Not This Time, DMV

Narratives are my non-professional, personal documentation of struggles with mental illness. Please excuse the language. Life ain’t always pretty.


 Not This Time, DMV

You picked the wrong crazy person

After my first experience with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation was completed in 2016, I went through a major adjustment period. I had never really been completely healthy and functional in my adult life. I didn’t have a good gauge what a non-depressed life should feel like. So many of my experiences, interactions, and thought processes had been built on my depressed brain. Hell, I cry during normal situations. So when a very stressful situation actually DID happen, I would just have a complete meltdown. With depression, everything was so much harder. Took so much more effort. Was ridden with anxiety. I was EXHAUSTED all the time. All things seemed so hopeless.

During the spring, when my TMS had been completed and I was continuing to improve, I had to go to the DMV (which is enough to send a normal person into a pit of despair). I was new-ish to California and I needed to register my car, get new plates, and take the test to get my license. It was a 5+ hour process getting my car registered, so I had to return a couple days later to get my license. I was in line for close to two hours just to get to the initial front desk person and be directed to the people who dealt with the driver’s license process. I had about 90 minutes until I needed to be at work, and was a little on edge about making it there in time.

I get to the Initial Desk Guy, waiting for him to tell me which counter to go to next. IDK looks through my papers and tells me I don’t have all my necessary documents. I needed my birth certificate that I left at home.

$*@&!&#*#*(!^> !!!!!

The truth: I was in a hurry on my way to the DMV from work and didn’t want to spend the extra time stopping at home to pick up documents that I may or may not need. I figured I had a 50-50 chance. I was 100 percent wrong, so I was pretty upset with myself. Meltdown upset. Such a dumb mistake.

So I’m just looking at the guy like he’d flashed me with a memory removal flashy thingy from Men in Black. I felt like I was in the bottom of a valley surrounded by landslides coming at me from all sides. I knew I was about to burst into tears so I grabbed all my papers, pulled my sunglasses over my eyes, and bolted to my car. Halfway back to my house I’m sobbing like I’d just watched A Walk to Remember. Damn it, Mandy Moore.

I don’t know what happened, or what triggered it, but the Universe enlightened me and I knew I needed to toughen up. A lot. I turned off the radio to think more clearly. “What the hell is wrong with you? You’ve got to quit acting like a cream puff, man. You’re not depressed! You can’t continue to go through your life like you are. You owe that to yourself. And to the world.”

So instead of driving back early to work, I went home, grabbed my stupid documents and drove back to the downtown LA DMV. I knew I was going to be late getting back to work, which is something I typically do not tolerate of myself. But this was something I had to do. And I had to do it now.

Now..I owned up. But I didn’t say I stopped crying. The guy had given me a numbered ticket, so I walked straight up to the front desk with an unsettlingly inflamed face, flipped up my sunglasses and said “I’m back. I’ve got my documents.”

You know when you’ve been crying or upset about something and you have to go back into public and you’re worried about your appearance? Your mom or your friend will say, “Oh you look fine. No one is going to notice a thing.” And they’re right; 99 percent of the time no one is even paying attention.

Now was not one of those times. I looked like I had been to war. The guy was a little taken aback (I had, after all, just stormed past the line of 50 people looking like my face just had it out with a swarm of bees). He paused for a second and then quickly grabbed all of my papers and looked at my previous ticket. He said I had missed my call, but to go ahead and go on to the next desk. VICTORY. Sweet victory.

I was pretty quickly ushered through the series of desks because they thought my ticket number had just been skipped over (when in fact I had driven home to get my freaking forms of ID, what a badass). I finally reached the picture-taking stage. I was there. And I didn’t care what anyone else thought, for the first time in a long time. Any makeup had come off in the meltdown and half of my hair was just hanging loose from my ponytail over my right ear. It was the start of a newfound freedom.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), my license picture ended up conveying that whole “I don’t give a @$#%” vibe, and it looked like a homicide mug shot. It’s a wonderful memory.

And that’s how I started shifting my anxiety into determination. It still takes effort, every day. I will never not have anxiety. But I have SO much less, thanks to TMS. I’m learning how to channel those nervous thoughts so they don’t take over my brain. I can function now. I don’t have phone calls where I’ve worried I said something dumb, or sounded like an idiot, and ruminated about it for the next two days (seriously, I would do this).

I have freedom. I still hate talking on the phone, but now I’ll hang up and be like “man that was weird”. And then laugh about it and move on. Sometimes that’s all you can do.

2017: It Can Only Get Better, Part I

Narratives are my non-professional, personal documentation of my struggles with mental illness. Please excuse the language. Life ain’t always pretty.


