The Creativity Factor

With the girls on a short break from school, the middle A and I joined my husband R for a day in San Francisco. 
Until recently, A would talk about how much she loved San Francisco, how it was the best city in the entire world, and how she was going to be a marine biologist when she grew up.

Now she doesn’t believe any of that.

What happened?

I’m not sure myself and if you’ve got a reasonable explanation, please send it my way.

Now she wants to move to L.A. and be famous!

   
   
I suspect this is normal for her age. I wanted to become a writer and work at BOP magazine. Remember that magazine? Remember Sassy? Ah, the memories. 

The only difference between my upbringing and hers is that I’ll encourage her to be whatever she wants… Within reason. 

Her godparents are part-time actors and models but they’re also graduates of UC Davis and highly successful in their careers. One of my best friends said it best when she believed our parents were right in pushing us towards practical majors that led to actual careers (even though at the time, my soul was crushed). R even said the other day that we are in a place in our lives where we can freely pursue our dreams with his retirement and my career. I’m still trying to figure out if writing is still my dream. Sometimes I look around and feel so grateful for my husband, 

  
(Pssst! It’s an old pic!)

my family, 

  

(Some of) my friends, 

   
 
and my job 

  
that I already feel like I’m living in a dream.

In the meantime, I want A to do both. She can go to college and prepare herself for a great career AND she can go for her dreams.

She can and she will. 

We had a wonderful time at the Chuldren’s Creativity Museum at Yerba Buena Gardens. I was afraid that the museum would be too young for her. Upon entry there are so many activities for toddlers and preschoolers but we quickly found other amazing exhibits for her age!

We made our own clay figurines and created a stop motion movie!

   
   
I’m a little obsessed with Doctor Who…

   
 
A even made her own video game. She created her character and levels.

   
   
If these are the kinds of experiences she needs to do both, I’m so happy I’m along for the ride.

   
 

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The Waiting Room Rumination

I rounded the parking lot for the second time in a row. I didn’t mind the long walk to the back of the hospital where the ER entrance was located but I knew my husband R wouldn’t let me get the car for him after he was released. He would insist on walking to the car. 

We are currently in hour 4 of waiting to be seen. I repeat, we are currently in hour 4.

R has experienced a lot of trauma from the accident as well as all of the surgeries proceeding so when he started to experience pain that didn’t go away this morning, he was mildly concerned. 

I went to work that afternoon and was waiting for the girls to get out of band when he texted me:

I am going to the ER after I pick up the boy.

I called him and immediately we had the conversation that is constantly on loop:

  • Maybe I should go to the ER.
  • No, I don’t need to go.
  • If I go, you don’t need to come. I can drive myself.
  • Wait, the pain is the same.
  • Maybe I’ll just wait until tomorrow. 

So fast forward lots of phone calls to friends and my mom to cover kid duty including errands, dinner, and bedtime.

We are still here.

  
I must be getting better at this. As soon as R checked himself in, I made a beeline for the Starbucks in the hospital. In an effort to save money and calories, I have avoided going out for coffee in a couple of weeks. Tonight, I savored every drop of my soy tuxedo. 

An hour later, R said he was hungry. I knew my mission: To find the Mexican restaurant we visited last time before they closed and before it got too dark for me to be out all alone.

Turned out, he didn’t want to eat yet. I mean, really, no one wants to eat in an ER! 

So here we are. His burrito patiently awaits his return in the car. My nachos, however, are long gone. 

And finally, after four long hours, R’s name has been called. I made the mistake of asking if I should go with him.

Of course, I should!

But he scurried off before I could realize my mistake.

Don’t worry. I’ll make my way back there. After all, I’m really good at this.

The Happy Pill Hypothesis

The past couple of months have been pretty difficult for reasons I don’t quite understand. 

  

Wait. That was a lie.

I have, without the consent of my GP, gone off my antidepressants gradually and am now off them completely. I have been off and on meds to keep depression and anxiety at bay since baby #1 was born.

Baby #1 just turned fourteen years old.

