny bit. I have a complete breakdown and end up calling the emergency number for my doctor in the middle of the night and they told me to double my dose. A week later, with still no improvements, my psychiatrist/former boss decided it was time to switch to Zoloft.

Within a week of changing meds, I have a “good” day. And by good, I mean I woke up with the strangest feeling – I wasn’t sad. It was surreal to wake up and not immediately start the struggle that would last all day – the struggle of fighting against tears, feeling overwhelmed and anxious, being an emotional train wreck, not being able to cope, and trying to ignore the waves of sadness that crashed against me. My baseline was always sadness. If I stopped fighting for one second I would slip underwater and the day was shot. Then one day I wake up and I don’t have to fight anymore? The sadness just….isn’t there? Just like that?!

I couldn’t BELIEVE it. I could not believe that this is how people live – not sad. Emotionally speaking, life has always seemed so much harder for me than my peers. I would see similar situations in our lives, and compare my inability to recover with their calm indifference and wonder, ‘What is wrong with me?’ I’ve asked myself that question for decades. What is wrong with me? Well, depression. Totally eliminates coping mechanisms. I don’t say this lightly. During the crux of my deepest valley, I got very stressed about a simple discussion with my family and was only able to sit on the floor, rocking back and forth with my head in my hands, and scream for everyone to stop talking. Yeah, scary shit. I didn’t know why I was doing it. It was instinctual and reactive and visceral.

Luckily, I have a psychiatrist who knows me well and who I trust and adore, so I freely share with him that I waited too long to get help and now my brain has crossed over into psychosis. He first reassured me that there is no such thing as waiting too long, then explained that serotonin works as a lubricant for life, smoothing out minor bumps and snafus (what a word!) and helping us cope without getting overwhelmed. When you take serotonin away, there is nothing to help you cope – hence my aggressive reactions and inability to deal with stressors. Many of his patients he sees for depression come after a serious medical trauma, because medical issues drain the neurotransmitters you need to have balanced emotions. My levels were already low, so everything that I went through with the endo just continually slammed against me depleting things so much that I had no chance of recovery on my own.

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Happiness is a choice!….and Cake Suicide (part two)

But, where to begin? I remember from one of my Ginsberg tests that I produce very low levels of dopamine and serotonin, so the first thing I did was look up what low levels do to your body and brain. It described me exactly, even things I hadn’t realized, like monotone speech. That research then led me to mood disorders, which led to major depression. Which is a thing. Regular depression and major depression. At first I resisted, because to me major depression was not being able to get out of bed, not showering for days, and wanting complete isolation. Then I realized that WAS me. Most days, that was me. I couldn’t force myself out of bed. I didn’t shower. I didn’t answer my phone. I ignored everyone in my life and completely withdrew into myself and my mental illness. I didn’t want to be alive. I shut myself in a dark room and didn’t come out for days.

Happiness is a choice – lie. I would never have chosen this life for myself.

Sometimes my friends would see me out. It was rare, but I emerged from my hovel every now and then. What was that like for me? A fight. Fighting myself, fighting the depression and trying to keep it at bay, plastering a fake smile on my face, going through the motions and counting the minutes until I could get back home and isolate myself. I was exhausted because every day was a never-ending struggle to stay on top of the depression. It’s a determined beast though, and eventually I had to succumb completely.

After my research, I wasted no time. I’m an action taker. Once I know what the problem is, I will move swiftly without ceasing until I find a solution when it comes to my health. The problem is, it just took me so damn long to figure out the problem WAS depression. So, armed with my self-diagnosis, I contacted an old work colleague I knew from previous employment at a psychiatrist’s office. Full circle, eh? I thought it would be weeks before I could see someone and get help, and I already was at a critical level, but by some beautiful coincidence she was working at a psychiatric ER for Memorial Hermann and I was able to get in and see her that evening. She started me on Lexapro that night.