2017: It Can Only Get Better

Part I: Dang Depression

I was talking with my sister on the phone about the new year and the events of 2016. We both made a lot of adjustments and changes in our lives over the past 12 months. It’s been a particularly grueling year for me, which is saying a lot, because I’ve had quite a few rough patches thus far. I was recounting the year’s events in our conversation and after voicing some typical outrage and obscenities (that’s what sisters are for), a light appeared at the end of the tunnel. I said, “it can’t get much worse; 2017 has got to be better. ” And here we are.

Looking back, I don’t think 2015 did much good in setting me up for a breezy 2016. I started the year riding the tail end of my first holiday season without family, namely, my parents. I was on the opposite coast, where I’ve lived now for almost two years. I’ve spent the last two Christmases with my boyfriend’s family, for whom I am eternally grateful. They made the holiday as warm and familial as possible, so it wasn’t like I had a catastrophic day or anything. I just really missed my family, damn it.

The more impactful factor heading into 2016 was that I was going through a bout of depression. I have MDD (Major Depressive Disorder–just an unnecessarily long term for depression). I have dealt with it since I was about 15. I have periods where I am doing fine, functioning normally, and then I have periodic dips that feel like my life’s been set in slow motion. Within those depressed periods, I often have intense episodes when I’m in an acute kind of pain (kind of like small mental breakdowns, for lack of a better description). At this point, life can become unbearable and medications have to be shifted in some way. Heading into 2016, my mood had been declining since about October, and the road ahead did not appear to be getting any easier.

I guess I should take a minute here to further define “mood decline”. For those who haven’t experienced or witnessed genuine depression, it’s hard to convey that experience to you. If you want a deeper insight, check out this post.

Anyway, by the first week of January I was finally scheduled to begin Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy at UCLA. I had been on the waiting list for about three months, and was now set to begin my daily treatment, which lasted through March. TMS therapy was kind of a final resort treatment for me. My psychiatrist and I had gone through several medication and dosage changes without any change in my condition. Over the past decade, I have been on at least 20 different types of medication. After weeks of trial and error, my doctor and I will find a combination of drugs that work for me, and allow me to go back to functioning and leading a [somewhat] normal life. Eventually, that combination of drugs will start to lose its effectiveness (whether months or years later) and we’ll have to go through the whole trial and error process again, looking for a new combination that is helpful. By the time 2016 had begun, we didn’t have any more medication options. TMS was the next step.

Not my best look, eh?

OK, so now the bigger question. What the fudge is TMS? TMS is a relatively new non-invasive, drug-free therapy option for people suffering from chronic depression. It is usually offered to patients who are not finding relief after trying several medications. It uses a magnet, placed on top of the head, to stimulate nerve cells in a particular part of the left brain. It came out around 2010, with insurance companies beginning to cover the treatment around 2013. It’s pretty awesome, really. I drove through LA traffic every morning for about 8 weeks to sit in an oversized dentist chair and watch Netflix for about an hour while this giant metal thing sent magnetic pulses into my head every 30-ish seconds. It feels like someone’s tapping their finger on my head. The pulses are actually super loud when they’re delivered, so you’ve got to wear earplugs. You get used to it all pretty quickly.

Cool, but does it work? About halfway through my TMS treatment, I wasn’t seeing much relief, so they increased the amount of time I spent in the chair, and additionally started stimulating a different region of my brain on the right side of my head. This is sometimes done when a patient has not improved within the first few weeks of treatment. Right-side TMS is also used to treat anxiety as well, which I soon discovered.

After about six weeks of daily treatment, I started to notice a difference. I found myself laughing again. I was slowly able to enjoy things more and more. When 2016 began, maintaining my job had become an insurmountable task. I felt like I was running a marathon every day just to get through my shift. I regularly escaped to the bathroom because I found myself starting to cry just sitting at my desk. I’d cover my mouth to stifle the sobs from being heard on the other side of the restroom door. These breakdowns started to happen less and less. It became easier to get up in the morning. Showering wasn’t such a task. The small things are often the most noticeable to me. Tiny, tiny pleasures entered my life again, like enjoying the color of the sweater I was wearing. Or appreciating a genuine smile from someone.

To be honest, I was shocked. I had some hope going into the treatment, but by about the fourth week of waking up every weekday to sit through an hour of skull-knocking without improvement, I had given up believing I was ever going to have a normal life again. I had convinced myself that it was a logical decision to end my time on this planet if I had to indefinitely continue enduring the lifelessness and pain that had become a part of my daily existence.

This may be an insane notion to most people, but I look back on those thoughts (which are one of many instances in my life when I’ve felt like dying) and still feel that those suicidal intentions were warranted. If I had to return to such sheer misery thinking that it would never end, isn’t it logical to say, at some point, “Hey I really can’t do this anymore. I am in an paralyzing amount of pain without a moment of relief?” I feel like that’s the semi-logical part of it.