Two months ago I was unhappy and couldn’t even verbalize this emptiness to myself, let alone my spouse. Nothing filled this void. Not food, not shopping, not talking about it, not sleeping.

Nothing.

I thought there was something wrong with me. 

But how could there be?

  

My husband was finally living at home. He retired from the Navy two years ago and has gone back to school to study art. My family was happy and healthy. I had a great job. My health was fine.

Or rather, my physical health was fine. My mental health is still sorting itself out.

I finally made the connection of this new and serious bout of depression when I realized that I hadn’t taken my meds in over a month. The slow taper off of them was deliberate with the understanding that I could go back on them if I wanted to. It was no one’s business whether or not I was on them. Fuck them, right? 

I’ve tried talking to others including family members about depression but I’ve given up. Sometimes they look at me as if I’ve announced I was a serial killer or a failed science experiment. Others have bombarded me with questions and comments and I feel like I have to defend why I feel the way I do, why I am the way I am. It’s frustrating and exhausting.

  

This post, like my mind, is all over the place but really, it’s a peek into my head. Do you know the feeling when you’re having a very important conversation with an equally important person and you can’t think of the right word to say? And not just any word, the exact word that is somewhere in your brain and the word that was probably invented for that moment… Only you forgot the word.

That’s been me. That’s in my head.

All day, every day. 

I even dread going to bed knowing that Mr. Sandman will skip over me as he has been for weeks. I wake up a couple of times a night and feel such a huge panic that I can’t or won’t be able to fall back asleep. Or if I eventually do fall asleep, I don’t get the amount or the quality of sleep I enjoyed when I took my happy pills. It too is frustrating and exhausting. 

But I’ve gotten really good at pretending. Hell, I should go back and get my doctorate in giving the impression that I’m alright. Maybe I can earn continuing education units while I’m at it. 

  

I’ve had dark moments that I don’t care to go into right now. Perhaps when these moments occur with less frequency I’ll shed some light but for now, it’s time to try to get some sleep. 

  

Happy New Year! 

Hope you had a wonderful holiday season! We have been fortunate to spend time with family and friends, near and far. 

Right before Christmas, we drove to Los Angeles for a much-needed vacation to the happiest place on earth… Disneyland! Because of the new movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there was so much excitement in the air. I tried to cosplay as a StormTrooper but was quickly shot down by security, no pun intended. Evidently their rules had changed in the last 48 hours to a ban on cosplay for adults. 

   
 
I was able to quickly get these pics before I got kicked out! No, I didn’t get kicked out though I wonder if the kids will say to each other, decades later, “Remember the time we went to Disneyland and Mom almost got removed from the park?” 

Noticeably absent from the pics is my husband R, partly to save money but mostly because he just can’t handle the crowds anymore. He expressed his dismay and believes that he is getting worse but really… Everyone hates crowds! Even I have to take a break from it all and return to our hotel room to take a breather. My happiness and adrenaline level probably outweigh my disdain for crowds. Maybe one day he’ll join us but it’s not something I push or make a big deal over.

While I love seeing my family on Christmas, I hate traveling so we opted to stay home. We went to church on Christmas Eve so I could assist with the CFF classes when they performed during mass. 

  
At the Grand Californian Resort in Anaheim, CA

The spirit of giving is very much alive in our home. L, at only 8 years old, gave all of us handmade Christmas cards. A, who’s 10, used her own money to buy all of us chocolate bars even though they still had plenty left over from Halloween. She even bought cat toys for our old tabby and a chew toy for our dogs to share. And while the boy didn’t give us anything to open, his kind manner sets the tone for his younger sisters. For that we are grateful. 

Our New Year’s celebrations have always been low key as we’ve found the older we get, the less alcohol we consume. We actually stayed up until midnight with family and friends, a first for the two younger kids.  

   
On Monday the girls go back to school. They’ve been off since Thanksgiving break so I can imagine how difficult it will be to wake up… Even more so for R and I though! We’re going to have to be more awake than them to wake them up!

The boy and I go back on Tuesday. I’ll make sure I have my coffee machine ready then.

In the meantime, happy new year from all of us, wherever you may be. Here’s to a prosperous and blessed 2016!

