Finding my bliss

I have always been a slightly anxious person. I think all those internet articles call it "high functioning anxiety." My doctor calls is general anxiety disorder.

I recall being in school and thinking how great it would be to be done with tests and essays and projects because then my stomach might not hurt so much every day. I wish I could go back in time to that girl and pat her on the head, "oh, Sugar ..."

I got pregnant in 2009 (#thanksobama). The pregnancy itself was pretty easy, despite a LOT of diabetes maintenance. Labor and delivery was lengthy but ultimately a huge success. I delivered a perfect human, surrounded by my loved ones. Everything was aces. 

And then I started crying, right about the time I had to go back to work. Ian was eight weeks old and all I wanted to do was hold him. I would walk to the daycare next door at lunch to nurse him and cry for 45 minutes every day. The lovely Hispanic women would just nod and lovingly hand me tissues. I would bring Ian home and sit in the recliner, nursing and weeping. Rich was dumbfounded. "You know he's ok, right? Like, everything is ok?" 

No, baby, everything is not ok. I'm going to have to give this child away again in the morning and it will rip my heart out of my chest. I am Not. OK. 

My therapist and I talked about trying Zoloft for postpartum depression. I started taking 50mg a day and things got much better. I remember the first time something was mildly stressful (like being 10 minutes late to something) and I didn't feel like I was going to throw up. "Woah! This must be how everyone else feels! This is amazing!"

Since I had lost that constant knot in my stomach, I felt like things were "fine." That may have been true, but it was much like the dog in the fire kind of fine. 

This is fine.

This is fine.

Then Rich got cancer. And we had a child to raise. And everything just got a little bit harder each day. 

Once Rich died, I went to my beloved witch doctor (Dr. Marion Constantinides at Applied Health). She suggested we do an "anxiety marker" test. Sure. Whatever. I'm fine. I can't pull my shoulders out of my ears, but I'm sure that's normal. 

The test is a urine sample that you mail away. It came back with several results, but specifically we'll talk about serotonin and dopamine. The normal range for seratonin is 34 to 208 somethings. Mine was 42. The normal range for dopamine is 72-297 somethings. Mine was 86. So while I was technically in range, I had a D- in happy.

Side effects from having levels that low include anxiousness, fatigue, sleep difficulties, mood issues, weight management problems, and constipation. In other words, my adult life. 

I started taking some supplements to boost those numbers. The plan was to take a regimen for eight weeks, retest, then adjust as needed. 

I started taking the pills. I felt better. Things actually really did seem ok. Eight weeks passed and it was time for a retest. Unfortunately, we didn't time that as well as we should. I took the re-test but then ran out of pills. But that should be no big deal because I felt great.

Two weeks later, I got the results back from the lab (there were some unusual delays). My dopamine had risen to 141 somethings so I was solidly in the middle zone of chill. My serotonin, however, was 623. When your serotonin is three times the max, the only symptom listed is "low libido." I presume this is because one already feels so blissed out just from sitting around that the idea of seeking out hot lovin' seems superfluous.

The wrinkle in all of this was that I had run out of "bliss out" pills. On Labor Day, I spent the majority of the day in the fetal position on the couch sleeping or crying. I wasn't sure why it was happening, but I was clear that something changed. 

I'm happy to report that I'm back on a reduced dose of "bliss" while I'm waiting for a new regimen of different pills to try out this week. Things are feeling normal again. 

I love my witch doctor. I'm grateful that some simple supplements can help my body have the right good vibes to make me a joy to be around. These pills are more complicated to manage than my previous routine of just throwing a few things down my throat before bed. I have to take some 30 minutes before breakfast, some with breakfast, some 30 minutes before dinner, and some an hour before bed. I now own a pill organizer from Amazon listed under the category "Stuff Seniors Want." 

Taste the rainbow!

Taste the rainbow!

I can tell you that if there's a fire, after everything with a heartbeat is safe, I'm grabbing this pill organizer to get me through a few days until I can restock.

It's amazing what we get used to as normal until we learn differently. I watched a video recently of a 66 year old man getting EnChroma glasses to correct his color blindness. He was grinning and weeping and vibrating at the sight of grass. Grass, people.

I feel like that now about my emotions. I don't have to identify as an anxious person. I can recognize the triggers and patterns and I now have the tools to navigate them. 

The witch doctor told me a few months ago that I was covered in tape. Anything unpleasant that happened to me just stuck to me and I couldn't shake them off. Here's to finally feeling less sticky.

Tangled up in you

I had a hard time the other day, for reasons that I'll write about in a separate post. I was curled up on the couch crying and Ian came in to ask what was wrong. I explained that sometimes just like he will wake up and his tummy will hurt or his head will hurt and he doesn't know why, that day my emotions hurt. He nodded, knowingly. 

Ian went through several days/weeks/months of being pretty emotional this summer. It was exhausting for all of us. I thought we had turned a corner. Well, yes, we had turned a corner. 

And this road we humans are all on has many twists and turns. 

This morning, Ian woke up and seemed fine. Time got away from me/us and I told him he needed to get his shoes on while I brushed his hair. He protested a bit about his tangles but didn't flip out like he has in the past. I thought we were doing well.

As we got out to the driveway, where he should ride his bike to my folks' and I should drive to work, he looked down at the pavement and said, "well ... bye ..." I asked what was wrong and he started sobbing. "I don't even know! I'm just sad and I don't want to leave and I don't know whyyyyyyy!" 

I nodded, knowingly.

He rallied and made it to my parents' house. I worked from home this afternoon and walked down there to deliver food to them as well as tell Ian he could come home if he wanted. As soon as he walked in the house, something seemed off. He declared he wanted to stay at Grandma and Pop's. "Well, who's gonna eat shrimp and broccoli with me?", I asked. I was just playing. 

