Saturday, October 4

It's a little early for Thanksgiving but...

Sorry, folks, I know some of you are waiting for the second part of the "frugal hacks" post. It's done. I just keep finding other things I want to talk about. But I will post it soon.

In the meantime, I know I haven't been terribly chatty lately. Or, at least, I feel like I haven't. A lot has been going on for me and I wanted a little perspective before I shared.

Last Saturday, we went to a friend's 30th birthday party. We found out his wife (who was one of my bridesmaids, her husband one of the groomsmen) is pregnant and due in March.

Of course, I'm happy for them. They'll make fabulous parents. But at the party, most of the people there were workers in good- to high-paying fields. Most of the couples were two-income. And the friends' house is pretty nice, even if it is a bit out in a suburb.

I just started thinking about the ease with which everyone else seems to live. I know that's not fair -- every person's life has its own kind of hardship. But Tim and I are a bit weary and I've been trying to do too much lately. (Plus, as my therapist later pointed out, I'd been kind of isolated at home between work and blogging and sorting Magic cards. So it was a bit of a shock to the system to be trying to socialize.)

I just started feeling overwhelmingly sad. And angry. Or perhaps jealous is the right word. I don't know. I just sat there, watching the guests play Wii and listening to them chattering about their own Wii at home, or their jobs or whatever... And I just couldn't take it anymore.

I was able to get to the bathroom before the tears started, so it wasn't too bad. Then I just caught Tim's eye and told him to make excuses for me. I couldn't talk to him until we got home. I was afraid to start crying while driving.

Once we were home, though, I still couldn't really explain it. I was just tired. Tired of everything being so hard. And everything feeling so overwhelming. The fact is that it will take Tim and I at least a couple more years before we can even start thinking about a baby. We'll get there, but it's frustrating when you're confronted with other people's financial padding. Even though you know you're as smart as they are but won't make the same kind of money.

Probably needless to say, this was the deciding vote for whether I needed to go talk to my doctor about my medication levels. I kept getting teary for three or four days afterward, whenever I'd so much as think about the baby.

So Monday came around and the doctor ended up putting me on a THIRD medication. Turns out I'm much higher on my Effexor (which I've been on the longest) than he's comfortable with. Plus I'm on Wellbutrin for anxiety and depression. Now we're trying out Lexapro.

It was hard to stomach. I hate being on so many pills and so adding another isn't exactly palatable. But at least for now, it seems necessary. Sunday was especially bad and after quarrelling with Tim, I bawled my eyes out -- I mean non-stop, heaving cries -- for at least 20-30 minutes. All I know is, I think it was the longest I'd ever cried. And it wasn't about anything in particular. It was just that ache in the middle of your body, compiled-sadness and hopelessness sort of thing. Scary stuff.

The doc also wanted to do a blood draw in case some of this was my thyroid. He kept asking was my marriage okay, any major life changes. I said no, just that it's been forever since I've changed my meds. And while I often have cyclical downturns, this one wasn't going away.

Saturday and Sunday, I felt so precarious. I felt like all of my emotions were in this egg inside me with the thinnest of shells. And it took nothing to crack it and have them all come spilling out.

So I went in and got blood drawn. Apparently, I hadn't had enough to drink that day. She had major trouble getting a vein, which never happens with me. She ended up having to take from my left arm. She kept apologizing because she said it was going to bruise. But I bruise easily so I reassured her it was no big deal.

Yeah. You ever feel like a walking metaphor? I felt so fragile that weekend. Later Monday afternoon, a nasty-looking bruise was forming. But Tuesday morning, I woke up to find that it looked like someone had spilled wine on my arm. Tim took a picture for posterity. (There's too much flash, so picture it about two or three shades darker than what you see here.)

Let me just remind you this is from one poke.

It's since turned all sorts of interesting shades and is yellowing out. But it just reminds me that this isn't my normal downturn.
Clearly, I'm having a particularly bad time on a few fronts. I need to go back to taking my daily vitamins, need to start sitting in front of mom's SAD light and need to suck it up and get used to being on three meds for awhile.

And so with all this in mind, despite it being too early for Thanksgiving, I would like to draw your attention to "The Bad Old Days?" by Frugal Zeitgeist.

Amid all the negativity of the markets and economy and Congress and politics, she thinks we should take a moment and try to think of 10 things that are going right in our lives.

