On New Year’s Resolutions

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

It’s the end of the year, and many of us are looking forward to 2013 with a hopeful glint in our eyes, thinking to ourselves, “How can we better ourselves?  What ways can we improve ourselves and the world around us?”

While New Years’ Resolutions are wonderful things to make, I think many of us would do well to take stock of where we are before we get the ball rolling on where we need to go. The first, and most important thing, in my mind is this: don’t forget about what’s already good in your life, and take care to continue the actions, thoughts, and attitudes that have gotten you this far.

Set Achievable Goals

One of the great things about the beginning of a year is that gives you a fresh start, so you don’t have to look back at what you have or haven’t already done.  When you begin looking at what you want to do, you can create goals that you know are within your grasp.

Many times people will unconsciously set themselves up for failure with their New Year’s Resolutions by not being specific enough — they will say things like, “This year, I’m going to lose weight and be fit.” rather than saying “This year, I’m going to lose x pounds by exercising y days per week and sticking to z diet.”

By creating achievable goals that have specific action plans and dates associated with them, you set yourself up for success rather than disappointment and for future happiness.

Don’t Use Resolutions As An Excuse For Self-Deprecation

I see friends do this to themselves again and again. Every year, folks commit to losing “all their extra weight” or they start badmouthing themselves in some other area of their lives – like saying how they need to get a new job so they earn more money, or how they’re “finally going to start using that gym membership.”  Inside of each of these statements is a negative statement — a harsh “put-down” about how the person feels about themselves.

Resolve to lift yourself up with positive feelings.  Change can often be a hard thing to do, and the only way that you’re going to stick with it and grow as a person is if you’re consistently willing to be your own cheerleader.  Even if the change is something as simple as resolving to not leave your wet towel on the floor of the bathroom after your morning shower, it’s going to take time and effort to make a difference in your living pattern. Creating a chart where you reward yourself with a gold star sticker -or- using the good fabric softener after a week of good behavior might be a good way to give yourself the pat on the back that you deserve for modifying your behavior.

Above All Else – Be Reasonable

It may be that this last year didn’t turn out quite the way you had hoped.  You might be in a funk right now.  I know that for the last few months or so, I’ve been in a depression of sorts.  But be wary of loading yourself up with resolutions! You’re only one person, and this is just the beginning of the year.  You can’t do everything all at once.  More importantly, you don’t need to.

Now, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start down the path of trying new things and becoming more like the person you want to be — but don’t expect yourself to get everything done overnight.  That weight you want to lose: you didn’t gain it in a day, a month, or even probably a year.  That hobby you want to get better at: it takes time too.  And if you’re aiming at being a rockstar, I can tell you from close, personal experience with very successful friends: they still play their scales — daily. (It’s not a matter of liking it!)

The most important thing you can do to have a great new year is to allow yourself the freedom to try things that make you happy and to keep going at them, even when you have little failures along the way.

Practicing happiness is an artform all to itself, and one that takes a lifetime to master.  I hope you resolve to make it a priority this year.

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It’s the End Of The World As We Know It, But I Feel Fine

A Whole Lotta Nothin

December 21st came and went, and the world is still here. No apocalypse — and I turned 32.

And, believe it or not, folks, without Cymbalta and Abilify in my system, I haven’t been having seizures.  I don’t know if the medications were lowering my seizure threshold or what, but it’s been nearly 3 weeks now since the last time I had an episode, and I am more than alright with that.

In fact, the last time I had a seizure, I was in the hospital with video monitors on me. Now, I’m no doctor, but if the last time I took those antidepressants was November 30th, and the last time I had a seizure was ~ December 6, I would have a tendency to think that the medications were messing with me.

It’s now December 26, and I’m brazenly showering alone – with no one home.  Watch out world —  I might even start cooking by myself again.

