Browsing Tag

medication

chronic pain, Guest Posts, Hope

The Shame of Pain

October 24, 2019
pain

By Francesca Louise Grossman

I have tried 46 different times to launch myself out of chronic pain. I know this because every time I try something, I write down what I have done, what it feels like, what it costs, whether it’s covered and how worth it is in a small purple book. No one knows I do this. I scribble in it like I’m confessing to my sixth grade diary. In it is the same kind of anxiety about the future that I had in sixth grade, just not about Andy Apstein and whether he was going to kiss me or ignore me. Instead, it is about the treatment or therapy I try, and whether this one will be the one to finally help.

I opened the book the other day to pen a possible 47th.

The book is chronological, of course, but I put it in alphabetical order for clarity. I flipped through.

It starts:

Acupressure: December 2010 – Feb 2010 – dull pressure, not much change, $120/hr not covered – not worth it

Acupuncture – July 2002 (on and off) until March 2018 – sometimes painful, usually calming, blood flow, lasts less than a day but is relief $75/15 mins – sometimes covered – worth it but has to be ongoing

Acetaminophen – When needed – does nothing – over the counter – $9.89 a bottle of extra strength – not worth it

Bioelectric Therapy – October 2016-April 2016 – possibly dulls pain a little – for about an hour $165/hr at office – not covered by insurance

Cupping – February 2014 – one time, hurt like hell, not worth it. $85/30 mins – not covered by insurance.

Codeine – March 2009 – April 2009 – numb, good, not a long term option – covered by insurance $20 copay

Craniosacral Therapy – September 2000 – October 2001 – When in conjunction with other body work  – Myofascial etc – decent relief but dizzy – lasts a couple of days maybe $200/session – sometimes covered by insurance

Cryotherapy – June 2018-October 2018 – feels great right after, like putting ice on a knee. Lasts a couple of hours, heart races. $60/3 min session. Not covered by insurance

And on and on—and on.

The book is 24 years old. The same age as my chronic pain, more than half my lifetime, all of my adulthood, eons.

This book exists because all this time I have had a continuous faith that there is a valve for this pain; that I can escape it, or, more accurately, it can escape me. For all these years I have I known this to be true. I will find it. I will heal. I am a warrior, a survivor; tough, strong, and able. People have told me that pain is weakness leaving the body in all different scenarios, with all different motivations. I don’t have this recorded as studiously but I wish I did.

I have other lists I don’t love revisiting, but help to explain the pain. In my twenties I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an illness of the intestines that leads to violent pain and an urgent need to empty your bowels. I developed Colitis later, a more general type of the disease that bloats my stomach to look four months pregnant. I have had surgeries for my stomach, some of which were determined later to be unnecessary. I had thyroid cancer through out my twenties, finally treated when the tumor on my neck was the size of a ping-pong ball. I developed arthritis along the way, both as a peripheral malady and also it’s own disease. My body is gouged from piles of polyps removed from my insides, and (usually) benign tumors removed from my outsides. My neck doesn’t turn all the way to the right. My hips need forty-five minutes before letting me walk in the morning. I have an unidentified liver problem that swells without notice and bends me in two. If the saying is to be believed, there’s a lot of weakness in there, and it seems to be stuck.

*

When I was twenty-nine, I had surgery to remove my thyroid. The overnight nurse was a doozie of a lady.  Opera singer large, big calloused hands that vice-gripped onto my shoulders. Thighs thick as trunks that she used to pin me against the side of the bed so she could administer my catheter without “so much squirming.” She was brutal and brutish. A small silver peace sign sunk deep into her cleavage, drowning in flesh.

She had a hard time getting the catheter in, and as she struggled, she noticed my twisted face.

Pain is weakness leaving the body, my love, she said, repeating it over and over like a command until I could actually pee.

This is an extreme example, but at least once a year, often as much as once a month, this phrase earworms into my psyche. Related to illness and chronic pain or not, this saying has appeared like a subtitle again and again at the bottom of the screen of my life. When I was a weak child? A coach. A teenager who could not stomach even occasional beers? A boyfriend. A young woman unable to go to a bar without scoping out the bathroom situation ahead of time? A roommate. A thyroid cancer patient: a nurse. Doctors, PA’s, med techs. Physical therapists, friends, masseuses, acupuncturists, pharmacists, bosses, guy on the street.

*

I went to the doctor a few weeks ago and a delicate med tech took my vitals. She asked the normal questions, made the normal small talk, took the normal introductory tests. Her thin fingers flew across the keyboard, recording my responses. She asked me if I had any pain.

I wasn’t sure I heard her correctly.

