Coming Back to Me

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I slowly weaned myself off my antidepressant.  It took me 32 days.  The reason it took me 32 days is because of a little thing called, “SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome.”

That’s a lovely euphemism put forth by drug companies that means “this shit will kick your ass with withdrawal symptoms.”

Drug companies like to try to take the stigma of what amounts to an addiction [albeit only when you try to go off them] from their little droplets of gold.

The irony here is that antidepressants are only slightly more effective than a placebo, and in many studies, not at all.  So they’re no more effective than a sugar pill, but cost an arm and a leg, and if you try to go off them, you have withdrawal symptoms.

A perfect money maker, don’t you think?  I mean think about it.  The withdrawal symptoms alone are often enough to keep people taking their meds.

So although it was a little scary, since some of the withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, twitchiness, and irritability, I decided that a $40 a month [that’s the copay. Actual drug cost is about $200] placebo was bullshit.

I can meditate, pray, and ride motorcycles for cheaper than that, and it’s more effective!

The fourth week was the most difficult for some reason, but I’m off of it, and I feel pretty damn good.

Next is the mood stabilizer.  I know what you’re thinking, “Oh hell, here goes the crazy person going off her meds.” Except that I’m not actually crazy.  I definitely qualify as Bipolar 2, but I think maybe I’m not actually mentally ill.

Here’s what I mean. When I can keep my stress levels manageable and have a strong support system, I function just fine. So what my meds actually accomplish is they enable me to endure a situation that is incompatible with my temperament.

Sometimes that’s necessary. If you’re stuck in a situation you can’t get out of or improve, I’m all for medicating in order to survive it. But I think it should only be a stopgap measure until you figure out a way to change things.

I ended up in a situation that I didn’t want, but couldn’t see a way to avoid. I knew taking care of Jeremi would be a nightmare, but I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my parents to do it alone, or of allowing J to go to a nursing home or die.

I knew it would be bad, but I didn’t expect that I would be completely unable to function.  Enter medication.  It numbed the pain and allowed me a little extra time to figure out that this is not something I am able or willing to do for the rest of my life.

Unfortunately, even with meds, I’ve reached a point of burnout so complete that there’s no way I’m going to be able to keep this up.

Now, the reason I decided to go ahead and stop my meds even though J still lives here is that although the meds definitely numb the emotional pain of living in a situation that is diametrically opposed to what I need to thrive, it has also taken away my most treasured gift: my creativity.

The need to write disappeared, and with it, one of the things I like best about me. With the dulling of my senses and emotions, the well of my creative soul dried up.

I won’t live half a life.  I won’t sacrifice my connection to the universe in order to survive diminished.

I have no way of knowing how long I’ll be on this planet. I refuse to put off living the life I was created to live until tomorrow, next year, twenty years from now.

So I’m going off my meds, and already I feel the urge to create, to write, to return to me.

It’s good to be back.

The Journey Continues

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So after my recent bout of depression, I’ve been reading a lot about possible causes besides the standard, ‘chemical imbalance’ schtick.

Turns out, there’s no actual evidence that people who are depressed make less serotonin [or any other neurotransmitters that antidepressants tweak] than so-called ‘normal’ people.  I read an interesting book by Bruce Levine about the depression epidemic in the US, and I tend to agree with his analysis that people who are depressed aren’t crazy or chemically imbalanced. We might not even be abnormal.

It’s interesting how things coalesce to bring about new understanding at just the right moment, but as I’ve learned about our consumer culture and just how completely dysfunctional and unhealthy it is [both for us and our entire planet] I’m starting to wonder if my inability to function in my world has less to do with my malfunction and more to do with the insanity of the culture in which I live.

Levine likened sensitive people who are prone to depression to the ‘canaries in the coalmine’.  We might just be an advance warning that the way we’re living is unsustainable.

Which is all fine and good, except for fact that so many of us are now taking medications to function in bedlam instead of figuring out how to change things so that we can thrive without needing to numb our minds and spirits in order to exist without extreme suffering.

We’re still suffering, we just don’t care anymore.

