Presenting….Celexa, now coming to a medicine cabinet near me!

I had planned on writing about all of the intentions that I made at the beginning of the year, and how well I was doing with them, but instead, I’m sitting here typing, after just taking my first dose of Celexa (ten milligrams), and reading all of the side effects that could occur. (FYI, if you are anxious, I don’t recommend reading all of the possible side effects that could occur with a drug; your anxiety will blossom like a Venus flytrap, and demand to be fed. I am prepared for some side effects, and will just have to be surprised for the rest of ’em).  My doctor has prescribed the antidepressant, after I explained to her that I have had three anxiety attacks in the last six weeks, and that I want to feel better.  I have been fighting depression this year by pretending that I was all right, and denying the symptoms.  My last experience with the antidepressant family was about ten years ago, with Lexapro. I had a positive experience with the drug, except for a twelve pound weight gain, which I eventually lost.

These days, anxiety attacks take place when I have something physically wrong with me, like pain that I can’t explain away – my doctor has diagnosed me with  PTSD, which she says stems from all of the loss of family members that I’ve experienced in a relatively short period of time. (Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with major recurring depressive disorder – I took a peek at my diagnosis, then looked it up in the DSM-IV; I already knew that I was depressed, but I still wanted to read the official designation.)

At this stage of the game, there are a few other factors that are at play in my decision to go back on antidepressants.  This year has kind of sucked in that I had to go through a pretty painful back injury, as well as chronic tension headaches (which I understand from reading can be a result of depression, as these started before I was injured). The last time I was diagnosed with depression, I had the same kind of chronic headache, which lasted for months; I was sure that I was a goner, and paid a couple of teary visits to my doctor, before my mind was put at ease (somewhat).

I’m also going to start therapy again, with a new therapist.  My previous therapist helped me so much, but I’m looking for a new perspective – I have two names, so it’s just a matter of picking up the phone and making an appointment, and then my adventures in Therapyland (the sequel) can begin (again).

If you have never experienced depression, or know someone who has it, let me just tell you that it’s not what you might think it is. It’s not what I thought it was –  it’s not romantic, and it’s not something that you can just shake off with a good night’s sleep. It’s a sneaky little bastard that creeps up on a person, and changes the way you feel and the way you think. It’s funny – once I decided to acknowledge that I needed help again, I actually felt better – still depressed, but taking steps to climb out of the hole, so that’s a start.

I am Julie’s nose

When I was about 19, I fractured my nose in a three-car accident.  On the way to the hospital, one of the paramedics said, “Oh, you broke your nose.” He could tell just from looking at me that it was broken, but apparently the doctor didn’t agree.  At 22, I decided to have my nose fixed – I’m not sure how it works today, but I had to meet with the doctor for a consultation before the surgery.  He asked me why I wanted to have the procedure, and I said that I had been in an accident, and that I wanted to look better.  We decided that it would be best not to change my nose too much, since my eyes were so large; he would just straighten it, and thin it out (I bounced off the steering wheel and dashboard in the accident).  After the surgery, the doctor said that when he started to sand down my nose, it basically broke, so apparently I had had a hairline fracture for three years.  I walked around with a bandage on my face for about a week, and when it was removed, I could see the difference.  Here’s a visual timeline of the state of my rhinoplasty (great word, right? Really boosted my confidence):

1.  Senior high school photo, before the accident – I was never as Greek as I was here, and the nose knows

1.  At 19; this could have been the year of the accident, but I think this was taken before it happened

2.  Post-accident, post-surgery; I think I was about 25, and a student at CSULB

3.  High school reunion, 37 or 38 – hard to see it, but the face seems to be holding up under the pressure of 40 looming on the horizon

4.  Took this one today

I have considered going back under the knife recently to smooth out the bump on my nose that seems to be more prominent than I would like; after some thought, I have decided against it, mostly because I just don’t want to go through that again. My mother used to tell me that my face had a lot of character; “beautiful” wasn’t part of her vocabulary when it came to anything, so I gave up waiting for that term to be applied.  I have learned to appreciate what I look like, and be grateful for things like good DNA (Mom never looked as old as she was, even at 87).