“You mean right now?”

“Yes,” she smiled softly.

“Nothing acute,” I said.

“So no pain?”

“No. I mean, yes, I have pain, the same pain I have all the time.”

“What would you rate it, 1-10?”

How do you rate pain on a scale made for people with no pain?

“I don’t know, 4?”

She nodded and her hands took off. That was the wrong answer. I knew this, I knew that anything under 5 wasn’t worth her noting, that saying 4 was like saying I had a dull headache, or a splinter in my toe. But what should I have said? 7? Wouldn’t that be alarmist? Especially when that pain had been a relative constant for over twenty years? Especially when I knew from decades of experience that the litany of potential remedies for that pain were not going to help?

*

My husband stepped on a quarter inch wire sticking out of the ground near the beach in Fire Island this summer. The metal went a good inch into his flesh, and when he pulled it out blood sprayed mercilessly all over the sand and sidewalk. He howled. He made noises that I have never heard him make before and I have been with him through a lot of painful things. He was pale and sweaty, teeth gritting, eyes rolling back, that kind of pain.

Later that night, his foot gauzed up and iced, still throbbing, he looked at me and said “I’m so sorry you are in pain all the time.”

I didn’t know how to respond. This wasn’t about me, he was the one in pain, and yet a part of me felt smug at his discomfort. Now you know how I feel, was a momentary thought, I’ll admit it, and not one I’m not proud of.

But it got me thinking about pain and the way people relate to it. It is very hard to relate to pain if you aren’t in pain. Which is why I have such a hard time with the 1-10 scale.

Instead, for chronic pain patients, they should ask what kind of sharp thing is in your foot. Splinter? Pushpin? Nail? Quarter inch wire? Razor blade? Glass shard? Burning glass shard?

Nail. I would have said. Occasionally glass shard.

But instead I said 4 and she smiled.

*

I have fought against my pain and weakness for a very long time. I have tried, often unsuccessfully, to be like my friends. In my twenties I tried to stay out all night, I tried to ski, I tried to walk down the street without doubling over. I worked, I played, I drank, I sat as still as I could so that no one would notice the aftershocks. In my thirties I had children, pregnancy an event that paused my pain for a while so that when it came back it felt like a tsunami. Like many mothers of babies I didn’t sleep and then I had severe postpartum depression; I found having small children so physically demanding I came undone. I’m forty-one now and I am very often a prisoner in my house. My stomach bleeds, my liver pulsates, my head spins. Not all the time, but enough.

From my teens until today, this minute, and all those in the foreseeable future, there is pain. At least nail in foot pain. Sometimes glass shard. Never pushpin. A splinter would be welcome. In fact, when I think back on my childhood and that which was difficult – most sports, endurance, gym class, partying, anything else that required my body to function – I think it’s possible that I have been in pain all my life. Back then I never considered that my resting state was anything less than normal, but now I know better. Most people do not live with nails in their feet.

I hurt. I hurt in the morning when I turn over to get up. When I walk, when I carry groceries, when I turn my head to the right to reverse in the car. My stomach burns, my joints swell, my liver rejects everything I eat and drink.

I don’t talk about pain very often. I tell myself it is because people don’t want to hear me complain but it is more than that, I can admit that. I’m ashamed of my pain. I’m ashamed of my weakness.

What is it about pain that is so shameful?

We live in a culture in which wellness equals strength. People my age do cross fit and triathlons, women have babies without drugs, are lauded for their tight abs, their thick skin, their ability to play tough. I have never been strong like this. I have tried, but I have failed. I was never scrappy. I don’t think I will ever be. I am soft. My belly, the place of much of my pain, is squishy. Distended, bloated, doughy, depending on the day. I’m sensitive. I cry at pop songs.

Our society’s greatest hero story is about overcoming obstacles. We love a fighter. We love an underdog who comes out on top. We love triumph and happily ever endings. We love to fix a hoarder, intervene and send someone to rehab, remodel a decrepit house. We love treatment. We love survival. We love hope.

But hope is complicated. After all of these tries, this list of 46 different treatments and therapies, I no longer have hope that things will get better. I have hope that things will not get worse, which is not the same thing. I have a hope that feels a lot more like mercy than it does like faith.

When I ask myself this question about weakness and shame I hear a quiet hum suggesting a better question: why am I fighting so hard?

In my experience, pain is not weakness leaving the body. I realize this is a trope, and any mantra is nothing more than a slogan. But slogans have power. They convince. And I’ll admit I have always believed this – that the suffering I endure might one day let me free.