Here's my entry (I'm realizing that I don't think you all know about #7, but it more or less explains itself: I spent a couple years as a landlord. I'm telling you, I've done a lot of stuff...) :

1. I'm a newlywed so I'm still in that amazement stage. That's fun and exciting.

2. We finally finished off hubby's student loans.

3. Despite a lot of inner turmoil, I kept it together enough to go to a doctor when my depression started to worsen, before things got dire and talk to him about my medication levels.

4. The new levels are starting to even me out, I think.
5. My husband is a wonderful individual who accepts that I am a depressive and pretty calmly is there for me when I freak out at him or the world.

6. I'm (slowly) learning to live within my limitations and not spend all my energy fighting them. (I live with chronic fatigue, but am a Type A personality.)
7. I was in the housing market (with a loan I probably shouldn't have qualified for) but got out around four years ago. And it was enough to pay off my mortgage, my student loans (which was what the original downpayment was supposed to have been for) and pay back my mom who had lent me money.

8. I'm finally working a small part-time job, which means there's a light at the end of the tunnel of being on disability.

9. I'm still finding time to keep up the blog I started.

10 After only two months, I have 90 subscribers (yay!)

I want to encourage you guys to join in this and think up your own ten things. Shoot for ten and if you can't get that far, just be glad that you don't have to type as much, I guess. (Yeah, I'm playing Pollyanna's glad game... Don't tease the depressive, folks!)

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Blogger Shtinkykat said...

All I can say about friends who appear to be better off may not necessarily be. There was a commercial for a debt consolidation company where you see this well-off looking suburban dad barbecuing in the backyard. The background voice says, Mr. Jones has a big house with a swimming pool, 3 cars, a boat and takes a fancy vacation every year. How does Mr. Jones afford it? The actor playing Mr. Jones says, "I'm up to my eyeballs in debt!!" That commercial aired about 3 years ago and now it seems so accurate.

I have friends from law school who own their own homes, have 2.5 kids, drives BMWs, etc. I on the other hand live in a 1 BR apt with my cat, not married, no kids and drive a Toyota. I'm struggling to pay my student loans. But once I pay it off (hopefully in 6.5 years), I know that I will be in a much better place, perhaps even better than my friends. (I suspect a lot of my friends financed their lifestyles through HELOCs that are coming home to roost now.)

That being said, even if your friends are truly better off, it's understandable to compare yourself to them. But for the sake of your emotional health, try not to do it. I try to keep Warren Buffet's rule of comparing yourself only against your own inner-scorecard in mind when I do that.

One thing I admire about you is that even when things aren't going so well for you, you try to take an alternative perspective and you try to deal with it proactively. Hang in there!

October 4, 2008 at 5:23 AM

Blogger Shevy said...

Oh,Abby, I'm so sorry that you're going through such a down time. I totally understand about needing the SAD light. I lived in Calgary for about 7 years and the long hard winters were just awful. I wish there had been SAD lights back then.

It's really good that you're trying new meds. Good luck.

October 4, 2008 at 10:33 PM

Blogger Jackie B. said...

I have to agree with shtinkykat's comment. I am sure all of those people at the party have troubles in their lives too. It is just not something that most people like to divulge or dwell on. You, on the other hand, seem to like to talk about your problems, fears, setbacks, whatever you want to call them.I think it is sort of a type of therapy for you. At least there is a part of you that, in spite of all your downs, tries to stay somewhat positive.
I have changed my way of thinking about life in recent years. I used to be very negative but I now try to be more positive about everything. It seems to help.I find even the little victories are something to celebrate! Since I have starting thinking more positively I have had less stress and feel better both mentally and physically. Try thinking up at least 5 "happy thoughts each morning when you wake up to start your day on the right foot. They do not have to be real extravagant thoughts just simple things like a crisp fall breeze blowing in your hair or finding a shiny penny when out for a walk. Just an idea. Let us know if you try this and if it helps in any way.

October 5, 2008 at 10:51 AM

Blogger Abigail said...


I agree with you and shtinkykat that there are problems that I don't see. In fact, I say that in the post.

I was simply saying how it felt at that exact moment that I was at the party, surrounded by happy people.

I know for a fact that the birthday boy has had to deal with the loss of a sibling which I've never had to do. I don't even have a sibling, so I can't imagine the devastation it brings.

And, yes, I use this blog as a part of my therapy to get things out and process them. I don't sit around and spew like this to most of the people I meet. (Not anymore, anyway. And let me tell you, it's made me a LOT more fun at parties!)