Making My Peace With Santa Claus

So one thing many of you probably don’t know about me is that I have a long-time deep-seated, almost loathing hatred of Santa Claus. It goes way back to being a Jewish kid who went to an Episcopal girls’ school where I was constantly reminded of how Santa was most certainly not going to visit me. Bastard visited everyone else, giving them toys and candy, but not me, because I was Jewish.

Well, this year, I got to see my husband dressed up as the jolly giant to bring mirth to my niece and nephew for Christmas. And truth be told, he looked adorable and brought a lot of happiness to not only the children, but to the rest of the family as well.

I had to realize that eventually, when we have our kids, they’re getting visited by Santa, whether I like it or not. And even though it used to burn me up inside that kids were being lied to by their parents (since we all know that Santa is really just parents messing with their kids) and that they used that lie to make me jealous, I’m grown up enough now to make a truce with that hurt little kid inside me. I don’t need to perpetuate the pain of being excluded from a benevolent spirit’s giving spree — especially not if I truly believe that God is all-inclusive.

So even though Santa didn’t visit me this year (Why should this year be any different than any previous year?), he’s off my naughty list.

Getting Back to Basics

As for the rest of life, I’m fighting hard to reclaim life from depression. Without meds in my system, getting back routine is the name of the game. Aside from making sure I’ve got hygiene well in hand, I’m doing my best to just get the daily work of life done — to not slack on the things that need doing: like folding clothes, doing the dishes, tidying the house. I’m working to replace inaccurate thoughts with ones that make more sense. I’m trying my best to be more positive and conscious of how I treat myself. I constantly remind myself that I am not in control of whether I live or die, and that I am only in control of what I do with myself. I try to choose positive thoughts and actions.

And I’m positive that the correct action to take right now is to stop writing and start cleaning.

Hope you’re having a happy Boxing day.

Bulletproof Babies

Ever since the awful shooting that took place last week, people have been raging against each other online over gun control, over how to treat people with mental illness, over video games, over religious beliefs, and more.

At the end of the day, it comes down to this: No one wants to see innocent children killed at school.

Everyone is looking for a way to stop that from happening, and in their own way, they are grasping for a way to control an uncontrollable world and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

But this isn’t the first time that innocent children have been gunned down in school in America, and it likely won’t be the last. Crazy, stupid people do crazy, stupid things for attention.

I remember being a child in school and hearing about the shootings in Columbine. I remember the metal detectors going up at school and feeling less safe, not more safe. I remember the day I was informed that my spiked necklace was a weapon, and that I was no longer allowed to wear it. It didn’t make anyone safer that I was less fashionable. But that wasn’t the point. I stopped wearing that choker because it was better for everyone.

We hear people raging over gun control issues, and one thing that I’m not hearing is a discussion of protecting children like we protect police. If we’re genuinely talking about arming teachers with guns, why aren’t we talking about making school uniforms out of kevlar?

Because if we’re a society that refuses to disarm, we’re going to need armor.  And it’s going to need to be everywhere.

Things Are Getting Better

Quantifiable Betterness

So you remember that self-care chart I was talking about?  Well, I actually printed it out and am using it.  It’s like I actually want to feel good!

Oh wait, I do! 🙂

Luckily for me, I woke up this morning feeling hopeful as opposed to hopeless, and that made it a lot easier to pull on some jeans and take my dog for a walk in the cold, despite the fact that I’ve injured my left leg during exercise at the gym.  I’m not sure what I did to bruise my Achilles tendon, but it seriously hurts to even stand for very long, let alone to put weight on my left leg. I think that means I need to take some time off from the treadmill, but not time off from working out, because I need the positive effects of exercise for my overall health.  Maybe I can talk Adam into swimming with me.  The YMCA we go to does have a pool, and we haven’t taken advantage of that yet.

One thing that I am very proud of is that Adam and I are now regular gym-goers. We’re there at least every other day, working out. It’s been good for our health and for our relationship, not to mention good for self esteem for both of us. I know that I at least feel more empowered, and that I feel prettier and better about myself when we go. It’s also good to see Adam shake off the stress from work when he’s had a good run, and it’s been awesome to see how supportive we are of each other. I feel really lucky to have a built in gym-buddy in my marriage. I’m lucky.