I am fond of saying that my forehead is going to look like Clint Eastwood’s pretty soon, and I am constantly trying to smooth out the frown lines with my fingers (I must have done a LOT of frowning in the last ten years, because it’s not just my skin that has frown lines – my bones feel wrinkled, so weird.)

I know that we all do things to make ourselves look younger; when I was at the doctor, having my consultation for my nose, he asked me if I would want to have implants in my jaw, since my chin was short, and the implants would give me a stronger jaw. I turned him down.  I knew even then that I didn’t want to put anything fake in my body (at least, anything that wasn’t necessary to be there for my health).

It’s a personal choice, and if you have surgery to look better, it’s your decision; I did it because I wanted to look better, so I get it. We color our hair, exercise, deny ourselves the food we really want, and do whatever else we think will make us look younger and better.  But so many women who have plastic surgery don’t look good – they keep going back to tweak their faces, and eventually, all of the emotion and spark is taken out, and they look….unreal. I think I’ll stick with my real-time appearance, for now. Now if someone figures out a way to reverse the gravitational pull on the rest of me, you know where to contact me…!

Black Hole Monday

On vacation this week, and instead of doing something fun, I decided to have a meltdown. I ended up sitting on the pier at Huntington Beach, feeling as if I was finished with everything, and that there was nothing to look forward to in life. I don’t know if I can explain the feeling adequately; it’s more than being down. I felt overwhelmed, my self esteem took a nosedive, and I was drowning; this just didn’t happen on Monday, but has been building for a few weeks. That Monday morning, when I couldn’t stop crying, I called my therapist and left a message, and after that was when I got in the truck and went to the beach.

To review, I have seen a therapist for a period of time at two points in my life; after my niece passed away in the hospital from a botched surgery, and recently, after my mother died in 2010. I was diagnosed with major recurring depressive disorder in 2004 (I found out the diagnosis code, and looked it up in the DSM-IV), and was on antidepressants for about a year from 2004-2005. I stopped taking them when I felt better, which, as I understand it, is the way it’s supposed to work, although I know not everyone has a good experience with taking them.

I decided on Monday that, instead of going another twelve rounds in therapy, I would make a list of the things that are making me feel bad, and then make a list of what I’m doing (or could be doing) to make myself feel better. Here’s the list:

What makes me feel bad:

  1. I feel exhausted and out of shape
  2. I am overwhelmed at work and home
  3. I’m not looking forward to anything
  4. I don’t like to leave the house and try new things anymore
  5. I have a lot of fear
What I’m doing (or going to do) about all of it:
  1. I have started running, and signed up for a yoga and meditation class
  2. I intend to narrow my focus to doing one thing at a time
  3. I am going to make plans, and follow through on them
  4. I am going to make myself leave the house, and try new things
  5. See number 5
Making the list helped immensely, because it made me identify exactly what has been bothering me, and also helped me figure out if the solutions were within my control.  I think I’ve written this already, and it is important enough to repeat – depression isn’t romantic, it’s frightening.  If you’ve had it, you know.  If you think you have it, ask for help; I finally did, and getting help made all the difference.

Working it out

Time to put on the (pink) weighted gloves, the pink and charcoal Asics, and get my rear end off the couch.  I’m back in Weight Watchers, as the scale won’t go down, and I don’t want it to go up any more; today was a LOT of vegetables, salad, egg whites, bananas, and water, and I consider it a good beginning. I have felt the shadow of eventual weight gain hanging over me like a sword ever since I got to my goal weight in 2009, so I’m not all that surprised, since I think something like 99% of those who lose weight gain it back.  (I hear you out there: “Self-fulfilling prophecy?’ Nope; barbecue potato chips and cheesecake bites, along with workouts that decreased from five a week to one or two.)  I have the behaviorial aspects of weight loss down, and what I always need to remember is that the emotional piece of this puzzle needs to be acknowledged, and removed.  By that I mean that my success in the weight loss area hinges largely on my being able to take emotion out of the picture.  So the puzzle might look like this:

Part of my removing emotion is writing about what has happened here; I used to stay quiet whenever I gained weight, as if that would keep it from being real.  Now, I’m talking about it, to make it real – it’s not a lot of weight (eight pounds), but it is a stubborn eight pounds, to be sure. Ugh, just the idea of having to do this again makes me want to lie down and eat a pound of chocolate-covered cherries, but I won’t.  There are foods that I just cannot eat, and I won’t ever be able to eat them with any amount of control, and I’ve gotten used to that, and don’t think about it often (except for moments like now.)

