Monday, August 18, 2014

I Put The "Pro" in Prozac Part One

Hi everyone!

In the spirit of last week's post, I thought I would next write about my experiences with psychotropic medications, in particular my love-hate relationship with Prozac. I may refer to Prozac from time to time as my "anti-crazy pills." Just a heads up. Ok, let's begin, shall we!


I have been on several psych meds in the past 13 years, in chronological order from least to most recent: Paxil, Klonopin, Wellbutrin, Lamictal, Xanax, and Prozac.

They all had their time and place in my life and the most effective, in terms of addressing my "main" mental illness, was Prozac. I started taking Prozac in 2012 after an epic mental breakdown. (Yeah, I average a mental break about once every two years. Here I come, 2016!) This breakdown was also rooted in the demands of my job, but not because of the size of my caseload, but the cases themselves. I, also, hard-headedly ignored any and all signs that I was struggling with my mental stability. Enter Scary Movie Night, also called The Night Melissa Lost Her Shit...Again.

My cousin, Erica, and I love scary movies. I mean LOVE them. We love the thrill of being scared and freaked out and the more effed up the movie, the better. So, I headed over to her house one Saturday for "Cuzzy Night." She told me she found this movie called "V/H/S" that had an actual disclaimer warning people that this movie had caused "severe reactions" from viewers. "Ummmm, you had me at disclaimer. Let's do this bitch!" was my response. And do this we did...

It was an unusual set-up, five vignettes on VHS tapes that the main characters were also "watching" in the movie. All hand-held, "Blair Witch"-esque filming. Again, nothing about this is unusual for us. However, halfway through, I had to ask Erica to pause it, because I was getting motion sickness (never happened before). Did I stop? Nope. I rallied like the good scary movie fan I am and joy of joys, the very last story was THE MOST TERRIFYING MIND FUCK EVER. At least it was at the time.


Erica knew something was wrong, because whilst watching scary movies, her and I can typically be found laughing or yelling at the stupid people not to go into that room/house/cabin/hole in the ground/cemetery/abandoned nuclear waste plant/etc or we are mocking the non-scariness of the movie. I wasn't doing any of that. I wasn't doing much of anything, except sitting on her couch, motionless and speechless.

When the movie ended, I finally had a feeling: anger. I had on the worst mood. I was getting text messages from my friends, as I would normally, and it was pissing. me. off. Leave me alone! I thought. I went home and convinced myself it was nothing, just an "off" night. I attempted to sleep, but only thought about the last story, over and over and over and over again. All. Freaking. Night.

I woke up, my heart racing. I figured it was due to lack of sleep. Until the THIRD CONSECUTIVE DAY of racing heart, chest pains, shortness of breath, can't sleep, feeling like I'm going to die. Yay! The Tuesday night after "Cuzzy Night", I stayed with my grandmother because I was convinced if I fell asleep, alone in the house, with how I was feeling, I would die. (Classic panic). The next morning, I called out of work and made an appointment with my doctor. By the time she saw me, I was beyond a hot mess. I could barely move my neck and back, I had bags under my eyes like whoa, my heart was pounding out of my chest. Even as a counselor, I didn't want to/couldn't believe this was all due to anxiety. I was convinced there was something physically wrong with me.


Nope. My doctor is hilarious. She is a tall blonde from Germany who pulls no punches. She is always VERY straight forward. She told me, in her thick accent: "It is in your head. It is mental. There is nothing physically wrong with you. I will give you Xanax. This will help."

And it did, for a time. Once the physical symptoms of my anxiety subsided, the emotional component kicked in and WHOA! It was like I was hit with the OCD stick upside the head. All of a sudden, everything I did, or didn't do, would ultimately cause great harm to someone I loved. For example, at the time, I lived with my girlfriend, my roommate, two dogs, and a cat. Typical conversation in my mind leaving the house for work (EVERY. SINGLE. DAY):

Did I close the door all the way? Ugh, if I didn't then the animals could get out. And then they could get killed. Oh my god, Sarah and Jesse will be home soon. What if the animals get out, they get hit by cars and are lying in the street, dead, when they come home?? Oh my god, that would traumatize them! And it would be all my fault. So, I turned my car around, went back into the house, checked all the doors while saying out loud, "The doors are closed." Every. Day.


