Friday, January 13, 2012

The Not So Great Depression

It feels like one of the cats got my tongue. I've haven't been able to think of anything to say. I partially blame the medication I'm taking. It makes me feel so even. It's strange. MathMan suggested that perhaps what I'm feeling is actually normal and because my moods have been so rollercoasterish I don't recognize it. Normal.

I thought about that. He could be right. Maybe I've been functioning for a long time with a low grade depression using a patchwork of coping methods to get by. Sometimes stressors made it worse and I would feel a deeper sense of gloom and then things would clear. For several years MathMan has patiently waited for me to accept that I might need some medical intervention. He endured my blues, my acting out, my upswings like a champ. Like a champ who knows how to retreat into work, how to deliver a verbal ass kicking when needed, and how to pick around the psychic minefield that has been a life with me.

I have sometimes asked myself which of us is the sick one. Twenty-four years. That man deserves a certificate and a $20 Applebees gift card for perfect attendance.

The tipping point came when the coping skills no longer worked. Food didn't work nor did writing or a variety of other distractions. I was moving deeper within, becoming fearful and anxious about everything, looking for any excuse to not leave the house or have contact with people, losing sleep and gaining weight. I didn't leave my bedroom unless I absolutely had to, "forgetting" to go to the mailbox to get the mail many days in a row, letting the grocery stockpile sustain us to avoid trips to the store, not answering the phone.

And then came the job interview and I had to get out of my head and push myself. I did it. It felt good to get out of the house and into the city, to talk to adults and to revisit the ways I had actually once been a productive, thriving, successful executive. That I'd once been able to do a vast array of things including running a household.

That was a little like touching fire. I'd spent the last two years not letting myself think too much about the professional life I'd had because having it yanked from me made me angry. Oh sure, I tried to focus that anger, to put that energy to work finding other positions, but with each passing month and a visit to the Department of Labor to sit fidgeting and fretful with the other people who just wanted a job, I became less focused and more dispirited.

Was it time to revisit what I could offer potential employers? Some job searchers have even gone as far as taking online college classes in hopes of updating their skill set and making themselves more competitive in a new industry. On average, a job hunt can last as long as twenty-one weeks. The effects - multiple rejections and the resulting blows to one's self-esteem - can leave a long-lasting impression on the individual.

When you're looking for a job, you start with what you know. Then you expand. You look in other fields, other cities. Then you lower your expectations. And lower them some more. Then you look for seasonal work. And in case you believe the fallacy about unemployment being a deterrent to people finding work, know this - at least in the State of Georgia, you have to show that you're seeking work. You must report to the Department of Labor monthly and show a list of the jobs for which you have applied and they have to be jobs within reason. I couldn't say that I was applying for jobs to be a nuclear engineer, for example.

When nothing came of the interview and then the holidays were looming and my unemployment insurance was running out and the job listings dwindled, I went into full retreat. How were we going to manage on MathMan's salary alone? What do I have to do to get a job? What can we sell? Do we find somewhere less expensive to live? How can we even afford to move? What the hell, you mean we can't take all the money out of the 401k? It's MathMan's money for fuck's sake. All of it. No matching. We'll pay the taxes and penalties, just let us have the money because we can at least pay our rent for the next few months. Shit.

 My high tolerance for pain evaporated and I cried uncle.

The doctor gave me two prescriptions - an appetite suppressant which I've taken before, and an anti-depressant. The rationale being that although the anti-d is supposed to be weight-neutral, Cute Dr. J. didn't want me to gain. He knows me well enough to know I'm going to feel better if I'm more fit.

Here's how I know the anti-d is working. In the past, when I've taken this appetite suppressant, the kids have called it the angry pill. For good reason. Without it, I can be a bit, um, mercurial. With it I was like Bobby Knight with a lit firecracker stuck up his butt. I might have even thrown a chair or two.

But not this time. I'm like some Zen master of serenity. I've heard the kids talking about it when they think I can't hear them.

"Oh, man. When is she finally going to blow?"
"I don't know, but I hope I'm not home when it happens."
"She should have gone crazy when saw the mess in Sophie's room. Look at her. She's just lying there on her bed watching TV. No screaming, no raging around, no throwing things in the garbage. It's kind of freaky."
"Oh, yeah, well she didn't even say fuck once when Mitt Romney was lying about the President in his speech."
"Not once?"
"Nope."
"Has anyone talked to Daddy about this?"
"Hey, you guys. I can hear you!"

One of them appeared at the door. "Are you mad?"
"No."
"Okay. We --"
"It's fine. I know."

If this is normal, it's going to take some getting used to and I  don't mean that in a negative way. At my last doctor's visit, he doubled the dosage. It's taken me a week to feel less foggy. Writing is difficult. Much of the time, I feel passionless, dulled. I lose minutes staring out the window.The political discourse that would have once had me in a frenzied lather results in a minor froth. I'm the flat beer on the emotional spectrum.

And oh my word, I finally had to ask MathMan to use a taser on my G-spot because either this medication has moved my orgasmic cheese out of my ever-lovin' reach or I'm a guy suffering from Low T or Low Testosterone. Which obviously, I'm not because when I begged him to tase me, bro, MathMan didn't have to move any junk to get at it.