The good news is that I’ve stopped the madness before all of my good work was undone, and I have the good habits in mind, and can start down the right road pretty easily.  I will continue to write about my progress (and my lack of, although I will strive for progression, not regression), and if all goes well, you will be seeing less of me in a few months. Stay tuned…

P.S. Check out “Diet Bytes” at for more on the subject —

Out for repairs

Perfect May evening, and I feel about as imperfect as I’ve felt in a while; tired, tense, out of shape, and mentally exhausted; Club Petaluma is upside down with unfinished projects and clutter, and I’m writing cranky poetry, which usually makes me feel better, but that isn’t even doing the trick.   I don’t feel like I’ve completely gotten over being sick from a couple of weeks ago, and I wound up in the ER earlier this week with severe back pain. I never knew that the phrase “pain management” would come to be so familiar to me; I’m well-acquainted with my “regular” pain, but this was new, persistent and scary.  It turned out to be a strained thoracic muscle, but I am glad that I got it checked out, since heart attack symptoms for women can show up as back pain. My mother’s heart attack started out as a bad backache, and resulted in triple-bypass surgery for her, so I’m on the job when it comes assessing back pain.

Being a cranky mess is not the way that I want to spend the summer, so here’s a visual list to get this camper back into happy mode:

When I practice all of these, I feel like this:

Instead of this:

As always, my friends keep me in the game, and this week was no exception.  I was excited to see my friend Tischel receive her Master’s in Education on Saturday at Cal State Long Beach, and it turned into a nice reunion of CSULB work friends:

This week, friends asked about me, called me when I was in the ER, texted me, and made me laugh.  You are gold to me, all of you, and I don’t ever forget how fortunate I am to know you. And now, let’s roll out summer, why don’t we?

Like a fat kid loves cake….

I have talked at length about my food issues here, and I’m going to do it a little more right now, so if you’re into schadenfreude, read on (and if neurotic women make you squirm, see you another day, no worries).

It’s been a bumpy week.  I’m struggling in a few different areas in my life, and trying to concentrate on those that I have some control over, like work, writing, and doing more knitting (the last will reap emotional and psychological benefits now, and monetary benefits later, fingers crossed). Food-wise, the holidays weren’t kind to me, and although it wasn’t much, I did go up a little bit on the scale, and so I’m in the familiar position of re-adjusting my diet.  So much goes into maintaining weight loss, and this year will be three years that I have kept the weight off (minus five pounds). This is an achievement for me, and something that I have not ever been able to do before; usually by this time, I’m back in Weight Watchers, starting the plan all over again.

So it’s the middle of January, I’m counting calories, refraining from eating too much bread (sticks like Elmer’s), eating more protein, fruit (not too much fruit, it also sticks like glue), vegetables, and working out more (the workouts also suffered over the holidays – wouldn’t it be nice if you could work out to a certain level, and your body could bookmark that level, so when you got back to regular workouts, it would say, “Here you are, Julie!” like you never left.)

It’s a life-long battle for me, not only with food, but with body image issues that started at 14, and rage on today. I don’t have a lot of funny things to say about this – it’s a constant in my life, and what’s hard about it is that I can’t just walk away from the negativity, as I would if it were coming from someone else and directed at me. When you have believed something about yourself for almost your entire life, it takes a little more than, “Oh, just get over it!” to change your thoughts.  It’s damned hard work, and I’m nowhere near finished; the best I can do is act “as if,” and maybe all that acting will pay off one day, and I will really feel different.  To all of you who don’t have any idea what I’m saying, in the words of the great Napoleon Dynamite: “Lucky!!” (Now hand over your tots…)