And, as you point out, I think I do try to generally stay positive. As a depressive, there will be times when there seems to be few redeeming things in life, but I use the techniques -- such as the 10 things going right that I list -- and remind myself that I still have quite a bit to be thankful for.

As for talking about my "problems, fears, setbacks, whatever you want to call them," well there's a couple responses to that. One: Comparing a disability to a fear or a setback is a tad glib. You probably didn't mean it that way, and while I still adjust my meds I'm extra sensitive. But I do get tired of people talking about how everyone has had setbacks and health issues.

This isn't a bout of depression because I lost a loved one. Genetically, environmentally and from the trauma of my hospitalization, I have severe depression. And my exhaustion isn't arthritis or asthma, both of which are serious but can often be managed enough to complete daily activities. (By the way, I'm referring to regular arthritis, not RA, which is even more serious and debilitating.) There are days when I cannot and do not leave my apartment. Even to get the mail.

There are days when we need groceries to make food and I cannot get out the front door. There are even times when I am too tired to chew.

If I really overdo it, there are times that it hurts to breathe and I end up trying to slow down my respiration because the sheer effort is causing tears to roll down my face.

I'm sorry if I am ranting, but you'd be amazed the number of people who broke a leg once or had pneumonia and thus feel entitled to say that they've had "health problems" before too.

Of course I'm not the only one with problems. I'm not even the top 50 for being the one with the worst problems. Tons of people with varying scopes of disability and health problems survive day to day and should stop for a moment and consider just how wondrous a feat that is.

Also I guess I'm a little upset because I think, by and large, that I do try to see the good in things. (If I didn't, I would be so stark raving crazy with grief that I couldn't type a coherent sentence.) That's why I combined this post with the list of things going well. Or why I posted about small victories a couple of weeks ago, when I remembered to put the dinner away into tupperware.

But, as a depressive, sometimes emotions get overwhelming and it seems that no good can come of anything. And, since I'm the only author of this blog, you will sometimes see that.

It's not a matter of finding things to be happy about. I have come so far from being angry at myself -- myself -- for not being able to work or get things done. I have learned to be proud of what I have accomplished in a given day, even when it's just one errand.

More importantly, I've learned to be satisfied with just being able to do one or two things a day. That is huge, compared to where I was a couple of years ago.

Finally, and perhaps I didn't stress this enough in the actual list, I am most grateful for the fact that I was able to get help this time. Four years ago, the last time my meds proved inadequate, I was suicidal. I didn't actually attempt anything, but I was so very unhappy with myself and scared that I would be a burden for the rest of my life and wondering who could love someone who couldn't work and earn her keep (silly sounding now but that's the important thing in my family) that I just longed for oblivion. I got help, thankfully, but it was awful. And I am so thankful and proud that this time I care about myself and my life enough to realize I needed to fix it and get help. It's such a huge thing, as any depressive will tell you, to not just buy into your brain's negativity that you're worthless and awful, but instead to say, "No, I'm good and I work hard and my life is good. But since I can't *feel* that right now, I had better go talk to a doctor."

That's big.

So, while I'm glad you found something that worked for you and I appreciate what I'm sure was a well-intentioned suggestion, I think I've found what works for me. I'm sorry if I still seem negative by your standards, but I guess you'll just have to trust me when I say that I think I've found a system that allows me to be accepting -- and even proud -- of who I am and what I can do. But part of who I am is a depressive and I've accepted that it will likely be a lifelong struggle -- not just a short skirmish.

October 5, 2008 at 2:11 PM

Blogger Abigail said...


Yeah SAD is a pain, isn't it? (For anyone wondering, by the way, it's Seasonal Affective Disorder, sorry for the acronyms.)

Glad you're further down now, though anywhere in Canada seems like you'd get some troubles with light. I've used my mom's SAD box for the last two days and I think it's helping. At the very least, it's great for helping me feel more awake. And every little bit helps.

Thanks for the well wishes.

October 5, 2008 at 2:13 PM

Blogger Abigail said...


I completely agree, a lot of people live very very precariously.

I loved that commercial that you mention! I used to crack up every time it came on. Though I suppose now it's kind of obvious, even six months ago it seemed so smart and insightful. Ah, how time changes things.

You're right about trying to only score things by your own standards. It's not one I can always achieve, but by and large I try to remind myself of it.

When we emerge from this debt, we'll be haggard but very very grateful, to be sure! And we can start from a smart place, even if it's a little later than we hoped to start.

It's one of thsoe cases where, when a depressive episode hits, I know these things. I just can't always feel them. As I crawl back out of this emotional nadir, I'll be more content. It will just take some time to balance out again.