When I was pregnant and exhausted, a friend of mine told me that of course I was tired, I was making a person in there. Though not the same, pain sometimes feels like that too. Of course I’m tired, I’m fighting against myself all the time, trying to quell the pain so that I can live my otherwise fortunate life.

I’m not delusional about this. I know I live a charmed life in almost every way. I am educated, from a family that loves me – even when I behave idiotically. I am not from a country ravaged by war. I have a husband who cares for me, does not abuse me, even dotes on me sometimes. I have two healthy children whom I adore. I am from a privileged minority, I have more than I deserve. I can walk, breathe and think to exist in my daily life. I can afford therapy, eastern medicine, treatment outside of insurance sometimes, to do part time work. I can try 46 things. In short; I’m lucky. Unfairly so. And yet.

Here’s the whole list, abbreviated to just the titles:

Acupuncture, acupressure, acetaminophen, alcohol, aleve, aromatherapy, bioelectric, CBD creams and oils, cupping, chiropractic, chanting, codeine, cranial sacral therapy, cryotherapy, dairy free, hallucinations, gluten free, guided breathing, fasting, fentanyl, flotation, ibuprofen, oxycontin, marijuana, massage, meditation, myofascial, quell, reflexology, radiation, salt baths, saunas, steroids, sugar free, sodium free, sound bathing, surgery, swimming, percocet, physical therapy, psychotherapy, psychiatry, praying, vicodin, xanax, yoga.

Everything helps a little. Nothing helps enough to be worth the life altering work and piles of money it takes to keep it up.

Here’s a truth: the things that actually take the pain away feel a lot like addiction. They don’t remove the pain, that’s the trick. They numb. And they are delicious. But they don’t last and they unleash other pain, often more severe that the original. It’s never worth doubling the pain tomorrow to have numbness today, no matter how attractive the reprieve.

So the pain is there. It’s always there and most likely it will always be there. I don’t know how it got in. Maybe the pain was waiting for me when I came into this world. Maybe it comes from my ancestors, my DNA, my parents’ tragedies, my childhood bullies, or little or big assaults. Maybe I am sensitive to the world for some reason, and it simply hurts to be here. As woo-wooey as that sounds, that’s the one that feels the most accurate, the most likely.

I think it’s actually softness that makes us strong. It’s not skin made of iron. It’s showing the underbelly. It’s not bracing for the storm, it’s putting a kite up in the wind. It’s the willingness to see the world as a series of experiences some of which are going to hurt like crazy and the ability to just keep going anyway. It’s vulnerability. It’s asking for forgiveness. From ourselves as much as from others. It’s mercy.

Mercy is an open palm. It’s the meaty bit. Curling your hand so that your knuckles face the world is so much easier. But a fist to heart feels quite a lot different from a palm to heart, resting square on your breastbone, staying there, the heel of it pulsing the same rhythm as the heartbeat on your chest, marching your body along in a long trek to some sort of quiet absolution.

My husband’s foot healed in a few days. He stopped limping. The knowledge that he would get better permeated and defined the experience – the faith that this would be over soon.

Therein lies the difference between acute and chronic pain, of course: in how we define hope.

So what kind of hope can I have? What if I looked at my years and piles of pain and perceived weakness not as a failure but as a step towards becoming who I am? What if I forgave myself the years of fighting myself and sank into the deep cool water of acceptance? How would it feel down there?

I do not mean that I should give up. I’ll try things if they look promising. 47, 48, that’s fine. But what if instead of fighting so hard I allowed the pain to be part of me? What if, for a while, instead of the restrictive eating and the therapy and the medicine and the exercise and the planning and the trying (and the failing), what if I just stopped? Even if it hurt? Even if the pain never left? Could I recalibrate to “0”? Could I see that as the most radical act? Doing nothing at all?

For now I’ll put the little purple book in the drawer. I’ll cap the pen and sit quietly. I’ll let what’s in me stay put. I’ll put my feet up, expecting and accepting the pulse of the nail that might be forever lodged there.

Francesca Louise Grossman is a writer and writing instructor based in Newton, MA. Her work includes contributions to The New York Times, Brain, Child Magazine, Word Riot, Drunken Boat Literary Magazine, xojane, Kids in the House, Ed Week/Teacher among others. She is currently working on a memoir and a novel. 

 

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depression, Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood

The Intruder

September 22, 2019
intruder

By E.F.C Warden

I remember how my brain started working, how even well before my daughter was born I kept envisioning her death. Not a peaceful “died in her sleep” or was “born sleeping” death but horrific versions of the same endings.

While pregnant, I would envision falling on sharp objects that would pierce my belly and my daughter and end her life. I saw myself being hit by a car and her tiny form being squished to death inside of me. We died together in many ways inside my mind.