He walked out the front door and sat alone on the porch swing. After a few minutes, he came back inside and headed straight to my parents' bedroom. I followed him to see what was up. 

So many tears. 

"I WANT TO STAY HERE BUT I DON'T WANT YOU TO EAT ALONE AND I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DOOOOOOO!"

It was like Bill's Capslock Friday (TM) but not in a good way. 

There was a great article I read recently (which of course I can't find now) about being present to your child's upset and not trying to immediately fix it. I am mindful of that, while at the same time, I hear my child sobbing "I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DOOOO!" over and over. It's hard. 

I listened to his various complaints. His hair is tangled. He wants to eat with me and he wants to eat shrimp and broccoli. He wants to stay with Grandma and Pop. He feels stuck. There is no solution. We should all just lie down on the floor and give up and let the vultures come for us (I'm paraphrasing). 

It's hard not to get impatient. I offered a solution and before I had even finished the first part of the first sentence, he was sobbing "NO" and shaking his head. Well, what part of that plan do you not like? He didn't know he just knew it didn't sound like a solution. Fair enough. We lounged on the bed for a few minutes, me in silence, him in heaving sobs. 

Eventually, we worked out a plan. He agreed to put his shoes back on (But not his socks. Those socks are dead to him this afternoon.) I would carry his back pack. He would ride his bike home. We would go upstairs for him to take a bath (he was filthy) and detangle his hair. He would chill at home and have a snack. We would eat shrimp and broccoli together for dinner. And after dinner I would take him to Grandma and Pop's for a sleepover. 

As we rode/walked home, Ian said, "I don't like that I don't get to spend as much time with you as other people." I was unclear if he meant that other people took up too much of my time, but he meant that other people took him away from me. He reminded me that when he stayed with Jenna over the summer of 2016, she saw him a lot more than I did and that wasn't fair. 

"I only get to see you in the morning and in the evening each day and that's only like four hours a day and that's not right because you're my mom."

I told him that I got it. And it is rough. I told him that Jenna and Anton love each other very much and he doesn't get to see her nearly as much as Ian used to in the summer of 2016 and that sucks because Anton is her husband. I broke the news that most families spend a lot of time away from each other, at different jobs, schools, hobbies, and obligations. So we have to make sure that the time we do spend together is as good as we can make it. We have to focus on the content of our time together versus the sheer numbers. 

It's hard, you know? For all of us humans. We grow a person, or a person brings us into their family, or we pick a person out of all the possible persons on the planet to spend our life with, and then we have to share them with all these other people. Each of us has our own measure for how much time is "enough" or "too much." That measure changes. It may not change with the same rate as the circumstances that also change. We all feel squished or stretched and generally uncomfortable.

So sometimes we cry. And sometimes we sit on the toilet answering work emails on our phone while our loved one detangles their hair in the tub. And sometimes we deliver pork butt and Moroccan chicken to one house only to make shrimp and broccoli at another. 

It's a tangled mess to balance.

Tangle-free for the moment

Tangle-free for the moment

Home again

There was a good chunk of time when I felt like an intruder in my own home. There were caregivers living in my house who were less than happy with me. My husband wasn't speaking to me. I felt pretty out of control of my situation. 

I wanted desperately to retreat from the house to anywhere else. I also had Ian to consider. It meant spending time at the house until Ian went to sleep and then running away until late that night or the next morning before dawn. It was toxic in the house, and not just because of all the bowel fluid. There was a dark cloud hanging over the property, as far as I was concerned. 

And then Rich died. And the caregivers left. And we got past the funeral and the drama of my scandalous actions the last two years. And the world continued to turn on its axis and birds built nests and flowers bloomed. 

I had my lawn mowed, trimmed, and edged by Lil Don and his uncle. They hacked away all the bamboo that had taken over the last 10 feet of my property. My azaleas are now lower than the front windows. 

I brought Lil Don and his uncle back last week to pressure wash the house and garage. My buildings are white again! I opened the pool and the water is actually clear. It's completely clean and running great. Children laugh and splash for hours while I nap in the hammock. I ordered a retractable awning for the back deck so I can chill out there without bursting into flames. 

I put new artwork up in the living room. I ordered three canvases to put up in my bedroom. I open the windows every morning to let sunlight into the whole house. I have called for bulk pick ups almost every week to take away moldy hockey gear, piles of junk from the garage, and the broken bits of the trampoline net. I threw away countless numbers of DVDs and books.

I sold a pavilion. I will soon get my other pavilion back home. (Many thanks to Rob for storing it for like 700 days.) I gave away three of the four camp beds. (Why did we have four camp beds?!) I hacked up the recliner in the back yard. I threw away lovely handmade gifts from hateful people. I did save all the sappy love letters from Beatrice, though, because they're an amazing and amusing testament to crazy.

I put all my motorcycle equipment in the cubbies that once held medical supplies. I have a ridiculous set of cat stairs for Kitterson to get into my bed and it delights me to see her use them every night before she curls up with me. I gave away the coffee machine and replaced it with a burr grinder and French press for my Death Wish coffee. The second fridge is full of organic veggies from my CSA instead of bags of TPN. 

I walk around my house in little to no clothes because there are no guests sleeping on my couch. I listen to music in the kitchen every day. 

I've made appointments with my witch doctor, my therapist, my hair dresser, my photographer, my endocrinologist, my massage therapist, and my trigger release therapist and they're all helping me get back to me. I had the opportunity to go out of town this weekend and chose to stay home simply because it's so nice here. 

I am home.

Hammock time

Hammock time