My Happy Light

I got a Verilux HappyLight for Christmas. It was given to me by my sister-in-law who is a psychologist and someone who has/had BPD. Is it possible to have had Borderline Personality Disorder? I mean, does it go away or become manageable? Of course, I have no idea what goes on in her head or in her private life, but I haven’t seen the type of symptoms my husband says she displayed when she was younger. I feel like I can’t ask her about it because mental illness is not an approved topic of conversation in my husband’s family. Plus, Hubby has told me her story and I’m not sure if she wanted me to know everything.

Anyway, Hubby had mentioned declining mental health to her, that’s why she got me this happy light. It is the type of light used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (which I don’t have). Thankfully, Hubby warned me that she was getting me something depression-related, so I knew to be discrete (aka hide it from my mother in law) when I opened it. My sister-in-law later explained to me her reasoning behind this slightly awkward gift. This light is supposed to help with sleep. When it comes to sleep, I need all the help I can get! She said a couple of the people in the psych department where she works have them and they have said they do sleep better so she thought maybe it would help me. Thoughtful.  🙂

Photo by Jordan Shakeshaft

 

So, I have tried it. I’m supposed to set it within 2 feet of my face for about half an hour everyday. I have to make sure my eyes are exposed to the light. It is bright, but there are settings to control the brightness. Plus, the discomfort it causes wears off pretty quickly. I expect it will be a little while before I experience improvement with sleep. I hope I can remember to use it every day. I have used it three times so far, today included. I have slept better the two nights after remembering to use it. I don’t know if that’s coincidence or not, but it’s enough to encourage me a bit.

The box calls it “natural spectrum light”….. whatever that means. I’m hoping they mean visible spectrum. They do state that it is UV-free which is what I was most concerned about. The light interacts with melatonin, the hormone that controls your internal body clock. Melatonin fluctuations tell our bodies when to sleep and when to wake up. This hormone also interacts with dopamine, one of the major mental health hormones. This explains why the happy light also claims to improve mood, increase energy and reduce carb cravings. Sounds like a miracle to me! We’ll see.

Resolution Humbug

I have never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions. I guess I always feel like I am setting myself up for failure. These resolutions are always based on what you feel you “should” be doing rather than what is really important to you. Not to mention the horrible timing! You are adjusting to being in the real world again after the holidays and the whole year is stretching on ahead of you…plus, you are going to throw in some new goals on top of that?! No thank you! Why do so many of us wait for this one particular day a year to make changes to our lives? What is wrong with the other 364 days of the year?

What I am a fan of is reflection. I think it’s important to look back over the last year and celebrate the highlights again. There is also value in remembering the disappointments. What did you learn? How have you grown?  Game-changers are important to think about too. Are your priorities still the same? What were they at this time last year? How have they changed?

My 2014 Highlights

  • One-year wedding anniversary
  • Little sister got engaged
  • Discovered blogging
  • Started drawing again
  • Hubby got tenure at work
  • San Fransisco work trip
  • NYC summer trip
  • Government scholarship

My 2014 Disappointments

  • Insomnia, the worst I’ve ever had
  • Weight gain
  • Tenure means nothing — Hubby was lucky to have a position this year and there may not be room for him next year
  • Getting ethics for my research took all year and they want constant progress reports
  • Sick leave for depression
  • Had to bail on a conference due to depression (had already bought the plane ticket!! ugh!)

The 2014 Game-changers

  • Hubby’s tenure. To be tenured at hubby’s school board you need to have a full-time teaching contract in your name for two years and a day. He fulfilled these requirements in September of 2013…..exhale! Tenure means the school board will always have a job for him. Since we knew he was going to be working at this school board for a while, we started thinking about moving closer. This notion came to a screeching hault in spring 2014 when we found out high school enrollment was down. Tenure means nothing if there aren’t enough students to teach.
  • The government scholarship. I found out I was awarded a doctoral fellowship last spring, this was the sign I was looking for to keep plowing through the Ph.D.