Visions after visions of our untimely end filled my senses on a daily basis to a point where it was all I thought and even dreamed, my brain consumed with how she would die and when she didn’t fulfill the nightmares new ones would form in their place.

This should have been my first clue something was wrong.

The thoughts never ceased after her birth. I thought she would die during her arrival. I thought she would suffocate from my inability to progress during labor. I believed she would choke to death or stop breathing before she was even born. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Mental Health

Dots And Holes

August 21, 2018
dots

By Avery Guess

  1. Morse Code

Morse Code is made up of dots and dashes, or more accurately, dits and dahs, but I don’t know anyone who uses the latter. I never could listen to Morse Code and understand anything beyond the standard S.O.S., and even then, I’d worry that I hadn’t heard the message correctly. My first name, Avery, is made up of a total of 8 dots and 6 dashes. My last name, Guess, 10 dots and 3 dashes. Anxiety has 8 dots and 8 dashes. Depression contains a whopping 17 dots and only 8 dashes. Bipolar disorder, 27 dots and 16 dashes. Except in the case of anxiety, the dots prevail. There is no escaping them.

  1. “Repetitive Vision”

I saw Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Room” titled “Repetitive Vision” in Pittsburgh’s Mattress Factory in August 2014 while visiting Katie, a friend I’d met on Facebook a few years before. If I had heard of Yayoi Kusama prior to seeing her work that day, it was only in passing. Kusama is a Japanese artist who has been active since the 1950s. When she is not working in her studio in Japan or overseeing her popular installations, she lives in a mental hospital a couple of blocks away. She has experienced hallucinations from an early age that appear as “flashes of light, auras, or dense fields of dots.” When Katie and I walked into the room, and the door we entered through closed behind us, I experienced the exact opposite of claustrophobia. The walls and ceiling are made up of mirrors. The floor is white and scattered large neon coquelicot polka dots. These reddish-orangish dots also cover the three white mannequins with grey wigs who stand in various poses within the room. The effect the mirrors creates is that of infinite repetition. Katie and I stood amongst the mannequins and began imitating their poses, walked around the box we were inside trying to find an end, and took photos of ourselves within this magical environment. I could have stayed for hours.  Continue Reading…

depression, Guest Posts, Mental Health

The Me and The She

December 27, 2017
bear

By Adrienne LaValley

I’m a little blue today.  Not the Ceylon sapphire blue I’d love to be enveloped in. Royal blue, cerulean blue, turquoise like the ocean or any other variety of azure. The blue that leaves me confused, unsure, and downright loathing of anyone able to plaster a smile on their face. Fuck them. That kind of blue. Continue Reading…

Forgiveness, Guest Posts

Not Quite Forgiveness, a Yoga Story

July 21, 2017
forgiveness

“I have lost friends, some by death…others by sheer inability to cross the street.”
― Virginia Woolf

By Nina Gaby

It was with the best of intentions that I shut down my old life as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in upstate New York and packed up my family and got a quick prescription for Paxil and clonazepam and became an innkeeper in a small village in Vermont. Let it now be known that if you need two prescriptions to convince yourself that what you’re doing is right you might want to take another glance at it. Instead I went to a psychic in a strip mall and interpreted her words as confirmation (what she really said was light some white candles, take a bath with herbs, and think on it.) And while I fully understand I’m using this as a seductive hook here–after all who hasn’t at one time considered the cliché of running away to a simpler life of baking scones and turning down crisp bed sheets and not only smelling the roses but actually having time to grow them–that isn’t really the story.

The story is that for the past fifteen years I have been angry that the story fell apart. As it unraveled into petty interpersonal and not so petty financial conflicts, the small community we had moved to took sides. Think wrong table in junior high school cafeteria. We were not only collateral damage from 911 and eventually lost the inn, our life savings in one of the tech industry debacles, my mom, my dog and the old friend who lived across the road in our new village dismissed me in a way that felt cruel and confuses me to this day. I still feel shame for sounding like such a victim, as it was likely the victimhood that put us at disadvantage in our community in the first place.

Forgiveness has never been a consideration, anger being my stronger suit. Sometimes forgiveness is not even an option, even though we want to believe it is, as if we have more control than we really do. And that’s the real story. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Medication, Mental Health

Unbecoming

September 15, 2016
sleep

By Julia K. Agresto

I haven’t slept in days. The crushing anxiety that plagues every waking minute of every day won’t let up. It’s a constant feeling of being deeply afraid, although of what specifically I don’t quite know. It’s a strange combination of caring far too much about everything and nothing, and no longer caring much about anything at all.