I’ve noticed that since I started taking a seizure med [Lamictal] and antidepressant in combination, I’ve been a lot less moody and reactive to the things that happen in my life.  But I’ve also lost my creativity.  I no longer have the intense need to write down what I’m feeling or going through, and I’ve lost the desire to create art, whether with paints, clay, or words.

I’m not sure that’s  a good thing. I mean, I’m not saying I’m some great talent or anything, but art is something I enjoy immensely, and something I’m proud of.  Art is something that not everyone is able to do, and my art is something that no one else on the planet can do.

Whether it’s brilliant to anyone but me, it’s still uniquely something only I can offer the world.

I find myself wondering if, knowing that the sadness I sometimes feel isn’t abnormal, and that it will always pass eventually, I might be better equipped to explore the pain and express it through my art and writing.

Pain and suffering are universal. No one gets through life without it. But not everyone can put that pain into words, music, or pictures and share it with others.

Maybe there’s a reason for my sensitivity that I hadn’t thought of before. Maybe my gift to the world is to express my pain so that others know they’re not alone.

 

Still Here :)

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Never fear.  I meant I wanted to sleep in a very literal sense of the word.  So I spent a few days doing nothing but sleeping and trying to come to terms with my new depth of depression.

Scared the shit out of my friend and worried my husband, which sucked, but I’m okay and I think they forgave me.

I think at least part of my bipolar disorder is less mental illness and more how I process life.  I’d just read three books in rapid succession that confirmed for me things I’ve known instinctively since I was a kid, but also made me realize that what I know is the exact opposite of what most people acknowledge.

From an egotist’s perspective, I’m awake, but most of you are asleep.

From a realist’s perspective, I’m half asleep, half blind, and a little over half crazed, but a whole lotta people are more than half way there, so maybe I’m not the worst possible person to have insights I want to share that might be useful.

I dunno.

Maybe.

So here’s my thought for today.

There’s a lot more to life than I will ever know. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to learn it all.

There’s more to learning than just memorizing facts.  Knowledge doesn’t do you much good if you keep it locked up in the musty attic of your thinker.

The coolest part is figuring out how to integrate the knowledge into your every day life.  The bad news is, it often includes learning how to reprogram your unconscious mind, which can be slow, difficult, and painful, but is totally worth it.

It means realizing that you don’t actually live in reality, you live  in a story that is a little bit what you tell yourself, but is mostly colored by conditioning you got before you could think.

Which is why it’s so hard to change.  Most of your reactions have nothing to do with the situation you’re in, or what your conscious mind thinks is happening. It has to do with what you accidentally picked up from parents, siblings, in preschool, or where ever you spent your first six years of life.

So you do what you don’t want to do, and you say what you don’t want to say, and you don’t do things you know you should do, and are generally fucked up most of the time.

Yeah.

And from what I can tell, all the major religions began with people who figured out how to reprogram themselves.  Buddha advocated letting go of attachments and practicing compassion. Jesus talked about loving god, others, and ourselves, and being merciful [compassionate]to all. [exact same concept from a different perspective…letting go of everything vs connecting with everything, but both with the same results: compassion].

And they both taught that it wasn’t easy to reach a point where you can love everyone, or love nothing, but be compassionate either way.

You have to systematically deconstruct all the false impressions, ideas, perceptions you picked up along the way.

I’m most familiar with Jesus, and he’s my favorite anyway, so he’s the one I’ll be expounding on in the future.

For now, though, I think it’s important to know that there are a LOT of programs in your brain. Some of ’em are good and make you do kind, compassionate things, and some of ’em are destructive and false, and make you act like a complete asshole.

So do you have more good programs than bad?  I dunno.  Are you an asshole most of the time, or just once in a while?  And if you’re an asshole more often than not, does that make you a bad person?

I don’t think so. Even serial killers have people in their lives who matter to them, people they value as human beings.  It’s just that instead of cutting people off in traffic or being rude to a waitress, they kill the people who don’t matter.  The serial killer is what lack of compassion looks like when taken to its most violent extreme.

This is reality.