"All my fault" was how everything ended. If I didn't lock the door when I went out at night, while Sarah and Jesse were sleeping, that would be the one night a home invader would come and kill everyone in the house. And it would be all my fault. My OCD made me my own worst enemy. Which is why I named him (sorry, it is SO a guy) Old Cranky Douche. Because he's been around forever (old), he makes me miserable (cranky), and he takes the fun out of everything (douche!). 

Another common obsession, although not one that ended with "all my fault", but had an interesting "reverse psychology" feature, was deliberately visualizing myself being killed in a violent and horrific car accident on my way to and from work. Why would you do that??? you are probably asking. Well, simple logic of course: People who are killed in car accidents never see it coming or are not prepared. If I am constantly braced for a car accident, it can't possibly happen. So, instead, I would torture myself with graphic images of being killed and call it a day. Logical, right?? Right?!?! The correct answer is: wrong.


So, I returned to my doctor and told her I believed I had Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I barely got through the list (yes, an actual list) of my symptoms and then my list (again, a real, physical, paper list) of medications I had researched, when she stopped me and said, "Of course you have lists. You have OCD. Ok, I am taking you off the Wellbutrin and putting you on Prozac. This is a classic medicine for OCD. You'll like."

And I did like! Within weeks, my obsessions and compulsions were practically non-existent. I feel free from the mental agony I had been putting myself through. It was amazing! It was great! It was short-lived. Everything has a cost. And after a year and a half, the cost far outweighed the benefits.

To Be Continued...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

No One Knows What It's Like To Be The Sad Man, Behind Blue Eyes


I have great sadness in my heart tonight, as I'm sure many of you do. Yesterday, Robin Williams was found dead, due to suicide. *Sigh* Where do I begin? With the media's complete lack of empathy or compassion, for example Fox News anchor Shepard Smith calling Williams "such a coward"? Or ABC News setting up aerial views of Williams' home? Maybe Todd Bridges making comments on Twitter, criticizing Williams?

Or how about, gee I don't know, the obvious severe mental illness Robin Williams was fighting that led to such a devastating and tragic loss?

Let me start with what I think us, society's, problem really is. We are FUCKING SCARED. We are scared people. We live everyday in fear. All the time. We fear making money, we fear losing money. We fear living, we fear dying. We fear trying new things, we fear NOT trying new things. And most importantly, we fear bad things happening to us. We go to great lengths, all the time, to make sure bad things don't happen to us.

So, when something horribly tragic does happens, we find ways to point out to ourselves, and others, that could never happen to me. Never. And that is what society, as a whole, has been doing for the past day. We can't imagine someone who was successful, wealthy, and married with children taking his own life. If that could happen to him, could it happen to me??

I don't have the answer, sorry if that's what you had hoped. But, I can tell you this. No one is immune to depression, depressive thoughts, or even suicidal thoughts. I'm sure every one of us knows someone who has seriously contemplated suicide, or has themselves. It's a lonely, isolated, scary head space to be in and all I can think about is the fear Robin Williams must have felt in his last moments. The complete, empty, hopeless, lonely FEAR.

Those who say suicide is taking the "easy way out" may mean well, however, in my humble opinion, it misses the mark. That mental place is neither brave nor cowardly. It's EMPTY. It's NUMB. It is, in essence, void of any feeling whatsoever. Granted, there are people who kill themselves to exact revenge, but that is still due to mental illness. Most likely a personality disorder, but I digress.