 

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Happiness is a choice!….and Cake Suicide (part one)

…and other lies we are always told…

Finally I’m back! There is a reason I’ve been gone. Not just because I felt like ignoring my 5 readers. I love you guys! I would never push you away. Unless I am dealing with depression. In that case, I will push you away.

So now the secret’s out: I’ve been living with major depression. Deep, dark, abysmal, soul sucking, life depleting depression.

I’ve had the symptoms for more than 2 years:

  • lack of energy
  • lack of interest in life
  • dropping away from social engagements
  • lack of motivation
  • insomnia
  • tumultuous emotions
  • no coping mechanisms
  • aggressive reactions, etc.

But I always related those symptoms to the insomnia I’ve had since Operation Total Body Shutdown in 2013. Insomnia and depression have almost identical traits. My depression tricked me – disguising itself as insomnia so I kept slipping further and further into a black hole devoid of escape. My family and friends were witness to my decline, but since I have a myriad of health issues and was actively working towards a solution, there was no cause for alarm. I guess we all just assumed this is what happens when a person is sick for a long time.

We go to St. Maarten for a family Christmas trip, which turns out to be a magical paradise of floating unicorn tears. Utter perfection. The beach is my happy place, and I think it really gave me the chance to physiologically relax in a way I’m not able to living in a busy city. I was sleeping 4 hours a night. Double what I was used to. So I would bound out of bed, feeling energy like I haven’t felt in years, scramble out onto the sand to see the sun sparkling on the sea, and wait to embrace the happiness that always accompanies such a scene. But it never came. Instead, I was wrapped in a blanket of sadness so thick I couldn’t breathe. Still! After 4 hours of sleep! My symptoms still remained! That’s when I realized something else was seriously wrong. If I couldn’t be happy on St. Maarten, then there really was no hope after all.

We arrived home, and I continue my descent into darkness, spiraling out of control with my emotions in ways that really frightened me. I was thinking daily about death, and how I wouldn’t care if I went to bed and never woke up again. I wished for that every day. I would alternate my time between just staring out the window or sobbing for hours. I needed help before those thoughts about death escalated to something serious. I wasn’t sure I could trust myself. I was so low, so sad.

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St. Maarten

When was my last post…July? August? It’s been a while. I’m working on a post explaining my absence, but in the meantime, here are some photos from our Christmas trip to the Caribbean – one of the best vacations of my life!

View from our back patio out onto Simpson Bay. The house was stupid beautiful:

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Christmas day sail to Prickly Pear and Anguilla with Aqua Mania:

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Captain Parker

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Prickly Pear – snorkeling spot

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Aqua Mania had the BEST crew!!!! HIGHLY recommend

French side:

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my lil’ buccaneer

Scuba diving with Ocean Explorers. Fantastic company!

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that’s Leslie. she rocks!

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Maho Beach:

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KLM 747 about to land

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Sunset sail with Passaat  – amazing!

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my “no more photos” pose

 

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Werewolf Bar Mitzvah

Four pounds. GAINED.

That is what you get when you deny me dairy, gluten, alcohol and sugar for 6 weeks.

It’s official. God hates me.

No one seems alarmed by this except me. I see myself investing in a lot of stretchy pants in the future, as I balloon to 300 pounds…

Some changes:

– Switching to the Nuva Ring. I want to get off birth control entirely, but Ginsberg is afraid of too many changes at once and my body literally dissolving in protest. So the Nuva Ring is the next best thing so it won’t put any pressure on my liver to actually do it’s job. This will take effect in t-minus 2 days. I decided to finish my current pack of Minastrin on principle, since I have to pay $100/month to get it. I’m taking every last one of those damn pills. Then, let’s see what fun emotional storms blow my way with the new change!

– No more evening workouts. Zero. I either work out in the morning, or not at all.