But it’s no excuse not to try.

p

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when i was eighteen, i went through a time when i didn’t really care if i lived anymore. i was supposed to figure out what i wanted to be when I grew up and then to go do it.

well, i never figured it out, but i went on living in spite of the fact that i wasn’t really interested.

i ended up dropping out of college and somehow found a husband instead.  he saved me.

almost twenty years have passed, and i now know that at least part of my ambivalence toward survival was a down cycle in my bipolar disorder, but today, i find that knowing what’s happening and why doesn’t reallychange the fact thatmy ambivalencs has returned.

it’s been a long time since i’ve felt this way, and the fact that i’ve been on medication for over a year to prevent these feelings is mroe than a little disturbing.

like so many other things, medication is nothing more than a chemical bandaid and can only stop the bleeding for so long.

this soul deep sadness is nothing more than my spirit’s way of telling me that I don’t have what I need to survive and thrive.

the irony is, i now know exactly what i need, infact, i know what we all need. what we’ve been craving for over ten thousand years now. i know that the system we’re using isn’t broken, but hopelessly flawed, and i despair because i know that i can’t save the world. no one can.

the change that would have to happen is so fundamental, so basic, and naturally so simple as to be something a child could understand and potentiallyimplement if he’s allowed to do what needs to be done.

but my adult self is simply paralyzed.  i’ve asked for what i need for decades now, and never really been heard.  the lie runs too deep and there’s no way to penetrate it.

my bandaid is failing right now, and all the pain i’ve been ignoring and trying to fix is right there, staring me in the face, and i just want it to end. i’m tired of fighting, tired of asking, tired of clinging to false hope.

we’re devouring ourselves and the entire planet, all knowing that something is missing, but not knowing what that is, or where to find it.

I know, but i’m helpless to get it, to change anything. to make anyone understand, or even care.

at this point, my ambivalence is complete. if it wasn’t for my family, i wouldn’t even bother writing this or continuing this nightmare a minute longer. it’s only for them that i hang on.  if it wouldn’t damage them beyond repair, i’d be gone now.

as it is, i’ll probably call the doctor on monday and ask for a bigger bandaid.  i can’t fix it. can’t change it. can’t progress. i’m trapped, just like we all are, and unfortunately for me, my anger isn’t there to keep me going anymore. the fight for change is gone, buried in the futility that was there all along

i just want to sleep.

put me back in the matrix. knowing means nothing in the end. it just means a loss of hope.

The truth staring me, and indeed all of us, in the face is the fact that the system isn’t broken. it’s doing exactly what it’s done for the last ten thousand years because that’s the only thing it CAN do.  no more than a mouse can grow wings and fly, the system can’t do what we wanted it to do.

there is a fatal flaw, and i can findally see it.  unfortunately, it brings home the fact that just being aware of a problem doesn’t necessary give you the ability or even the will to try to change it.

it is what it is, and now I sleep.

Nagalicious Brainworm: Matthew 7

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I can’t get Matthew 7 out of my head.  Which I suppose is a good thing, since Jesus said the Holy Spirit would remind us of his teachings.  I’m still disturbed, though, because I’ve had something else percolating in the back of my brain that worries me a little.

A slight disclaimer: these are just my thoughts and impressions. I’m not using any commentaries or other interpretations of what this chapter means.  It’s mine [and I like to think I’m not completely out of touch with God] but you know:  filter of crap around my heart.

So here goes.

 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

[Matt 7:1-6]

I think it’s safe to say most of us know and have heard this particular scripture quoted  on a fairly regular basis.

Here’s what bothers me, though. I know a lot [and I do mean a LOT] of seemingly sincere Christians who talk trash about so-called Welfare Queens [thank you, Ronald Reagan, you jerk] with their iPhones and manicured nails and expensive clothes in the checkout lines with EBT cards.

A lot of those same people [who are incredibly kind in real life] disparage undocumented workers, GLBT people, “Liberals,” drug addicts, unwed mothers, prostitutes, and poor people.

This is textbook ‘judging’. And according to Jesus, these are mere SPECKS. Not only that, but if God judges us all, then everyone who ever had a judgmental attitude toward anyone without asking forgiveness, is being judged in the same measure they used to judge the slut in the checkout line.