How can I speak to suicide so confidently? Well, I worked in a mental health clinic for three years, as a clinician, and most of my clients had been, or currently were, suicidal. Also, as you read yesterday, I have my own demons. While I have never been what, in the clinic, we called "actively suicidal" (i.e. has a plan, intent, and means to kill oneself), I have been, what we called, "passively suicidal" (i.e. feels like life is "too much", sees suicide as a break from the everyday struggle mental illness can be, or something I can "turn to" later if need be).

My most recent brush with passive suicidal thoughts occurred I became burnt out from my job in February of this year. I was slammed with a caseload fit for three counselors and everyday another crisis arose. Day after day after day. For WEEKS. It got to the point where everything felt urgent. I couldn't leave anything for later or (heaven forbid!) another day. I also became obsessed with my students (I was a school counselor) killing themselves.

None were currently suicidal and for any students that were or had been, I had followed the proper procedures for additional assessment and they were okay. But, I couldn't let it go. I ended up admitting myself to the crisis unit at Yale-New Haven Hospital, for the night, where I tearfully admitted to every doctor I spoke with, I was so anxious about my kids killing themselves, I had decided if any of them did, I would kill myself too. Because I felt I couldn't live with letting them and their families down. It would be a mercy suicide. I had no intention of actually following through, I knew that and so did the doctors. I knew if anything did happen, it was beyond my control and I had done everything I could to prevent it. I knew that, intellectually. But mental illness doesn't care about intellect or reason. Mental illness cares about emotion and doubt and obsession and, most importantly, fear.

I share this story about my experience in February, because no one would know from the outside looking in. No one. The only people who knew were the people I confided in. If I didn't want them to know, they wouldn't have. Granted, I'm certain to my co-workers I appeared run down and drained, but not severely depressed, enough to check myself into the hospital. Also, my Facebook posts remained campy and witty, although admittedly bordering on dark comedy leading up to my hospital stay. I joked about my "mental breakdown" on Facebook and received many Likes from acquaintances far and near, who didn't know what was really happening and likely assumed I was having a rough week and blowing off steam via social media. In fact, without realizing it myself, I was crying out for help. No, I was actually screaming.

I imagine that is very much how it was for Robin Williams. Always the entertainer, he may have kept many people in the dark, either because he didn't want to share his struggles or, more likely, he didn't know how. I was still cracking jokes on my way to the hospital that night, even though I was in the worst shape of my life and had considerably frightened many of my family and friends. I remember my uncle couldn't find a place to park his bad-ass pickup truck, because it was too big for the parking garages. And I made jokes. With my face stained with dried tears, my body in physical and emotional turmoil, my heart pounding out of my chest; I was still entertaining. Why? Because that's what I have always done. It's my deflection. It's my charismatic show to distract you, and myself, from what's really going on.

David Wong from wrote an amazing piece that puts into words, more eloquently, the connection between severe depression, suicide and funny people. I think my need to make people laugh, even at my own expense, is part of my drive to be a constant caregiver-helping someone laugh or smile. I have always felt completely satisfied and fulfilled when I have successfully made someone double over with laughter. And there is certainly nothing wrong with that, unless you are still looking for laughs when, inside, you are dying slowly and painfully and you don't know how to ask for help. So you think "the show must go on" and you power through, continuing to entertain.

I want to leave you with a thought. Instead of all of us trying to find someone to blame (Robin Williams, his therapist, his wife, his career, blah, blah, blah) for this tragedy, why don't we 1) honor Robin Williams' life, his tragic death does not discredit his 63 years on this planet and 2) find ways to support those struggling with mental illness, even if we don't understand it. The stigma associated with mental illness still, in 2014, is appalling. And the stigma associated with those who complete suicide is even more so. Let's educate ourselves and others and celebrate life, everyone's life. No matter how they left this world.

One of my cousins shared this picture on Facebook today and I want to share it with you. It speaks volumes and touches me greatly. Thank you, Claire.