Each day begins the same: with a tearful phone call to my father. Or a phone call where I don’t say much and don’t cry, but I call anyway because I just need to feel someone there, to feel somehow less alone in my loneliness. I’m unsure which of the two is worse for him. In either case, I feel like an impossibly heavy burden. I know the weight of my sadness and his inability to remedy it are slowly destroying him. I know he is at a loss for what he can say or do. I wonder if, like many others who have seemingly disappeared from my life because they too are at a loss for what they can say or do, he debates whether it would be easier to just let me drift away. But I’ve already drifted. I am standing on a tiny island in the middle of a colossal sea waving my arms desperately, waiting to be rescued. Nobody sees me.

One day during our ritual phone call, my dad says, “You can’t do this anymore. You’re not sleeping. You’re missing work. You’ve hit a wall. You need to go on medication.” I resist. I’ve long operated under the misguided notion that medication equates to weakness. That succumbing to this last-ditch solution would mean I’ve admitted defeat. I’m terrified of side effects. I’m terrified of gaining weight, even as I’m withering away to nothing, so severely depressed that grocery shopping and cooking have become too emotionally taxing to deal with. He tells me that he’s found a psychiatric nurse practitioner in my area who can see me that day to evaluate me and prescribe something for the anxiety and depression, and to help me sleep. I am so completely drained and exhausted that I finally agree. The thought of never escaping this hell that I’m in finally becomes more painful to me than the stigma of being medicated. I figure that things can’t get much worse (this turns out to be untrue, as I’ll soon learn that the adjustment period to these new meds is complete and abject misery). Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Medication, Mental Health, Surviving

Lexapro: A Love Story

August 4, 2016
medication

By Kenna Conway

“Don’t drink. Continue taking your medicine,” my friend repeats in my ear as I throw bikinis into my carry on.

I half lift my head, slightly acknowledging her words of wisdom.

“Are you listening to me?” she asks, taking my silence as a worrisome sign.

“Sort of,” I reply, before turning my attention to a crop top.

I have this pattern- some call it subconscious self sabotage. I find myself in Italy, tempted by the tastes of fine wine. I know before I leave U.S soil that I will have some after a year of purity. The first glass tastes strange. It is airplane cabernet. I sip it very slowly, checking to see who is around me. I feel like I am doing something wrong. Sneaky. I don’t finish it. The second time I drink, I am at dinner. The pizza is much better than the wine. I do it again the next night, but with gluten free pasta instead. After a month, I leave Florence feeling like I am not in love with booze.

Weaning off medication comes gradually as well. My supply is running low, so I begin to cut the dose. At first it seems like a fine idea. My sex drive returns and I feel a heightened sense of creativity. As I move through the streets, I am turned on by life and the multitude of emotions passing through me. And then slowly I begin to slip. My Montmartre apartment becoming more and more appealing than an unexplored city. I am crying a lot, for no reason at all. I want to believe that I am releasing something, that the tears serve a purpose. But I am afraid it is just the same familiar sadness that has been haunting me since childhood. Before heading home, I start swallowing my pills again. Continue Reading…

depression, Guest Posts

Sensitivities = Superpowers

May 11, 2016
medication

By Jennifer Ann Butler

I am two weeks into withdrawing off of Wellbutrin (an anti-depressant) and I feel like my skin has little caterpillar legs on the inside and is going to tap dance off of my body.

I had my first date with an anti-depressant when I was thirteen years old. The best way I can explain it is that I was born with the volume turned way up on life. My hypersensitivity made day-to-day life quite challenging. I could hear electricity and people’s bones creaking, feel other people’s emotions, and see things that most said weren’t there. From a young age, I figured death as the only way out.

Since my teenage years, I’ve maintained a love/hate relationship with some form of medication. Most made me feel like a zombie. Others made me twitch. Others, yet, gave me stomachaches and caused hallucinations. I always felt disconnected from who Jen Butler really was. It was as if I was standing in a room full of mirrors; I could see my reflection, but I couldn’t connect with it on a human level. There would always be the piece of glass between us, preventing true connection. This resulted in a numbness that increased the longer I stayed disconnected. I remember times when I was so numb that I would run red lights to see if I could feel anything. I’d drive my motorcycle 110mph+ just to get some form of a sensation. Continue Reading…

Anxiety, courage, Guest Posts, Self Image, Self Love

Fix Me

January 27, 2016

By Timna Understein

This story is dedicated to Aidan, who thankfully has found the truth…that there is NO magic pill, and who has discovered his gift of writing, which is ultimately a way through. The song that should accompany this piece is entitled “Falls Asleep at the Wheel” by The Hissy Fits.