The New Kitten Hotness

Last night, we headed out to Romeoville to pick up some new foster kittens. We now have two 7-week old kittens that we’re taking care of, and they’re adorable. We’ve named them Princess Peach (because she’s cream-colored and wonderfully affectionate) and Mario (because it goes w/ the Princess and he can jump extra high!)

peachmario

Scrapbooking

In other news, I’m finally starting on a project that I’ve never done before: scrapbooking. I got a glue stick, a baby magazine, some cool paper, and I’m gonna see if I remember how to collage. A good friend suggested putting together a baby scrapbook to make the whole “having a kid” thing more tangible and realistic. I will tell you, just having a baby magazine and reading through it made the whole thing a little more real — and a little more scary. (Have you read the articles on cracked nipples? Just reading the term makes me cringe!)

Recognizing The Need For True Integration

And to be frank, even though the person who suggested that I scrapbook was Adam’s friend first, it doesn’t make him any less my friend too. For too long, I’ve had a really shitty outlook of “I don’t have any friends here.” and that really is a slap in the face to all the wonderful people who have taken me under their wing here as Adam’s wife. They don’t have to care about me, or treat me nice, but they do, and I’m thankful for that.

For the longest time, when I moved here, I was so wrapped up in the anxiety of how I felt about what was going on in my own life that I forgot that when I married Adam, I became a part of his family too. I saw myself as separate and apart from everyone else, and didn’t feel like a part of the Majka family, but just someone who wore the last name. It wasn’t until this past Thanksgiving that I really felt comfortable with everyone… and that’s two years into our marriage. And it’s no one’s fault but my own.

I think — no, I know — that half the time, I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin. And it can’t be comfortable for anyone to want to be close to me when I can’t be calm within myself. I mean, who wants to hug a ticking time bomb? I wouldn’t.

And that’s not to be down on myself. I’m just acknowledging that any sort of emotional intimacy is sort of impossible when you’re afraid to say or do the wrong thing. And I’m always afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. The sad fact is that you can’t feel accepted if you’re always nervous because you’re constantly worried you’re being judged by others because you’re always judging yourself.

So I guess my job, having recognized that, is to learn how to stop walking on eggshells with myself…

I guess it’s time to get back to training self-compassion.

Probably the worst entry ever.

Well, I’m here.  I’m writing an entry, and that’s the start of something.  Something good, I hope.

Chemical depression is a bitch.  The last time I took any Cymbalta or Abilify was Friday, November 30.  So, it’s nearly been 2 weeks since I’ve had any anti-depressant in my system, unless you count the 25mg of Nortiptyline that I take for MS pain.  I have a very low level of it in my system, so I don’t count it in the emotional control area of things.  It just helps my legs not be in terrible pain.

The first week off of Cymbalta wasn’t as terrible as I thought it was going to be.  I also was in the hospital having a video EEG.  The second week has been harder. Lots of crying. Lots of curling up in bed and not being able to do anything.  As the week’s gone on, the spontaneous crying jags have been decreasing. I’m thankful for that.

I know that I have a self-care chart that I should be following, and that it would help me. I know that I should welcome the day, and just get with it. I’m no good at following my own advice, though, especially when I want to crawl into a hole and disappear.

The truth of the matter is that I am spending an inordinate amount of energy fending off the desire to self-harm.

I haven’t cut myself since I was a kid/preteen, and it bothers the hell out of me that my thoughts are so persistently dark.

The way that I started handling it when I was younger was to practice music until I blistered and bled or almost broke fingers.  It’s not that hard to do with percussion.  You just play for a really long time. You strive for perfection, and a ticking metronome will tell you that you are almost never perfect.

And I will tell you, when you are depressed already, you already know how imperfect you are.

I suppose I could try to do the same thing now, with guitar.  But I don’t love guitar. And I don’t love piano. But that’s what I’ve got right now.