My 2014 Priorities

  • Get all research protocols at work up and running (including my dissertation)
  • Tie up loose ends of old research protocols and shut them down
  • Time management…find a way to make everything fit
  • See a psychiatrist

New Priorities for 2015

  • Mental health……talk therapy, art therapy, self-help
  • Make life more of a routine. Incorporate time to be healthy.
  • Figure out work. Is this right for me, or not?

The good news is, my highlights reel was longer than my disappointments (even though some were pretty brutal). I didn’t do well with the time management priority at all. I think I just have to be satisfied with not being able to do everything. This is why I’m thinking coming up with a routine will allow me to get everything in, even though it’s not as often as I would like. My boss wont like the routine, but for my sanity, she’ll have to deal with it. This year I want to focus more on my health. By making my top priorities mostly work related last year, I let my health get out of hand.

Work to live right? Not live to work. Somehow I don’t think that saying was made with grad students in mind.

Happy New Year to you all. I hope your reflections make for a happy and healthy 2015!

Hold on to hope.

Hold on to hope.

What a Mess

I’ve been thinking about writing for a while now, but I haven’t figured out exactly what to say. Finally, I decided I better just write something, anything, or I’m never going to get started again. I don’t think I have the words to explain the last several months, but I’ll try my best.

I was overwhelmed with work life and home life, depressed, anxious and not sleeping. The lack of sleep was starting to get to me. I was constantly nauseous or dealing with a headache. I don’t know if you’d call it hallucinating or not, but I’d mix up reality with whatever my brain came up with when I dozed off for a few minutes. I’ve been this way before, but I’ve always pushed through. I always thought if I just push through to the other side things will start looking up and I’ll get to a place where I feel safe, can relax and maybe enjoy something. By safe, I mean a home, a secure career, a steady income, family, friends and no huge financial problems. Maybe it was the sleep deprivation or maybe it was starting Quentiapine but, I guess the difference this time was that I finally realized that is never going to happen. No matter how hard I work now, I’ll never reach a place where I can breathe. There will always be more responsibility, another commitment, another challenge. It is just going to keep going like that. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. So what is the point in killing myself, working so hard only to make myself miserable? Well, there is no point. So I stopped.

wordle depression

You’ll have to bear with me for a while, I haven’t been doing any doodling.

 

I know the ideal is to achieve a balanced life. Things should be done in moderation so you get your work done, but also enjoy life a bit too. Logically, this makes total sense but, it is still completely foreign to me. Like many people with depression, I am a very black and white thinker. You know, all or nothing. How can you enjoy playing when you know there is work to be done? I guess this is why I have always held on to the principle of work hard, play later.

Anyway, I guess this realization was the last straw. I just stopped everything and imploded into a sobbing, hyperventilating, irrational mess. I had to bail on a conference I was supposed to speak at, I stopped going to work, stopped answering the phone, going out, working out, blogging, drawing, etc. After going full steam ahead for so long it was a big crash and burn. The only good thing about this was that I was finally able to sleep. In fact, that’s pretty much all I did. I slept, I cried and I watched TV.

I wasn’t proud of myself, but sleep or TV (basically avoidance) were the only things that got my brain distracted enough to get relief. It was like this for a couple months. I am so thankful for my family. They were patient and didn’t make me feel worse. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be here.

Picture quote

Picture quote

After my months of avoidance, I started to feel like I could handle doing little things again. Things like driving my mom wherever she needed to go or reading a magazine. Eventually, I felt I could handle thinking about work again. I came up with a plan to take the rest of the semester off and go back in January. That may not be happening anymore, but that’s another story.

For now, I’m just going to try to enjoy and participate in as much of the holiday season as I can. I hope all of you have been well over these last few months and I look forward to catching up. 🙂

To Q Or Not To Q

My psychiatrist has prescribed Quentiapine (Q) to help me sleep. I’m not sure if this is a good idea for me. I have body image issues and am really nervous about the associated weight gain. Psych has never been too concerned with my body-hatred. He keeps recommending I try Remeron, which I’ve been told is a death trap for weight gain. I have been having problems sleeping though and I do need help with that. He decided to replace the Abilify I was on with Q to help with depression and sleep.