Once upon a time, there was a tired girl.  Well, really, it was beyond tired…she was exhausted at best…and pretty much all of the time.  After the first cup of coffee quickly exited her body (by 10:00 AM), the ability to function in a regular day, became a struggle, to say the least.  Example: Up at 6:45 AM, coffee, moderate exercise, shower…typical actions taken by many each and every morning, was followed up by the feelings of, “If I put on my make-up, I’m going to have to take a nap, or maybe I can do my make-up laying down on my bed…But if I do that, I’m not sure I’ll get up.”  She knew this could not possibly be normal, nor did she want to continue to feel this way…everyday!

Many attempts were made through out each day to not feel this way…to fix this..to change it.  These attempts could look anything like drinking 6 cups of coffee a day, to running to doctors to beg for blood work, to plead for information, to be heard.  But…to no avail.

There were times of acceptance about feeling this way, living this way.  No.  Actually, there were not.  Never acceptance, but rather a sense of defeat, of, “Yea, I guess this is how I will feel each day.”  But then, there were also times of hope.  Hope looked like this: a lab result of severe anemia, or a low, positive ANA with the possibility of an autoimmune disorder.  THAT’S hope?!?!  Jesus fuck!

Recently, the girl came to the conclusion (after 7 years of feeling like this, and having every test available in this country done) that this must “just be” fatigue.  Pure and not simple, fatigue.  Ok, fine.  Chronic fatigue.  Yay.  A name for it.  Good.  When there’s a label, then there’s the ability to research, seek solution, obsess.  And oh hell yes, that is exactly what occurred.

This process was swift, just the way a girl like this would prefer- the faster the better.  Urgent.  Make it go away fast.

One day, the girl asked her pharmacologically gifted son if he knew of a drug that helps with exhaustion, but is not a stimulant {insert fact that this girl is in recovery and can not touch a lot of drugs that others might consider}.  He mentions something the girl had never heard of.  Well, actually, she had seen a movie all about it, but didn’t know at the time of viewing, that this was the drug the movie was about (Limitless).

Provigil (Modafinil).  What’s THAT????  The girl dives into the endless praise for this drug, how it’s life-changing and amazing, with no side effects at all.  WAIT!  Life-changing?  That was all she needed to hear.  The quest was on.  Within 24 hours, the girl had a poster presentation showing her valid need for this drug, research to back her, and an appointment with her doctor…for the next day.  Whirlwind into Provigiland. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Young Voices

A Letter to My Depression

January 13, 2016

Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This is part of our Young Voices Series for Girl Power: You Are Enough. We are always looking for more writing from YOU! Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here. Please share this essay as I feel it is tremendously important that we begin to shatter the stigma of mental health. Tweet, FB it, send to a friend, Instagram it. Whatever you can do.

By Haley Jakobson

There is something about New York City that makes me feel like I could die at any second. Then again, that could be the depression.

How are we gonna talk about it? Should we speak in scientific terms: the levels of serotonin in my brain are depleted, it can’t make them go up on its own, so I have to create them with chemicals? Or should I explain it in poetry: my skin with gaping holes sucking in the sadness of the entire island of Manhattan, find a stopper plug me up so I can breathe again? Which works for you?

I’ve been on this medication for four weeks now and it works, and it’s a miracle, and I’m still a mess and I still cry in public and I’ve written more than I have in months. I’m kissing boys in screenplays I wrote for myself and sketching poetry like a map of my twenties. My brain isn’t betraying me on every street I turn onto and I don’t look at my dogs and wonder if the human race has deceived an entire species out of their happiness. Now I can see that my dogs are actually pretty fucking happy.

So here is my Drug Manifesto: thank you tiny white pills for tweaking my wires back into place. For letting me laugh and put sparkles around my eyes, and thank you even more for letting me fall to my knees and cry. I started medication the week before you broke up with me and hallelujah for that because some force of light let me heal three days into my new prescription, not the 4 weeks I was told to be patient for. Three days and brightness shone. And then you broke up with me. And then wrenching devastation. But as I cried up and down the streets of New York fucking City, the day of the marathon, with thousands of people on my literal block, I was only heart broken. I was not depressed. I sat on a police barrier and sobbed. But I was not depressed. I bought a tiny plant and put it in my pocket and cried harder when the dirt spilled, but I was not depressed. I impulse booked flights to Aruba and I cursed the adrenaline coursing through me because I knew it was masking the sadness, but I wasn’t depressed. I was just heartbroken. I couldn’t get to my apartment because the road was blocked but I didn’t think I was dying. Because I was only heartbroken and not depressed. I celebrate this. I would have taken neither but I’ll take heartbreak this time. I’ll take feeling my own heart, mine, over the desperate unknowingness – the loss of my intuition, I’ll take it over depression. If those are the cards I’m dealt, I’ll take them.