The illogical part, which is the true battle of depression, is the belief that the pain is absolutely, without a doubt, never going to end. That’s the thought you’ve got to fight. And I hope that this story helps someone in that fight. Because it did get better. And it can get better for you, too.

Icing on the cake of this whole experience was that TMS improved my anxiety beyond my wildest dreams. I didn’t even know how bad it was until it got better. Depression and suicidal ideation had always tended to overshadow any other issues I was having. I learned however, that the extreme anxiety I was having was certainly contributing to my overall condition. My depression continued to improve weeks and months after I had finished treatment, which is a normal part of the TMS process.

When I left the TMS center on my last day of treatment, I was told by my attending physicians what I already knew. My previous level of depression, some day, would come back. At what point , there was no way of knowing. BUT, what I didn’t know, is that TMS will work for me again when that time comes. Having that weapon in my back pocket has been an invaluable coping tool for me ever since. Never stop exploring your options and never stop asking questions. You never know what will work for you, and what one decision can do to change your life. Hang in there. ∗

Depression 101

Narratives are my non-professional, personal documentation of my struggles with mental illness. Please excuse the language. Life ain’t always pretty.


Depression 101

I have never had the perfect words to describe depression to someone who’s never experienced it. I don’t feel like I just watched a sad movie. I don’t feel blue. The opposite of depression is not “happy”. It’s the desire to live, in all capacities of the word. I feel no purpose. No sense of drive or ability to enjoy things; achieve things; to move at all. Life becomes a black hallway that appears to have no end. And you are stuck there, in that space, indefinitely.

It feels like all the bones in my body have been crushed, and that collective pain has been transferred to the deepest part of my heart.

It feels like Azkaban. For Harry Potter fans (🙋🏻), JK Rowling’s dementors are a reliable description.

It hurts. I don’t know that I can even use the word “sad.” It’s so much more than that. It’s hard to get out of bed. It’s hard to get dressed. It’s hard to be creative, innovative, or productive. It’s like someone has dumped a giant bucket of molasses on my life and I’m just trying to get through the muck until I can disappear in my bed each night.

One fall afternoon in 2016, it was especially heavy. I had been depressed for several months and I was slipping into an acute episode of sheer pain. I call them “acute episodes” because I don’t know what else to call them. I have yet to come across research that clinically defines these instances, which last for 30 minutes to a couple hours. I am wracked with pain and shake with the intensity of it. It literally brings me to my knees. Or I’ll end up a ball on the floor somewhere. It’s like I’m being stabbed with the Knife of Heart Break. Over and over and over again.

My partner found me sitting on our bed and came and sat beside me, trying to elicit any kind of information on how I was feeling. In a loss of words, I just started sobbing. I was crying so hard I was struggling to catch my breath. Snot’s flying everywhere. I just remember trembling and mustering up enough to whisper, “I hurt so much.” He hugged me for a long time. For loved ones of someone dealing with depression, sometimes you don’t need to say anything at all. Sometimes it’s just nice to feel another human being next to you, someone confirming your existence.

Such a distorted part of depression is not recognizing yourself. I am so grateful that my parents always truly understood this concept, because I can be a real asshole. I am not myself. Frequently, I’m just white hot angry. Why? Because I truly don’t know why I’m so “sad”. I can tell myself that my life is great. I live in America, I am more fortunate than 99 percent of the people on this planet. I have an amazing family, a wonderful and supportive partner, a job, college degrees. Why can’t I feel the impact of those things? What is wrong with me?

It’s scary and confusing being so emotionally ravaged knowing there’s no clear reason as to why I should possibly feel that way. Some of the most difficult times in my life have been spent trying everything in my power to talk my brain out of it’s current pattern of emotion (anxiety, hopelessness, etc) and failing miserably. And in the spirit of depression, when you can’t talk yourself out of it, or you lash out at someone unintentionally, you feel that much weaker and worthless.

It’s impossible to understand the experience of depression unless you’ve lived through it. Many years ago, I myself wondered why depressed people couldn’t just “snap out of it.” I don’t expect anyone to understand what I’m feeling. But just because you don’t know about something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk about it. As a taboo subject, a lot of people feel uncomfortable or even fearful of talking about mental illness. Know this: by just listening, you can make a big difference.

For me, it is cathartic just to form feelings into words and have a supportive person acknowledge the pain. When someone wants to talk about my experiences, I am usually happy to share. It makes the burden of the illness just a little bit smaller. Please don’t be afraid to ask questions and voice your support. I am alive because of the people who asked me questions. You are more appreciated than you can ever know. ∗

It’s 2017! Care About What You Eat

1: You matter.