– I have to be up every day by 10am at the latest, no matter what time I fall asleep (or even go to sleep)

-My nutritionist wants me to wear orange goggles. What?…I hear you asking. These: http://www.amazon.com/Uvex-S0360X-Ultra-spec-SCT-Orange-Anti-Fog/dp/B003OBZ64M/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1436804678&sr=8-1&keywords=orange+goggles

I haven’t ordered them.

She also recommended I read The Woman Code, which I’ve been devouring. Some changes I’ve made after reading this book:

-Threw out all household chemicals and chemical-laden body products. I dropped a benny at Whole Foods getting completely new, chemical-free stuff, and have made HOMEMADE all purpose cleaner from natural ingredients. Yeah. I full blown tipped the crazy scale. But hear me out…I have an endocrine system that is one step away from crumbling into dust. A lot of chemicals like parabens and sodium lauryl sulfates (SLS on the streets) are estrogen mimickers and get all up in your business and jack shit up. Now, a normal human (you) comes into contact with these chemicals and initiates Operation Detox, and you poop out the chemicals and life continues merrily along. A mutant (me) invites all of these chemicals to the party, then everyone is running around trying to make room, then my hormones get mad cause these new visitors are overstaying their welcome, and then my blood says “hey, there’s enough room for everyone if you just hop on into my circulation.” And you know what doesn’t happen? I don’t poop it out. So in trying to help my crippled endocrine system, I’ve eliminated 90% of chemicals from my life. Do I think everyone needs to do this? No. Do I think it’s crucial for me? Absolutely. I’m already looking into recipes to making my own laundry detergent too. Just kidding! I did that last week…

-I’m only doing 20 minute workouts. When you work out for longer than 20 minutes, it causes a spike in your cortisol. This is normal, healthy and expected. But since I’m dealing with a cortisol surplus at the moment, my healing will come from flushing it from my blood stream and avoiding anything that will cause it to spike. So I am now doing walk/jog intervals 3x week, weights 2x week, and resting 2 days. I freaking love it. It was so so so difficult to push my body into workouts every day, but 20 minutes I can do. So my body will actually benefit more from rest than exertion.

-I’m creating a healthy sleep hygiene routine. We eat dinner earlier, and all electronics are off by 11pm, so that blue light doesn’t eff up my melatonin production. I take a bath with lavender, read my kindle, take all my night time supplements, and get my mind into sleep mode. THIS WAS SO HARD at first because R and I are crazy night owls. Our dinner time was regularly between 10-11pm. Like Spain! But I think now that I finally got some B’s in me, sleep is coming easier and easier. It’s CRAZY y’all.

Oh yeah…I’m also drinking apple cider vinegar on the reg. Bleh

These are minor changes, but I swear my insomnia has improved by about 35%. 35%!!!!!!!!! I was sleeping on average about 5-6 hours last week, and it feels like Christmas. By this time next year you might not even be able to tell I’m mutated.

I’ll be back in the office in 5 weeks for more blood work to see where my levels are.

In other news, I turned 34 last week! Happy birthday to me.
R also got me the most amazing birthday cake I’ve ever had. He’s a keeper.

spooky, scary

spooky, scary

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Hangout Fest 2015

 

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Music + beach = risky fun

Thursday night we opted to skip the pre party and eat a gorgeous meal at The Gulf then headed to the Flora-bama Bar where we saw Adam Doleac perform. He was so good.

11050832_10153284761424513_2757750949363164411_nWe piled 18 people into 3 condos and this is what I woke up to every morning:

IMG_4888_2Ahhhh bliss.

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Here’s who you should know:

Day one-

  • DJ Windows 98 (with Preservation Hall Jazz Band)
  • J Roddy Walston & The Business

Day two-

    • The Suffers
  • Beats Antique
  • Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Day three-

  • Tove Lo (amazing show!)
  • The Lone Bellow

The best show of the weekend goes to the Zac Brown Band.

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this guy owns a bar and this was his very first yelp review upon opening. they are celebrating 10 yrs of business this year. boom!

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