Sarah Silverman says depression is feeling homesick except you’re already home. Losing the home inside myself will never ever be something I choose. That is mine and if a tiny white pill needs to remind me of that, then praise that glorious silver angel and the holy water that helps her sing. Continue Reading…

Addiction, Dear Life., depression, Guest Posts

Dear Life: I Self-Medicate! What Should I Do?

January 26, 2015

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Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. Click here to submit a letter or email dearlife@jenniferpastiloff.com.) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by Shannon Brugh, whose previous essay on the site did phenomenally! 

Send us your questions because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ‘em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy.

Well okay, maybe a little.

Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter. 

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her 2nd 2015 Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Sep 26-Oct 3, 2015

Dear Life,

I have gone through hell and back since I was born. I will save you the gory details and tell you that I am about to be 27 and have finally arrived at the most peaceful place, spiritually speaking, that I have ever been. But as I am finding peace in my work, family and friendships, a new career opportunity suddenly presented itself. I have been a bartender for the past eight years and, after graduating from college, am trying to move on to a more secure career that is conducive to raising a family. Two days ago I received an email for a lead on a job as a liquor rep in center city Philadelphia. I live about an hour from there currently but lived there for three years during my undergrad. I am perfect for this job. 100%.  But one requirement is that I must submit to a drug test prior to being hired. I have suffered from severe anxiety, depression, OCD and PMDD for at least the past ten years and smoking pot has significantly relieved my symptoms. I am nervous that if I get a call for an interview in the next couple weeks, I would definitely not pass the test. What do I do?? I am a good hearted, intelligent and motivated young woman. I have spent time in Rwanda. I want to save the world. I know I would be an asset to any company in the world, but I smoke pot to relax. I don’t know what to do. Please help me.

thank you, J

Ps… That was a complete free flow of thought. I apologize if it was long-winded.

Continue Reading…

courage, Guest Posts, healing

Still Breathing.

November 20, 2014

By Tara Allen.

I think I started cutting when I couldn’t write anymore. I stopped writing and harbored the demons within, trying in vain to keep them locked up. They crawl around inside me, lurking in the shadows, waiting to show themselves. I thought drinking would numb it, keep them at bay. But the demons had to escape somehow, and since I no longer let them flow out through words, I watched as they flowed out in my blood.** *Just gave away my guitar. Only I don’t think of it as mine, I think of it as his. How he played, how he loved to play. How he created songs for me. I’m sitting here, with a glass of wine nearby, tears streaming down my face. I am a mess. Does this get better? I want to bleed, I want to rage, and I want to do anything but feel this. Am I so fucked up that I am unlovable? Pretty enough to get the guy but not good enough to do what it takes to keep him? Pretty fades. It’s fading fast. I am toxic.

I choose to write my way out of this. To put it out there, how this shreds me. How I’d rather be physically in pain than emotionally.

I bring out the worst in men. I destroy people, I break them. They walk away so easily.
Time to put it on the page and leave it.

** *

“What are you here for?”
“I’m cut and I can’t stop the bleeding.”

Continue Reading…

depression, Guest Posts, healing

Holding On: My Journey With Antidepressants.

June 7, 2014

By Angela Giles Patel.

The most dangerous time for me are the moments after I remember that I forgot to take my medication. This is the time when I can convince myself that I am on the path to weaning myself from the required daily dose, that I am already hours into a medication free life and can keep going, that there is no time like the present, that I will be okay.

I have been on anti-depressants since I was fifteen and first prescribed a tricyclic. Though I cannot recall it among the string of arguments with my mother, there must have been something I said that jolted her. I was unhappy and articulate which meant that I could tell her with venomous precision just how much sadness I was experiencing. And I did so, on a regular basis, telling her how I wanted to live anywhere else, how I hated school, how I wanted to disappear.

If I felt like I wasn’t being heard, I would stick hand written lyrics to the refrigerator door. Little sad notes next to reminders that we needed to buy more milk. The Cure, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, Joy Division – they were the soundtrack to my high school years. When it became clear that I was well beyond the realm of teenage angst, or, more likely, when it became clear that she couldn’t navigate my waters in the midst of my father’s vodka tinged storms, she sent me to a psychiatrist. Finding someone else to help me was one of the best parenting decisions she made.

I went willingly.

I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder.