I may have just wandered way off track.

The point is I'm having to relearn normal. The upside is that I've already shed fifteen pounds. That feels good. Working out feels good. Sleeping well feels good. Not running on adrenaline all the damn time feels good. Not losing my shit over little things feels good. And that taser? Well.... mustn't grumble. Too much.

Looking back at this post, I guess it's Lisa - 1; Cats - 0. Please don't tell the cats. They're sore losers with sharp claws.

xoxo


42 comments:

  1. The pharmaceutical journey back to happiness does have its pluses and minuses. Here's hoping you go mini-postal on your kids just for the fun of it.

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  2. New eyes, new journey, new stories ... Those are decent things by any standard. Talent and a good heart win out.

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  3. Thanks, Geoffrey. I'll be happy to have some balance. I feel like I'm getting there.

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  4. I'm wishing you well Lisa. It sounds like you have found a good path to taking care of yourself.

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  5. As long as you have the taser, I think you'll be fine. Here's hoping the kids don't light a firecracker to check your mental status.

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  6. I know what you mean. After my triple-whammy in 2005 (dad died, got oral cancer, dog died) I went on Prozac and I never looked back. I realized I probably needed it for years and hadn't realized. No more bursting into tears over little things or flying into a rage at DH. No more out-of-control panic attack hypochondria. Glad you have found something that helps you! And this was an excellent description of how being out of work can affect people. Everyone should read it.

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  7. Good on you, Lisa. You deserve as much peace as you can stand.

    (sometimes I think I relearn normal every day)

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  8. keep an eye on it...you def dont want to be over dulled...and you should be a ble to cuss at politicians a bit...they need it...smiles....

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  9. Hope that the meds work for ya. I took some for a few months several years ago. I'd rather do without, but I find my depression slight and pretty predictable and I can work around it. I hope I an get this comment posted. lol...sometimes, they just won't take.

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  10. Oh, Lisa. Thank you for your honesty and for writing this post. You have so much talent, ambition, heart--I believe good things are in your future. I hope doors open to new opportunities very soon. And right now, peace, easing of your burden. xo

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  11. There are definitely downsides to meds, but it does sound like you're in a better place. Sleeping well is critical. Losing weight is helpful. Not running on adrenaline is a much healthier way to live. Hugs to you, Lisa. You are strong, but personal strength isn't always enough, and it's good that you recognized it and allowed help.

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  12. Too much upside is worrying. Be careful, or you'll turn into a cheerleader & then your writing will get perky & then here comes the space-time rip.

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  13. Please don't tell the cats. They're sore losers with sharp claws.

    I like to think of them as poet-warriors in the classic sense, Lisa.
    ~

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  14. A friend of The Old Lady's in grad school we called "Spacy Tracy". She had trouble getting papers done as she kept redoing them to get them perfect. Always full of nervous energy. Then she went to grad school in Canada. They have a health plan there. They put her on Prozac or something like it and she went from not getting it done because she was constantly tweaking it to sleeping a lot and not caring if it got done. The dosage was probably too high and she eventually dropped out of school.

    Didn't mean for this to be a cautionary tale, just was the first thing to come to mind when reading your post. Hope the meds keep you on an even keel!!

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  15. Oh Lisa, I can so relate and my heart hurts for what you're going through. I'm glad the meds are helping. My wife can attest to the fact that I, too, am much improved off the rollercoaster versus on.

    I do always keep my eyes and ears open about jobs that might be of interest to you. Will let you know if anything pops up.

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  16. I'm just glad you're feeling some kind of better but I still hope a job or a book deal or both come through and the chemicals won't be necessary.

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  17. Been there done that, so I am sending all the good vibes I can to reach you soon.

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  18. PEOPLE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO GET IN LINE BEHIND YOU, AS MANY WILL BE TAKING THE PATH YOU DESCRIBED, THAT UNEMPLOYED SPIRAL- YOU RLLY, GET CREATIVE, TRY TO MAKE LEMONADE, BUT EVEN THOUGHT THE HOPE & CHANGE GUY IS PRATTLING ON ABOUT "SPUTNIK MOMENTS" AND SPEECHIFYING, YOU WITNESS THE REALITY GOING ON IN YOUR WORLD. WHEN THE PREZ IS TALKING ABOUT EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE IN THE SOTU ADDRESS, AND YOUR COMMUNITY IS SHUTTING DOWN 6 SCHOOLS, YOU FEEL THE DISCONNECT- WHAT HE'S SAYING SOUNDS GOOD, BUT NOT MATCHING REALITY. YOU WONDER WHAT PLANET IS HE LIVING ON? SO YOU CANT HELP BUT WONDER IF ALL ELSE BEING SAID IS SO MUCH BULLSHIT TOO. THE UNEMPLOYMENT CHECK, AND THE WHOLE REPORTING RED TAPE IS GRUELING ENOUGH. I'M JUST SAYING PEOLE CAN ONLY DO THE HAMSTER RUNNING ON A WHEEL BIT FOR SO LONG. WE'D ALL BE LYING IF WE SAID IT DID NOT FEEL LIKE A KICK IN THE SHINS, WHEN YOU'VE LOWERED YOUR EXPECTATIONS SO MANY NOTCHES, AND EVEN CRAPPY JOBS CAN'T BE HAD. JOB SEARCHING IS BRUTAL. IF YOU WERE NOT DEPRESSED AFTER ALL THAT, SOMETHING WOULD BE WRONG WITH YOU. YOU GOTTA ZEN YOUR WAY THROUGH THE NEXT PHASES. I WISH I HAD A MAGIC WAND TO MAKE IT ALL BETTER.