I don’t know about you, but that worries me. A lot of people judge like this on a daily basis [I can tell because I see the Facebook posts].  And if God judges in the same measure, what then?

I’ve found that there are two main reasons people judge. One is Pride [à la the Pharisee praying, “God, I thank you that I am not like this sinner here at the altar with me.”]

The other is that we tend to judge others because they have  a character trait that we have and dislike in ourselves.

There are probably others, but those are the two I’ve struggled with the most.

You see, I once sat in the judgment seat against all the examples I listed above. And a lot of the time, I did it with the sincere belief that I was doing the right thing. I believed I was ‘speaking the truth in love’. I believed that line of bullshit about, “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin.”

The snag is,  I spoke the truth as I understood it, and most of the time, my understanding was clouded at best, flat out wrong and twisted into wickedness at worst.

Here’s the thing that still boggles my mind:  I did all this judging with what I believed to be a genuine desire to see people turn from their ‘sin’… I had no idea that I was inflicting deep emotional and spiritual wounds on people I claimed to love.

I didn’t realize that not only was I doing what was wrong [malice,  gossip, slander,  arrogance and boastfulness], I was encouraging the same sin in others.[Romans 1:29,30]

But then..

I guess you could say my eyes were opened.

I  realized that my so-called love wasn’t love at all.

I realized that most of the time, I was just angry that “they” couldn’t see what I saw, that they didn’t agree with my understanding of scripture, that they didn’t live the way I thought they should [and regardless of the fact that I had scripture I could use to back me up, I was really just pissed off that they didn’t interpret scripture the way I did].

Sure, I thought I was right, [which should have been a red flag], but I couldn’t see my own ‘plank’ of pride because I was too busy focusing on all the specks around me.

I live every day with the knowledge that I took what was sacred and threw it to the ‘dog’ that was my own twisted heart. I was the pig that trampled the pearls. I turned the greatest love the world has ever seen and I used it as a weapon of destruction.

Because although I had deceived myself into believing that I was doing what was right, with the right motives, the truth is, I was just rationalizing my own wickedness. The wolf in sheep’s clothing was me.

Listen, the truth is, judgment, when heaped upon innocent heads by the guilty , breaks the spirit, even if you never say the words out loud.

And after you realize what you’ve done, how much pain you’ve caused, and how little you can do to heal the scars you’ve left on the hearts of others, trust me when I say, your soul shatters.

For this reason alone, I deserve Dante’s Inferno.

So needless to say, all those comments about poor people, etc. are a pretty big trigger for me. Sometimes, I handle it with grace. Others, I repay evil for evil and start flinging bricks.

I see and recognize that I sometimes use ignorant, assholian posts by others as an excuse to focus on someone, anyone else’s judgmental attitude besides my own.

But other times, I see the path to destruction they’re on, a path that I traveled on for far too long, and I just want to scream, “Stop!  Turn around! Go back! That way leads to death.”

I struggle every day with the knowledge that I have personally caused untold suffering with my thoughtless words, insensitive heart, and judgmental attitude.  I live with the knowledge that I can do precisely nothing to fix it,  take it back, or heal those wounds.

Even worse [for me, at least] is the knowledge that I can’t prevent others from being thoughtless, insensitive, or judgmental. I can’t do much to protect their victims, and I can do even less to change the behavior or hearts of anyone but myself.

So there’s the first part of my thoughts on Matt 7.

Change Tends to Snowball

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Since we’ve switched to a whole foods, plant-based diet here at casa Forcie, I’ve noticed that other things about my life are slowly changing as well.

I think if I’d become vegan for ethical reasons, I wouldn’t have made it until now.  I do have ethical concerns, but it turns out the real reason I’m sticking with it is pretty much my own survival.  Specifically, I want to live to be old, and I want to be healthy enough to enjoy it.  Hence: whole foods, plant based diet.

I’m not opposed to having animal products once in a while [as in, two or three times a year]. But I’m finding that every time we eat meat or cheese, we all get sick afterward.  Our bodies don’t like it anymore.

That’s been surprising to me. Another surprise has been that no matter how badly you stuff yourself on healthy vegan foods, you’re only ‘overstuffed’ for about thirty minutes or so and then you’re back to your usual energetic self.