My therapist was a good fit for me. He took me seriously, listened to what I said, answered questions I had. He also prescribed an anti-depressant. He fed my love of reading, recommending books that would give me a broader perspective than the one I had living in a small town in southern Utah. Soul on Ice, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The books were edgy and expansive. I wrote about how I felt, he read it, and we talked about it. There was never any real discussion of me not making it through my teenage years, it was always a question of how. We set a goal: I would make it through high school and move out to attend college.

I considered my need to use an anti-depressant nothing more than a by-product of living in a dysfunctional home and I never balked at taking it, or at the weekly sessions I had with my therapist. The small white pill made the edges less sharp, and life felt easier. I thought the medication was temporary, that once I no longer lived at home, I would no longer need it.

In college, I let the prescription lapse and found myself sliding back into a space I thought was hundreds of miles away. What I was feeling was so familiar that it scared me and I again began a regimen of therapy and medication. Rather than discussing how to endure my environment, the therapy focused on how to best be me. Among the many things that make me who I am is the fact that I am a person with a clinical disorder.

I’ve been on five different antidepressants since I was a teenager, moving from one to another as I changed doctors or as newer medication became available. The biggest change to the type of medication I was taking came in my 30s. After my sister died, the run-of-the-mill antidepressant wasn’t working, my body chemistry had upped its game and thrown anxiety into the mix. Combinations of medication were tried until I felt balanced. Although I stopped therapy years ago, I continue to see a doctor who helps monitor my medication.

And here I am.

Holding on.

Thriving even.

So nothing pisses me off more than to see someone talk about how they used to take medication for depression or anxiety, but now they don’t have to anymore, because they discovered yoga or running or god. The idea that somehow they have managed a victory that is important enough to broadcast, that what they have accomplished can be outlined and followed is misleading at best. And although they won’t say it explicitly, the implied judgment is clear – if you are not enlightened enough to be able to survive without medication, something is wrong with you.

No shit.

Something is wrong with me.

What is wrong with me is not a bump in the road, or a case of the blues, and it is not something that can be addressed by the right herbal tea. It is not a pothole, it is a fucking canyon – one I can only navigate with help. This is why I have to take two burgundy colored capsules every morning. If I don’t my mind turns against me. It’s not a failure to be enlightened, it’s who I am. The kicker is that I am enlightened enough to know that who I am is someone who’s mind can fail to be her friend.

I hate taking the medication. The idea that I cannot fully function without it breaks my heart on a regular basis, but I can’t. I’ve tried. It wasn’t pretty. I hate my dis-order and my dis-ease enough that I occasionally allow myself to become tricked by depression. I am not sure who said it first, but they are right – depression lies. One of the biggest lies it tells is the one that starts with the idea that medication is unnecessary. Maybe it is optional for someone who just needed a little boost to get through a rocky period, but for those of us who are predisposed to depression, proper medication is critical. To suggest otherwise is a failure to understand the true nature of the problem.

There have been a handful of times where I have stopped taking my prescription on my own, always after missing a dose. The immediate onset of withdrawal symptoms coupled with a careening mood were enough to snap me back to my senses within a few days. I have stopped my medication under supervision twice. Making it past the painful withdrawal period and becoming fully engaged with my depression felt perilous, and I was quickly placed back on medication after articulating my concerns. Even so, if I could trade the fact that my pharmacist knows my name before I open my mouth to ask for the prescriptions my doctor has called in, I would. I don’t need that kind of recognition.

What I do need is space to be me. I need quiet and time to reflect. I need room to be still and recollect. Truth be told, I occasionally do a bit of yoga and I regularly run my heart out, but neither of those is a panacea. I also need my friends. They accept that my disposition is a part of me, nothing more and nothing less, just another feature I have, like my messy red hair. Above all else, they understand what it is to be gloriously unique. And I need a reliable pharmacist, preferably one who genuinely smiles when she sees me walk through the door.

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Angela Giles Patel has had her work appear in The Healing Muse as well as on The Nervous Breakdown and The Manifest-Station. She tweets as @domesticmuse, and when inspired updates her Air Hunger. She lives in Massachusetts where she conquers the world, one day at a time. She is one of the editors of this site.

 

 

Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station, is a writer living on an airplane.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it's magical.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2016 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it’s magical.

Join Jen Pastiloff  and Emily Rapp at a writing and the body retreat in Stowe, Vermont Oct 2015. This will be their 3rd one together in Stowe. Click the photo to book.

Join Jen Pastiloff and Emily Rapp at a writing and the body retreat in Stowe, Vermont Oct 2015. This will be their 3rd one together in Stowe. Click the photo to book.

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