I’m tired of thinking about how I feel. SICK OF SICKNESS.

All I want to do is sleep all of the time or go to the gym… because there’s no crying while weightlifting.

I don’t even know why I started writing this blog entry other than the fact that I make it my goal to write every day.

So there you go. Some verbal vomit from a pathetic waste of space. Hope you’ve enjoyed.

Life.

Well, that was “fun.”

A week in the hospital for long term video monitoring showed nothing on EEG, just like the first time I was in the hospital for seizures – the only difference being that this time there were no post-ictal spects done. Apparently, it is not the University of Chicago Medical Center’s standard operating procedure to do post-ictal spects. They either don’t have the equipment or don’t believe in them. I’m not sure which.  Either way: not good.

Were it not for having a prior diagnosis by another couple of doctors at a better facility (Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, CA), my epileptologist would think that I do not have a seizure disorder, but instead have nothing but pseudoseizures (and she would have been wrong and made an erroneous diagnosis).

I feel sorry for the patients who roll through that hospital being told there’s nothing wrong with them when there is something wrong with them, only they’re being denied full diagnostic care.  I had to get forceful about the fact that my diagnosis was real because my doctor hadn’t even gotten the notes from my previous doctor. Sloppy care.

I do not recommend UCMC for folks who are dealing with seizure issues. Not one iota.  In fact, I am shopping for a new seizure doctor, as my confidence in my current epileptologist went from 100% to 0% upon finding out that after 2 years with her, she hadn’t bothered to get notes from my diagnosing doctor and had manipulated me into getting the video EEG just so she could see what she was working with for her own comfort in tapering me down off Topamax for pregnancy.

This past week was deeply frustrating and painful.  I am covered in black and blue spots from where they put in IVs (or were unsuccessful in their attempt to put in IVs because I have tiny veins), gave me shots for blood thinners, and had electrodes glued to my head.

I am thoroughly miserable right now.

Everything I’m going through in order to have a child is making my life almost intolerably miserable.

I am completely off of anti-depressants now.  I am having crying jags, for no reason at all, daily – sometimes more than once a day.

I am painfully aware of the fact that I have almost no friends of my own (meaning not Adam’s friends first) in the Chicagoland area, and my mother-in-law accidentally really knocked the ball right out of the park when she innocently asked the question, “Did anybody miss you while you were in the hospital?”  I felt all the air leave my lungs and the negative thought pattern that used to rule my suicidal thinking come back with force.  The thought “Nobody will miss you.” was loud and clear… because the honest answer was, “No. Nobody missed me while I was in the hospital.”

I have no real friends here. And the really shoddy thing of all of it is that I can sit here, shouting that fact to the universe here on my blog and it won’t make a difference anyway.  Maybe 5 people will read it and mockingly laugh about it.  I mean, you don’t get friends through pity.  You make friends through shared experiences.  And no one shares the experience of feeling sorry for myself but me.

So what am I doing about it?

The only way to change things is to do life differently.

First, I’m gonna have to get over my fear of having seizures on the bus, and just deal with it if it happens. I can’t rely on Adam to take me places when he’s got to work all day.  I used to use public transportation all the time when I lived in Boston.  It shouldn’t be that different here in Chicago.

Secondly, I’m going to have to find things to do outside of the apartment so that I am not alone.  I’m looking towards Meetup.com for inspiration.  I’m also thinking that there should be yoga classes at the Y that I can take advantage of.  Maybe I can make some friends there.

Lastly, I’m not just expecting things to change on their own, or for things to be made better with a pill. I have to go out there and find some happiness, regardless of the weather.

Oh, and the Paleo Diet — The Hospital Cured Me of That.

They didn’t allow me to stick to the Paleo Diet while I was in the hospital.  So I’m done beating my brains out trying to eat “clean.”  I’m going to exercise daily. I’m going to keep my portions small, and I’m going to be able to eat like a normal human being, at any restaurant I want.