Your health matters. I know that it’s somehow become really American and cool to down cheeseburgers like you just don’t care. But you should care, and this is why:

  • You live longer. Literally…your life is the reason here.
  • You have improved quality of life. Now I know the argument…”I’d rather die at 60 and eat what I want than live to be 80 and eat stuff I don’t like.” Here’s the thing:
  • I bet when you turn 60 you’ll have a change of heart (pun intended ?) about whether you want to be alive or not.
  • Your late adult years will have very likely been plagued with the effects of illness. Eating better means you will live longer and your years will be healthier and happier.
  • You don’t have to eat stuff you don’t like to be healthy.
2: Duuuude, you’ll feel so much better.
  • You’ll have more energy to do things that you want.
  • Better physical functioning (especially important for athletes and active people).
  • Your physique will improve.
  • Better sleep.
3: Waste less.
  • Committing to eat out less and make your own food decreases waste.
  • Shopping local is good for the economy and the environment.
4: Save $$$.
  • Eating out costs a lot more than your grocery bill. Make a plan to use up all that you buy so you don’t end up throwing away food.
  • Get a filter if you don’t like tap water and keep a single reuseable water bottle to hydrate throughout the day. Spend your saved money on something awesome!
5: Be an example.
  • Concerned a little with where our society is headed? Being a good role model for your kids, family, or friends is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your community.
  • Taking responsibility of your own health, saving money, and reducing waste are all things that we should pass on to the next generation.

 

And a billion other reasons like clearer skin, improved mental function, more confidence and control of your life. Be proud of who you are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is a Healthy Perspective

Welcome to A Healthy Perspective! I created this site because I saw a need…well, many needs. We are suffering greatly from a society that tells us we have to be like everybody else. “Health” has become “How do I look compared to her?”. Nutrition advice has morphed into this deceptive battle amongst fad diets. Our fleeting fitness goals are defined by the latest trending celebrity workout. We are addicted to anything but our actual health. We don’t stop to truly breathe. We don’t look away from our phones long enough to confront any mental or personal issues that may be plaguing us. Buzzfeed has never done an article titled “18 Lipid Panels that will Blow Your Mind”. We don’t care about our blood work. We have lost our inner voice, and wellness has lost its true meaning.

I have so many friends and family (self included) that haven’t been successful maintaining their ideal way of eating or sticking to a regimented workout. Who can blame them? There is so much misinformation out there. And there is so much focus on superficial happiness. I wanted to create a place where everyone—men, women, millennials, baby boomers—everyone can get honest information about leading their best life. Not just valid, realistic nutrition and exercise information, but real talk about mental health, about addiction, and what the hell the word happiness even means.

There are innumerable wellness initiatives out there (and many excellent ones), but I have a hard time finding a popular source that offers educated, professional, and logical wellness regimens that focus more on achieving health and less on developing a six-pack. Let me be clear: I am absolutely in support of reaching your desired “best body”. That is certainly a benefit of improved nutrition and activity. I have just personally found that I am more successful, positive, and…well…healthier..when I’ve focused on what my organs probably look like, instead of what my butt looks like in the mirror.

Focusing on health not only removes this looming societal pressure to “look good”, but I’ve found that when my health and nutrition are in check, all those great external things (like muscle tone and clearer skin) fall into place on their own. I think I also respond better to media that offers me some kind of proactive information than those that mostly highlight how someone looks in a bikini. Again, I am 100 percent in favor of women (and men) being proud of their bodies and sharing their triumphs via various social media, so go for it! I just needed a focus where physicality came secondary. I feel that many of you reading this need that, too.

I believe mental and emotional wellbeing gets overlooked by so many wellness plans. We’re afraid to talk about the gritty moments of depression, addiction, eating disorders, and much more. Aren’t these part of our health? As someone who has battled with severe mental illness most of my life, I realized early on that things weren’t always going to be easy. It sucked. I cried. A lot. And still do. But at some point I also realized that no one was going to do this whole happiness thing for me. So wtf was I supposed to do? What does anyone do?

You [wo]man up.

You inform yourself, you plan, and you prepare to do everything possible to have the life that you want. And you give it your best shot. I think even people who haven’t dealt with mental illness have to go through similar experiences. Taking care of our psyche is as important as taking care of our body. Isn’t our ultimate goal to be happy? Shouldn’t it be the foundation on which all our wellness initiatives are based?

I will share with you not only what I’ve learned about wellness through education and peer-reviewed research, but what I’ve experienced-the things that have brought me to my knees, the things that encouraged me to pick myself back up—the game changers, the real practices of being a healthy, whole human being. The inevitably hilarious moments that come out of life’s most grueling struggles. Join me. Health and happiness are worth it.