*Title credit: Song "Behind Blue Eyes" by The Who released in 1971*

Monday, August 11, 2014

I Make The Same Mistakes

Hello again!

So, I know I technically already did "the intro" thing in my first blog, but I feel there is very important back story stuff you need to know about me that should make the proceeding blogs more coherent and cohesive. At least, that's my goal. This post might be a) terribly tedious or b) outstandingly overwhelming. Or perhaps my favorite: both.

While the thing to do now seems to be buck any labels of any kind, my generation created most of these labels, so I'm not afraid to use them. (Ok, we didn't CREATE these labels, but we embraced them. We wore our flaws as badges of honor and dammit if I won't tap into my 16-year-old self and do the same here!)

Let's break this down into categories, shall we... (I did mention I love lists, right? I wasn't joking...)

Don't laugh! I am certainly not one to live my life by horoscopes or the rising-sun-in-this-house stuff. That being said, I am a Scorpio in every. sense. of. the. word. Read it and weep. Or run. Actually run is probably better...
For better or worse, that is me. To a tee. The four traits I see the most often in myself (mind you, I see ALL of those traits in me ALL of the time) are: intense, intuitive, secretive and destructive. Unfortunate, yes. But as Lynn Anderson sang, "I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden."

Mental Illness:
I have been diagnosed with a myriad of conditions found in several books I studied as a counseling student myself. These include, but are not limited to: major depression, generalized anxiety, panic attack disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, binge-eating disorder, bipolar disorder (later changed by my psychiatrist once I broke up with my then girlfriend-ain't love grand?), self-harm, and for a few months I had what I call "functional agoraphobia." My OCD was so out of control at that point I literally went to work and ZUMBA class and that's it, due to my obsessive fear of being killed in a car accident.

Sexual Orientation:
I'm still confused by this one. In fact, my most recent confusion lead to a trigger in numbers 1 and 5, in the previously mentioned mental conditions, the past couple months. I suppose for all intents and purposes I am bisexual. I am attracted to and have dated both men and women and while I have dated more women than men, I don't yet seem to prefer one over the other. Both are equally a lot of fun and a lot of work. I suppose all relationships are, not just romantic ones. But it's the romantic ones that seem to leave me spinning me out of my mind, grasping for some semblance of what used to be me, and swearing off relationships until the next person to show me attention waltzes into my life. Rinse and repeat. (See blog post title...)

EXACTLY! For example, here are my current celebrity crushes...

Also cause for major depression and binge-eating disorder: the sequel. I recently stopped being a counselor, for which I have spent the last seven years studying, interning, and working as. I stopped for several reasons, the main one being my desire to relocate out of state and finding it difficult to secure a counselor position without a state license, but another, also main, reason is I became burnt out. All the classic signs you hear about in school, but never think will happen to you. Empathy fatigue. Vicarious traumatization. Burn. Out. So, now I am a nanny. I haven't been a nanny for an infant in seven years. And it is A LOT harder than I remember. I was younger, in better shape, and more patient overall. Not to say I'm not kicking ass at my job (because I totally am!), it's just more than I expected. Everything lately seems to be more than I expected.

You may be wondering why I appear to be annihilating myself in such a self-deprecating way. That is, in no way, my intent. I am sharing with you what makes me me. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I am proud to be an intense, intuitive, challenging Scorpio. I am proud to be bisexual, even though I, sometimes, still question what exactly that means. I'm proud of my mental illness and the battles I have fought. I am proud of my career paths-past, present, and future.

It's all truth. And the truth is neither good nor bad. It is what it is. Boom!

Onto my last category. My FAVORITE category. Something I want to add to my life to help appreciate more, love more, and hope more. There's only one thing on this list:

Treat Yo Self!


This is something I NEVER do. I am always focused on what I need to "work on" or "work towards." I don't want to "work" I want to TREAT! Let me explain. For me, it's all about semantics. If I make a list of things I need to do to better myself, it instantly feels like a chore. It feels daunting and time consuming and I just roll over and quit before I begin. If I say I am going to treat myself, it's fun, exciting, adventurous. 