Another thing that the kids, Steve and I have all noticed is that we don’t get sluggish as much as we used to.  Our minds are clearer.

The one downside is that whole foods means that the food you eat isn’t much different from it was when it came out of the ground, so you have to fix it. I’ve enjoyed figuring out how to make plant-based dishes that are full of savoriness [AKA Umami] because that is what keeps this enjoyable for me.  It has to taste good or I’m not going to eat it.

Which is all fine and good except for two things: cooking everything from scratch, while better for my family and me, is also WAY more time-consuming than throwing a frozen pizza in the oven or slapping some ham between two pieces of bread.

I spent at least two hours preparing dinner every day, and since I’m also the messiest cook who ever lived, I spend one to two hours cleaning up as well [although cleanup is usually done the next day before I start cooking again…I usually have the kids ‘clean’ up after dinner, but they’re kids and they generally suck at it.

It’s one of those ‘choose your battles’ things, unfortunately.  It ends up being less work to do it myself than to try to get them to do it.  I end up choosing between having them clean up, after which there’s no time to fix dinner, or cleaning up by myself, fixing dinner, after which I end up spending four or five hours in the kitchen.

Depending on how I feel, I usually do one or the other.

Which is why I’m writing this now, because one of the changes I’m undergoing is that I’m learning to stop fighting the way things are and go with the flow.

The reality is, I will never spend five hours in the kitchen a day, every day, in order to make sure we all have healthy food. There will continue to be days when I fling my hands up and say, “Screw it. I’m NOT cooking a damn thing today.”

And I think maybe that’s okay. I think I might be able to plan a little and freeze leftovers that can be taken out and thawed and eaten once in a while.  I also think we can have a baked potato night and the occasional ‘Dumpster Burrito’ night as well.

I tend to boycott fixing breakfast and lunch.  I eat them both every day, but they usually consist of easy stuff like PB&J, apples and PB, oatmeal, or one of my homemade TV dinners [Green Giant steamer bag and a veggie burger or veggie chicken patty]. The TV dinners are fairly processed, but not as much as the ready-made ones.

OH! That’s another  crazy thing. As my body adjusts to having healthy fuel, I seem to be drinking less coffee, tea, and soda.  I still have all of those things, but I don’t crave them as much as I used to.  It’s weird as hell to me that I really enjoy homemade lemon water these days.  I even like it without ice. It’s basically the juice from half a lemon in a quart of water, sweetened to taste [right now, that means enough sweet-n-low to represent the sweetness of about  8 tsp of sugar or 2 2/3 tbsp. I may switch to honey or some other natural sweetener at a later date, but sweet-n-low has been around forever and it’s cheap when you buy it in bulk].

It’s late now, and I’m actually getting sleepy, so I guess I’ll continue this another time. I was actually going to talk about something else tonight but apparently I needed to talk about this right now.

This is me, going with the flow. 🙂

 

Knowledge is Power

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This is going to be a long one, but I hope you’ll indulge me by reading it anyway.

I was doing some research last night and learned some disturbing news about a bill that Congress passed after the debt ceiling debacle of 2010.

First, some backstory.

We all remember the fight in congress a couple of years ago where Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling. At the time, the argument was framed in a way that was misleading. Well, actually it was a lie.  Here’s why.

We were told that the refusal to raise the debt ceiling was a refusal to borrow more money. It was put forth as the equivalent of refusing to buy a new house on credit that we couldn’t afford.

What it actually was, was a refusal to pay on debts we had already incurred. It was really the equivalent of refusing to make a house payment on a house we had already bought on credit and moved into.

Now, rather than default on our loans, the Democrats met with Republicans and wrote a law they called the Budget Control Act.  The law was passed and signed by President Obama in August of 2011.

The act included a provision where a committee of twelve, six Democrats and six Republicans would be required to come up with a way to reduce the deficit over the next decade [2021].

As an incentive to the committee, a plan for cutting spending was put into the bill that would go into effect automatically at the end of 2012. The spending cuts were massive and across the board.  The bill set a deadline for the committee to reach an agreement, and on November 21, 2012, the committee revealed that they couldn’t come to an agreement.