I refuse to stay miserable. I will claw my way back to happiness, changing 1 thing per day until I feel better.

In the Hospital Doing a Video EEG Session

Where are my recipes?!

Sorry for the lack of recent posts. I’m in the hospital right now, doing a video EEG seizure study to find out what the smallest dose of Topamax is that I can be on, so that when Adam and I get pregnant, I will have the smallest dose possible in my system.

See, it’s not so easy, wanting to have a baby and having multiple sclerosis and a seizure disorder.  There are all these extra things that you have to think about that your average person doesn’t have to take into consideration.

Seizure Disorder, Pregnancy, Medication, and Birth Defects

You might think to yourself, “Topamax causes birth defects! I saw that on a TV advertisement for a law firm that is doing a class action law suit! You shouldn’t be on that drug at all during pregnancy!” and you’d only be partially right.

See, your everyday average, non-seizure-having person has a 1% chance of having birth defects with a pregnancy.  With Topamax, it’s a 3-5% chance, and the higher your dosage, the closer you are to 5% – the lower your dosage, the closer to 3%.

Then there are seizures by themselves. They carry their own % chance of birth defects too.

Let’s say I went without seizure meds at all and just prayed to the good Lord that I didn’t have any seizures, and I got pregnant… and then mid-way through the pregnancy, I had a grand-mal seizure, and for 2-3 minutes, the fetus didn’t get oxygen.  That’s one hell of an opportunity for a developmental defect.

I know what you’re thinking. “2-3 minutes without oxygen while in the womb? Is it really that big a deal?”

YES, IT’S THAT BIG A DEAL.  Imagine holding a baby under water for 2-3 minutes. What happens? They drown, that’s what. The womb isn’t that much different. 2-3 minutes without oxygen in the womb could mean brain death.

So we’d rather have my seizure disorder under control on a minimal dose of Topamax with a low percentage possibility of birth defect than roll the dice and hope, for 9 months, with raging pregnancy hormones and multiple sclerosis, that I don’t have a seizure that negatively affects the fetus.

That’s why for the past day and a half, and for the next 2-3 days, I’m living it up at the University of Chicago Medical Center, and am facing my seizures head on, like a fearless Amazon warrior.  Okay… the truth is that I’m facing it more like a whiny, twitchy, little baby from time to time… but I am here, I’m getting the research done, and I am not backing out — and that’s what matters.

So far, so good…

Adam’s been by my side the whole time, and I think the worst of the whole situation has been that the nurses had a horrible time drawing blood from me and putting in IVs.  I’ve got tiny veins that like to hide.

Other than that, of the few seizure episodes I’ve had so far, not a one of them have shown up on EEG yet.  Fortunately, they are on video. I have no doubt that they would have shown positive evidence if we did a post-ictal spec.

Tonight, aside from keeping me off of all seizure medication, they’re sleep-depriving me. (As in, I woke up at 7 a.m., and I don’t get to go to sleep until 4 a.m.)  So far, I’ve only been off medication for a few hours, but the auras of headaches and nausea have already started coming and going, so I’m confident we’ll get some results from this study.  Even if the seizures don’t show on EEG, I know that my doctor will have some information to work with.

I honestly think the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with the whole time I’ve been here is the chemical ups and downs associated with coming off of Cymbalta and Abilify, since my last day on the stuff was this past Friday. It makes it harder to be calm and ignore the itchiness of the electrodes that are glued to my scalp and my inability to just move around wherever I want to whenever I want to. (Lemme tell ya, folks, I am not a fan of the football helmet of gauze – or of having to ask for help just to go to the bathroom.)

Eyes On The Prize

If this time in the hospital has been good for anything so far, though, it’s really solidified for me a couple of things.

(1) Adam and I really want to be parents – and want to be good ones at that. &

(2) I’m willing to face the most painful and frightening things I’ve ever experienced for my family. That’s how much Adam and the child(ren) I don’t have yet mean to me.  And that’s how much they should mean. Real love means having the strength to face your fears.