   
    
 

What Veterans Day Means to Us, 2015 Edition

We are so happy to see another Veterans Day with our veteran. If you’ve been a reader of this blog for a while, you already know why. There were many times we celebrated holidays without him.

  
There was even a time we thought we lost him. But he survived.

  
In the past couple of years since he’s retired, R wants no fanfare, no free coffee at Starbucks, no free meals at chain restaurants. In fact, you’re more likely to hear me asking, “Erm, do you give a military discount?” because it never hurts to ask and I don’t have a fit if they say no. 

This year he is in school today and the kids and I are not. So what do we do if our favourite veteran is away on Veterans Day?

We go to the movies to see the new Peanuts movie!

  
Happy Veterans Day!

The Weight Lifting Vortex

Late last night I decided I was not going to accept a sub job for the following morning. I was experiencing anxiety from which I was medically immune. I needed time and an empty house to sort through this anxiety. 

  
I am wholly thankful and grateful that I have this opportunity to step back and be able to decide I didn’t want to work an extra day if I didn’t have to. 

I went to see my general practitioner a few years ago, this really cool dude who happily shared a picture of a grapefruit-sized cyst he removed a few moments earlier. He spoke to me about the regular information: eating right and possibly losing poundage to alleviate the knee pain I sometimes experience. At the time, I was running regularly and could stand to lose thirty pounds. It was this extra weight that was cause for concern. I mean, I don’t mind it usually so long as I’m still muscular. I thought for sure that my blood tests would reveal that I’d need a cocktail of blood pressure or cholesterol medications.

But I didn’t need medicine. I was healthy and I could tell that my doctor knew I was disappointed. 

I didn’t know why I was disappointed. Maybe it was because a lot of my friends were starting to take medication for one reason or another. Maybe it was because I carried more weight, therefore I felt I should neutralize this load with chemicals. Maybe I felt like I didn’t deserve to BE healthy if I didn’t LOOK healthy. I guess it was hard to accept that despite my body shape and size, my body shape and size were fine. 

The doctor then approached the medical cocktail I was already on. Did I want to still be on antidepressants? Did I want to reduce my meds?

I felt my eyes water as depression was a topic even less approachable than fatness. I couldn’t face life without my pills. They were a cushion to a harsh reality, making the pain far less than what it was and demagnifying the joy so as not to be drunk on endorphins that make the bipolar sect like myself look like we’re on speed. 

My doctor, being sensitive with all of that information revealed in a single tear, said that I didn’t have to change a thing and that being on antidepressants could be like a prescription for glasses, one that I could need all my life. Those statements saved me that day. I knew that life was ever changing and while I had adjusted my prescription in the past, I would do it when I was ready. If I was ready.

A couple of months I felt ready. I started taking my pills every other day which was not too bad.

Initially.

There was a week were I started to feel unbearable anxiety. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t articulate how I was feeling, I was moody and irritated with everyone. If I didn’t sleep, I didn’t function. 

I didn’t like myself. I wanted to go back to MY normal. I didn’t like feeling that I was always about to say something important but nothing ever came out. Nothing ever came to mind. 

Somehow I got through that. When I’m cognizant about the negative emotions, I tell myself I have to face them head on. If I need to take a nap because everything is too overwhelming, then I take a nap. I needed to do something with this anxiety, to channel it for good. 

I started to declutter EVERYTHING. I donated toys and clothes we no longer used. I threw away so much  that I filled seven garbage bags. My kids had a knack for saving last year’s homework, toy packaging, dried markers, broken barrettes, and pencils too short to salvage. I donated books that my children no longer read and organized what was left of our books into nonfiction and chapter books. I consolidated all of my teacher and craft suppplies into drawers and even labeled these drawers! 

Pretty soon I realized that I was only taking my antidepressants twice a week. 

I’m realizing epiphanies during this med cocktail reduction.

1. Sometimes I don’t like myself, particularly when I’m a bitch to everyone around me. The best way for me to combat this is to acknowledge my bitchy ways and channel this into something productive. Write it out. Get on the bike. Watch crap TV.