These may include massages, pedicures, new clothes, new furniture, a new book, a new activity routine, a bottle of great wine, a quiet conversation with a friend, a day spent watching clips of Oprah's Lifeclass, finding the perfect writing desk for my creative could be endless and that's exciting!

You have a lot of information about me, please use it wisely. Some of the things may have turned you off and that's fine. It's important, to me, to be myself and put it all out there, from the beginning. This is quite honestly the exact opposite of how it usually goes with me. I end up trying to deny those pieces of me that aren't shiny and fun and cute. But, I don't care anymore. I am equal parts black and white, and as Maureen sang, "Take me for what I am. Who I was meant to be. And if you give a damn. Take me, baby, or leave me."


*Title credit: Song "Same Mistakes" released by The Echo-Friendly in 2014*

Sunday, August 10, 2014

'Ello Gov'nor

Hello Interwebs!

This has to be roughly my fifteenth blog. Not because I have so much to say, it's overflowing into several different arenas. No. Because like a journal from my youth, once I have been "gone" a while, I don't like to pick up where I left off. I like to completely start over, anew. This concept speaks volumes. VOLUMES.

I am someone who loves the idea of starting over. Fresh slate. New day. Needless to say, I LOVE New Year's Eve. There is something empowering and liberating about setting a deadline to stop all my sins and begin good habits. Fast forward approximately 12 days and you'll find me face down in an empty pizza box with wine breath, wearing my "fat pants." But, alas, I've gotten ahead of myself.

Let me be clear, while that previous statement certainly indicates I have, at the very least, what we now call "food issues" (read: full blown eating disorder), this is not a fitness blog or a weight loss blog. You will not find before of after pictures or healthy recipes on here. Not that I have anything against those blogs, hell I follow SEVERAL of those kinds of blogs. And I've written SEVERAL of those kinds of blogs. Then I get bored or distracted by this little nuisance called Life. She is a mean bitch, sometimes. I suspect she is already plotting how to distract me from this very blog I am starting...sneaky jerk.

No, this blog is a place to share my amusing quips on that mean bitch I call Life. As well as insights and inspirations, poems inspired by her tragedy, stories inspired by her comedy, and you can expect a rant in here, now and again. Nothing overtly political, mind you. I am so in my own head that I can't stomach keeping up-to-date on local or international news. I used to. All the time. Then, I started working in one of the most depressed cities in the nation and my commutes to and fro, listening to the news stations, became so overwhelming I had to fight the urge to steer my car into the guardrail. So I traded in NPR News for hilariously inappropriate comedy podcasts and have never looked back! (Throwing Shade, The Read, I Seem Fun: The Diary of Jen Kirkman)

Ok, now onto my second favorite thing in the world (the first being talking/writing about myself, clearly): LISTS!

What To Expect From My Blog:
Fun and Fun-ness (and any other word with "fun" in it...except fundamentalism. And probably dozens of others...)
Comic relief on serious subjects I know about firsthand (mental illness, body image, sexism, sexual identity, relationships)
Seriousness on serious subjects I previously and subsequently wrote about comically (see list of topics above)
Outdated references to trends that I just learned about and have become obsessed with (see image below)

What NOT To Expect From My Blog:
Too much of any one thing in particular
Animated memes...I have not a clue how to do that...
Perfect grammar (Grammar police, I DO know the difference between your and you're)
Commentary on current news (see Paragraph 4)
Commentary on "hot topics" on the regular
Knee-jerk political correctness (clearly)

I am happy to be here, in the Blogosphere, once again. I hope you are happy to be on this ride with me. I shall leave you with a statement I sent to a select few this week. This is a true story. Thank you and see you soon!

"I just ate pita chips and Oreos for dinner and then googled 'Why is my hair falling out?' WINNING!"