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  19. Your chemicals are being shaken up. Be patient. I'm so glad you took this step. It's brave, much more brave than trying all the patchwork coping methods. And relearning is a great opportunity, I hope you don't forget that!

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  20. Lisa, I'm glad things are starting to improve, sorry the unemployment situation continues to dispirit. You don't deserve it.

    Thank you for your comment on my blog. Whenever I write intellectual pieces the posts get lots of visits but few comments so I appreciate the people who check in.

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  21. Hang in there Lisa. What an incredible writer you are! Things have to improve. Keep up the blogging and someone is darn certain to grab you up! Day to day coping is a skill we all failed to learn over the years. Times up. We're all learning it now. P.S. You are brave. Stay on the meds if you can.

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  22. You've got a G spot?!?!?! I'm fascinated!

    Just kidding. (Sort of.) Figured the new, mellow happy you could take a laugh. Seriously, you took such a difficult step just putting that first pill in your mouth. I'm glad it's working out for you. And I wish you the best finding work you love that pays a decent wage.

    Keep writing. Your story is important.

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  23. Just trying to catch up after the holidays and being away. I think of you often, girl, and am in awe of your spirit, audacity, wit, and heart. Your honesty is searing -- and I can't help wonder how ANYONE could not feel depressed in the unemployment spiral. It is one of our hardest obstacles. If you ask me, you sound gloriously "normal". But I also believe in aid. Especially when the chips are down. My hero. Barbara

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  24. thinking of you! lots of love on your way :)

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  25. Thanks for sharing what I can imagine is a scary sitch, brave woman! Good for you for getting help, and climbing out of the spiral. Happy tasing. Thank god we live now, right?

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  26. Thank you all so much for the warm and supportive comments. I appreciate you all. xoxo

    P.S. I got rid of Disqus comments, but haven't quite got the threaded comments working on this blog yet. Apologies.

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  27. I think it took so much heart, so much bravery to write this out, to share it with the world. Thank you for that. May they get the balancers balanced out sooner than later.
    Love.

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  28. well, you know what NOT to do, right? Right. I know you do. xxxooo

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  29. "becoming fearful and anxious about everything, looking for any excuse to not leave the house or have contact with people, losing sleep and gaining weight. I didn't leave my bedroom unless I absolutely had to"

    WOW. Man, I can totally relate to that. In fact, I went through a VERY similar phase, not too long ago. It took a while for me to find the right medication combination, and the right therapist - but I never want to go back to those dark days.

    Relearning "normal" can and should be a very fun experience for you, Lisa!

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  30. Thank you, Lyra. xo

    I do, Alecto. Thanks. xoxoxo

    Thanks, Meleah! I hate it that you've gone through that, too, and I'm so glad you're feeling better.

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  31. Swoon. Maybe my favorite post of yours. And you provide some steep competition so that's saying something.

    Love it. Love the new screen format too....

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  32. Relearning normal. Good for you and good luck with it.

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  33. Dear Lisa,
    If this weren't so freaking depressing it would be hilarious. Hang on, if this weren't so freaking hilarious it would be depressing.
    I've been there, inside that fuzzy head. In the mountains they say Piccoli passi, appoggia bene i piedi/Small steps, watch where you put your feet.
    Big hugs xx

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  34. Boy, do I know that rollercoaster! So glad to hear you are getting help and I hope that it evens out soon.

    As for the finances - you know that I went to the under employed side, It isn't fufilling but it's something.

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  35. I maintain my position on your writing. How the heck is it that the good people at Redbook - screw that - THE NEW YORKER - haven't managed to find you yet?

    Your Unemployment Diaries should be printed as a series. You should be paid a BUNDLE for giving them the privilege.

    Hugs, love and coffee to you and yours. Except the cats. [They don't need the caffeine.]

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  36. I'm glad this is working for you. Your doctor sounds like he knows you, which is a very good thing.

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  37. you had me at "The". good writing Lisa.

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  38. Thank you, Sandy, GMB, Renn, Susan, Chillcat,Downith and Teri.

    I'm so grateful for the kindness you all show me.

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  39. Personally, I think Prozac should be in the water supply. I know two kinds of people: those on meds and those who should be. Me included -- in the former. I can really relate to the "flat beer in emotion" statement. It's fucking with my writing a lot. Glad you're emerging from the gray, my friend.

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  40. Love your writing. Love you. Hate that you've had to go through all of this.

    Remember, my friend, as someone posted at Betsy's: The light always changes.

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