So far, I’ve been taking 50mg of Q at night. I go to bed when I start to feel woozy. I do sleep, but I wake up a lot during the night. In the morning, it’s really hard to get up and I want to eat everything! I have also experienced a strange foggy feeling in my head and some blurred vision. No change in mood so far. I know there is an adjustment period for Q, but I’m not sure it is worth it, especially if it’s not going to work wonders with my mood and sleep.

I have gained some weight in the last year and a half that I am trying to get rid of. I’ve found that the best time for me to exercise is early in the AM. I’m afraid I wont be able to do that with Q. I’m also wondering if Abilify had anything to do with my weight gain. I know it is supposed to be one of the more weight neutral anti-psychotics, but I have bad luck with side effects on most medications, so it is possible.

I’m starting to think it might be a good idea to just stay away from anti-psychotics all together. Abilify didn’t really make a big difference when I started it anyway. I can’t remember how long it has been, two years maybe? That would leave me with 300mg Welbutrin and 60mg Prozac. Psych also mentioned upping Prozac to 80mg and adding Imovane to sleep. Imovane is habit forming, so that’s not so great either. I don’t know if any of this stuff really helps anymore.

So the question is, do I keep going with Q and see if things get better? Or, do I stop now and drop the anti-psychotics all together?

pills for breakfast2

Losing Hope and Appearing Normal

About a week ago I thought things were turning around. I was feeling hopeful, maybe even enthusiastic. You can read about what I mean here. I had my new creative projects, I had a heart to heart with my Ph.D. supervisor and I got a lot of loose ends tied up. I was accomplishing things, I was on top of the world. That magical feeling lasted all of about 30 hours. I don’t know what happened exactly, but the feeling gradually slipped away and reality seeped back in. It probably started with the headache that I’ve had on and off all week. That’s enough to put a damper on anything.

Hold on to hope.

Hold on to hope.

I still have my creative projects thankfully. I just haven’t had any time to work on them because work has been so busy. I’ve been showing the new Ph.D, around and getting him trained on all the equipment and procedures we use. He seems nice and it has been a relief to get his opinion on things. As far as having someone to share responsibilities with, that’s not really going to happen. He is in class all this semester, so he’ll only be able to take on a minimal amount. Then, he goes back home, to Kansas, for the rest of the year. So whatever I delegate to him (plus the new stuff he starts) will end up back in my lap come January.

Although my supervisor was sympathetic to my mental health woes and my being overwhelmed, I’m not sure she completely understands. She says she does, but I feel like she is looking for the textbook definition of depression in me and not seeing it. Here is a description of the changes in appearance you see in depression from Livestrong…

“Maintaining the appearance may become less important to depressed people. The effort and energy that was once put into grooming and dressing significantly decreases. Showering may no longer occur daily; hair may go uncut for months. They may wear the same clothes day after day, despite wrinkles or stains. Clothing may become too tight or too loose due to changes in weight associated with depression. Also, dark circles and bags may appear under their eyes from lack of sleep”

This description fits me when I am at home, but not when I go out. My appearance has a huge affect on my mood. If I can’t get it together, I don’t let people see me. I let what other people think of me determine my worth. What would they think if they saw me with greasy hair, no makeup and stained clothes?! I don’t even want to think about it. So I put on a show. I keep my thoughts, emotions and anxiety to myself. I don’t let them show on my face. I hide my dark circles, I buy loose clothes that I don’t have to iron, I tie my hair back and I look normal.

I don’t talk to my supervisor about depression very much, just when it gets in the way. Every time it comes up she says something along the lines of “you look pretty good for someone who can’t sleep”. It makes me think she doesn’t quite believe me. I get the impression she is testing me. She wants to see where my breaking point is, when I finally start to fit the textbook definition of depression. Maybe I am paranoid, but she tests other people without telling them. She talks to me about it. If she does it to them, why wouldn’t she do it to me too.

I’m a little all over the place today. This is just what is rolling around in my head after another sleepless night. What does depression look like for you? Do you fit the Livestrong description above or are you like me and put what energy you have left into appearing normal? Do you feel like you are taken less seriously because you try to look normal? What do you think?

Attract:reflect quote

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