I can see so much more from up here.


I wish I could show you
When you are lonely or in darkness
The astonishing light of your own being.
– Hafiz

Lovely little white flowers blooming in the grass.

I’ve wanted to write this blog post for a couple of weeks now, but haven’t been quite sure how to start it, what exactly to say, and what to call it. And, during that time, more changes have happened that make it clear that I really wasn’t ready to write this yet. Not because I wasn’t ready to share it, but because I didn’t have the perspective that I have now, which has given me an even better understanding of the situation.

When I mention that I’m tired and it’s likely a result of some new medicine I’m on, or when I say I’m feeling better than I have in a while as a result of my new medicine, I’m not exactly being secretive about this medicine so much as I know when I mention it, I want to actually talk about it, and not just give it a quick sentence in passing.

Back in late-October, I went on Lexapro. It was a deliberate decision on my part. In fact, I went to the doctor’s office with the intention of getting some chemical help. It took me a couple of months of decline to realize that it was clearly a brain chemistry problem, and not just “the blues.”

See, depression is pretty common in my family, and I’ve fought it off and on my whole life. Nothing seriously debilitating, usually, but there’s a tendency to get bogged down in bad feelings once in a while. I’m usually pretty good about catching myself on the downward slide and taking the necessarily steps to pull myself out of the black pit before I get too deep in. Gardening, running, cooking, crafts, etc., are all my go-to anti-depressants.

One of the trees still holding onto their leaves, even in January.

But back in the fall of 2011, I started experiencing a new sensation: anxiety. This is a new one for me, and I was confounded by it. At the beginning of last semester, I was enjoying riding my bike to school, and excited about my new course of study. By the middle of the semester, I was a nervous wreck leaving for class each morning, and there were many tears shed before I could finally force myself out the door.

Being the logical-minded person I am, I tried to figure out what was upsetting me so much. I knew my Spanish teacher/class was really upsetting me, so I dropped that class, thinking it was just dread about having to sit through another useless two hours. But, even after I left the class, I still had irrational anxiety about riding my bike to school, which made no sense to me. I like riding my bike. Where did that come from. Then I started noticing this same sense of dread/anxiety showing up around other activities that I usually enjoy. This just confused me more. I didn’t want to cook. I was not going out into my garden. I couldn’t even make myself sit in my craft room!

It wasn’t until one sunny day in late-October that I was able to get out and walk to Goodwill, as a last-ditch effort to pull myself out of this big black pit I seemed to be sliding into, that I figured it out. I was talking on the phone with my mom while I walked and talking to her about how I was so proud of myself as this was my first trip out of the house in over a week, when it hit me: I’m depressed! As soon as I got home from that trip, I made an appointment to see the fantastic nurse practitioner at my doctor’s office.

As soon as I got out of the office with Cheryl, with a month’s worth of samples for Lexapro in a bag, I sat in my car and cried. Not because I was depressed, but because I realized that all that hiding wasn’t me being lazy or illogical. It was my brain. More specifically, the chemicals in my brain were out of balance. I was crying from relief.

I love the orange glow of the lichen in the last rays of the sunset.

I took the Lexapro for month, and started to feel better, but it wasn’t until late-December that I really started to notice an improvement. Now, in late-January, having been on it for three months, I feel worlds better. Better than I’ve felt in a very long time. Like, YEARS.

Which is kinda scary to me. I thought that I was pretty healthy last summer, but looking back now, I can see how I was probably under the effects of a low-grade depression. It didn’t stop me from doing things, and generally feeling happy and upbeat, but I can see where I also wasn’t as active and how I was continually pulling myself up, ever so slightly. Like I was just on the first very shallow slide into the pit. Still far enough away to not even know I was sliding into a pit, but self-aware enough that I was sliding downhill. Like when you’re sitting in a rolling chair on a slightly uneven floor and find yourself having to pull yourself back to your desk every couple of hours. You don’t notice you’re rolling backwards, but keep finding yourself back farther than you were a while ago.

It probably started around the time I went in for my “medical procedure” back in July 2010, and the very long recovery that came after, which was hampered by the soon-to-be diagnosed Thyroid problem. When I started to feel better in Spring 2011, I already felt so much better that I didn’t have any way to compare it to anything better. I can see that now, but at the time, I couldn’t.

Watching the sun set over the duck pond.

My anxiety isn’t completely gone. I still have not gotten back on my bike. And I know that’s weird and is likely a sign that I’ve still got some actually mental/emotional work to do around that. But I’m back in school, back in my craft room (as much as my school schedule will allow), back in my garden a bit (it’s winter, so there’s not too much to do), and back cooking (as you can see by my recent recipe posts). And I find myself lying awake in bed at night with all kinds of exciting ideas running through my head. I have set, and achieved, more goals in the last three weeks than I did in the second half of last year together. And I feel like I’m on a roll.

My only complaint about the Lexapro is the sleepiness. I haven’t quite figured out how to get over the tiredness, but I’m working on it. Water, green tea, exercise, and good sleep help.

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6 thoughts on “I can see so much more from up here.

  1. I’m right there with you; depression took a hold of me for many years. I finally got all that negative energy to leave once I started doing tai chi/meditation. Good luck on your journey and I look forward to sharing more with you:))

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    • Interestingly, this experience with depression is a bit different from most people’s, and from what it has been in the past. In this case, I wasn’t what most people would see as depressed. I wasn’t negative or down on myself. I just wasn’t ANYTHING. I was just existing, not thriving.

      I’m glad you were able to find the things that help you. That’s the key.

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  2. I can’t help noticing that you didn’t list “going out at night dressed as a kinkajou and fighting crime” as a way to battle tiredness and depression, but perhaps it just seemed too obvious to mention.

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  3. I remember you writing about anxiety last fall, and I’ve been hoping you’ve been doing all right. It’s such a hard emotion to deal with. I’m glad you are mapping out new ways of dealing with your mental health.

    Do you have Hashimoto’s? I spent years not being able to get the dose right and dealing with hypo symptoms. I finally fired my endocrinologist and saw a holistic GP who has noticed that Hashimoto’s and gluten allergies often go hand in hand. Since cutting out gluten, I’ve felt amazingly better. Not sure if this is relevant to you or not, but your thyroid/depression symptoms caught my eye.

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    • I don’t think I have Hashimoto’s, but I can’t say for certain. I know that thyroidism runs in my family, and that it usually appears as hyperthyroidism in young adulthood (I lost a lot of weight suddenly when I was 18), and then returns as hypothyroidism in middle-age.

      I’m still working with my doctor to make sure we keep the level right.

      Like

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