Now, most of the records of the committee meetings are sealed. The general public is barred from reading the minutes, and we are basically forced to take the committee members’ word for it on what actually happened.

Republicans said that the reason they couldn’t come to an agreement was that Democrats refused to cut entitlement programs. Democrats said that it was because Republicans refused any and all tax increases.

Now, it’s important to remember that our government currently doesn’t receive enough money in tax revenue to balance the budget. Taxes are going to have to be raised for someone if we’re ever going to be able to reduce the deficit.

Grover Norquist has been going around for years, forcing Republicans to sign a pact stating that they will never raise taxes, no matter what.  He’s proven more than once that if a Republican goes against the pact, they will not be re-elected. George H. W. Bush failed to be re-elected largely because he approved a tax hike.

I have no idea how Norquist managed to get so much power, but he’s not afraid to use it and basically destroys any Republican who reneges on the deal.

So the Republicans continue to refuse to raise taxes, even though there is no other way to cut the deficit. In fact, the party line is that taxes should be cut, no matter what.

Now, the other half of the equation is that spending has to be cut as well. Republicans are notorious for putting social safety net programs up for cuts, but they nearly always refuse to cut defense spending, and in fact, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan advocate more tax cuts for the rich [even though it will increase our deficit] while also increasing defense spending.

There isn’t enough money in social programs to offset the increases in defense spending, or decrease the deficit, especially when you continue to reduce revenue with tax cuts, which means that funding for education, infrastructure, and various other programs will have to be cut as well.  We’re talking roads and bridges, public schools, non-profit colleges, science programs, including the money we spend on research and development for curing diseases and a bunch of other stuff that has the potential to make life better for all of us.

So at the end of 2012, the Budget control act will force these across the board cuts to programs that are necessary for our country to function.  The Republican refusal to increase taxes, in spite of the fact that there is no way to balance the budget without it, put the committee into gridlock and an agreement couldn’t be reached.

Now, the Democrats probably did refuse to cut entitlements, but my guess is that they refused it because the Republicans refused to raise taxes. Our deficit is high enough that it is impossible to balance the budget without increased revenue.  Couple that with the Republican insistence on cutting taxes for the wealthy even more, and you’ve got a serious problem.

You can’t cut spending AND taxes and reduce the deficit.  The math just doesn’t work.

So here we are. The budget control act automatic spending cuts will go into effect on January 1, 2013 if Congress can’t figure out a way to reduce the deficit.  The act doesn’t increase taxes, except to allow the Bush Tax Cuts to expire.

Now, what that means for the middle class is that the tax cuts we received will go away. Our tax bills will increase, and for those of us who are barely making it as it is, more people will fall below the poverty level.

The wealthy will have their taxes go up, too, but since they already make massive amounts of money, the increase in taxes might prevent them from buying a second home, but they won’t have to struggle to put food on the table like the rest of us.

It’s also important to realize that the budget control act is a law. Unlike the budget proposals that the Democrats, Republicans, and President put forth each year to be voted on, the budget control act is legally binding.

Budget proposals are nothing more than an outline of how each group thinks we should allocate our national budget money for the next year. They are not legally binding, so even if Congress approves a budget, they can ignore it or follow it and there are no real consequences.  It’s kind of like when I write a schedule for my day. I can follow the schedule or chuck it, and the only effect is that I decided to do something else.

The Budget Control Act is a law. These spending cuts will go into effect unless congress votes to repeal or amend it.  What the Republicans did by holding the debt ceiling hostage was force Democrats to pass a law that very well may slam  our country into a downward spiral of depression.

The cuts are dramatic, and they will affect all of us.  As government spending decreases, real people lose jobs.  When people lose jobs, they stop buying stuff, which causes businesses to close, which leads to more job losses, and on and on.

The only people who will be left standing after such a devastating spiral are the people who are already wealthy.  The middle class could disappear completely.

So when you hear people talking about the ‘fiscal cliff’ and ‘sequestration’ you need to be aware that this all started with Republicans threatening to default on our mortgage.