2. Life is really difficult without antidepressants. It’s cringe-inducing and sometimes I want to go back to taking my prescription daily. I constantly tell myself that if I do have to go back, I am not a failure and really, it doesn’t even mean anything. 

3. Life is really amazing without antidepressants. I can feel wholly and without regard. It’s scary for someone like me who’s been semi-feeling for the past fourteen years. It’s intense and unpredictable which brings me to my next epiphany.  

4. I live in constant fear that I will say something that I regret. I feel like I experience emotions more intensely and probably at a thousand times more than a person who does not have depression. If at any time I articulated any negative emotion to anyone, especially as magnified as I felt, I could probably crush someone to the tiniest shred of humanity and then flick them away without a care in the world. I would never forgive myself if I verbally obliterated anyone. 

I am really lucky to have someone like my husband R in my life who knows exactly what I’m going through, having weaned himelf from antidepressants after the accident. 

This morning I went to the gym after dropping off the kids at school. I lifted weights for the first time in weeks and still feel powerful hours later, sitting here at Starbucks and writing away my anxiety. I realized that as I was leaving the gym that it was far easier for me to feel feel guilt.  Guilt for not running in a race in a year, not running at all for the past few months, not going to the gym in a month, for eating too much sugar at yesterday’s San Francisco Giants game, for eating too much PERIOD. 

And then I stopped myself. Why was it so damn easy to tear myself apart than revel in the joy of feeling strong and powerful? 

It was too easy.

So now I take it back. I take that guilt back and hereby replace it with the feeling of accomplishment and strength. Now I smile and feel it. 

Follow Up to the Junior High Juxtaposition

I finally had a chance to visit my son’s school during Take Your Parent to Lunch Week. I, along with dozens of other parents, were able to bring a nice (meaning fast food) lunch to share with their angsty junior high offspring. 

My husband was able to join him on Tuesday and I was able to dine with him on Wednesday. On that Wednesday after lunch, a boy had joined us, telling my son M that he couldn’t find him all lunch period. 

I couldn’t wrap my head around what had just happened. Was this the same kid who hated school and couldn’t wait for lunch to be over everyday, apparently deciding that no friends were better than mean friends? 

I found out the next day (yes, I went back the next day) that this kid was in one of his classes. His mother, who joined us as well, revealed that their teacher actually introduced the boys because he said my son was looking for friends. 

So the email to the counselor and his English teacher worked. I did not tell them about the assault and it pained me to keep this information from the faculty but I shared everything with the boy’s mom who listened to the word vomit that spewed from my mouth in under ninety seconds. I felt a huge sigh of relief knowing that someone else knew M’s story.  

 

I was able to meet with M’s counselor that week. His teachers were concerned for him and for that am immensely grateful and humbled. The counselor told his teachers that they could not tell M that I initiated this conversation but a couple of teachers had already acted on this cry for help from this concerned mother.  His counselor asked the right questions and was happy to know that the behaviors of keeping to himself to the extreme at home and at school have subsided. I expressed my confusion regarding how my son’s behavior had changed so dramatically but agreed to monitor him and take him to see a family doctor if these behaviors return. I don’t think it will come to this but I am prepared to take him if necessary. 

[We aren’t strangers to therapy. When my husband R was recovering at the VA of Palo Alto, he and I saw a family therapist a few times and when R and I were given a few hours to hang out in his hospital room, the “babysitter” was the same therapist. In complete honesty, I tried to see one a few years ago since why the hell not? Our insurance covers it and I was in dire need of a life gutting experience. 

But the handful of therapists I reached out to were either out of the office or didn’t respond to my messages. 

I took that as a sign. 

But I digress.] 

Weeks later, they are still friends and this kid’s friends have embraced M as one of their own. I wonder if he’s being a good friend to them. I wonder a lot if his arrogance (okay, he might get it from us) prevents him from seeing potential friends. I wonder if his old friends feel abandoned. 

It takes a lot of self-control but I have to wonder from afar. I have to trust that he’ll make the right choices. I have to trust that he’ll come to my husband or me if or when the time comes. I have to trust that he’ll be aright.