In the meantime, I appreciate the well wishes.

October 5, 2008 at 2:17 PM

Blogger Donna said...

Jackie B: Maybe you haven't read some of Abby's previous posts, in which she *does* accentuate the positive. In fact, I think she does that in this one too -- by listing the 10 things for which she is thankful.
No doubt you meant to be helpful, but I'm afraid your advice comes off as a little bit patronizing. "You seem to like to talk about your problems, fears, setbacks, whatever..." -- I doubt that Abby LIKES to talk about them but if she doesn't, she'd probably implode.
Talking about them is not just "a type of therapy" -- it's outreach, because there are other people out there who have disabilities and feel the same way. Sharing her story may help some of those people feel not quite so alone.
Today in church, the minister quoted a theologian who said that change cannot occur unless the problem is named. Talking about -- i.e., naming -- her difficulties is one way that Abby can initiate the process of change.
Change is a lot more complicated and nuanced than thinking "five happy thoughts" every day. And again, if you take a minute to read some of her other posts, you will see just how often she *does* celebrate "even the little victories."
I'm her mother, and 11 years ago we were celebrating the fact that she could move one of her fingers a couple of centimeters. She darn near died of a rare disease that came out of nowhere and completely changed the course of her life. Despite crushing setbacks and losses in the ensuing years, she has celebrated quite a few victories, both large and small.
And, as her blog title suggests, she gets quite a charge out of finding a shiny new penny while out for a walk.

October 5, 2008 at 2:17 PM

Blogger Abigail said...

Mommy to the rescue... Aren't they swell, these moms of ours?

October 5, 2008 at 2:19 PM

Blogger sunny said...

I am new to your blog but really like it...and your honesty about your struggles and the good things too (!) is refreshing.

I hope Lexapro works for you. It took me awhile to find out that I was depressed... and even then, I didn't see my doctor about it until I'd cried at least once a day for two weeks.

I was on one med for a bit but it left me sleepy during the day and awake at night. that's when my doc decided to cut through the ones I could try and just try the best one he knows of...Lexapro. and it's worked for me. (note: this is not an ad for lexapro!) :)

I do hope that you find what works for you...and that you continue to feel free to share what you'd like here. You do have 90+ people who care and look forward to what you have to write!

October 5, 2008 at 7:14 PM

Blogger Shevy said...

Oh, hey! I meant to tell you that I found a penny in the liquor store parking lot when I went to buy the wine for Rosh Hashana.

I thought of you as I picked it up!

As for the weather, Vancouver is almost exactly like Seattle (so, pretty grey a lot of the time). I still love the Coast though and, even though it rains a lot, at least we don't have to shovel it!

And our rural home in the Okanagan (where we plan to retire) is actually on the most northern tip of the Sonoran Desert and gets, count 'em, *300* days of sunshine on average per year! (Spokane or Wenatchee is probably similar in Washington State.) I'm definitely counting on that being a benefit once we're retired.

October 5, 2008 at 11:21 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Sktinkykat. Often the highest earners also carry the most debts. So it isn't always roses, although it might look it from the outside.

Sorry to hear that you're going through a rough time. It's so important to focus on the positive and remember that you have a husband who loves you. We all go through rough emotional times, so you're not alone there (not trying to negate your feelings here, I hope it doesn't sound that way). I hope you feel better soon! :)

October 6, 2008 at 9:21 AM

Blogger Skinny on South Beach said...

What I like about you is that you always are looking at the positive, even when it seems like you've felt so down and out. It's hard for lots of people with depression and disabilities to even say to themselves, "hey, maybe I should count my blessings and that might make me feel better". Hell, it's hard for people even without those conditions to do so. So congrats to you Abby!
Also, how in the heck do you have 90 subscribers already? Lucky girl!

October 6, 2008 at 3:24 PM

Blogger Leora said...

Abby, I found you via Juggling Frogs.
Severe depression is lousy. It's internal, and you could mention five million things going on in your life and in person X's life, it still feels lousy.

I'm on a small dose of Lexapro, and it seems to stabilize me. I haven't experienced that horrible deep kind of depression since my twenties (I'm in my forties), but it's no fun. Life for me now is MUCH stabler. So hang in there.

Sounds like you can find the positives. I wish you would just have a baby without the financial padding.

I'll keep reading your blog.

November 3, 2008 at 2:40 AM

Blogger Abigail said...


Thanks for your comment and for finding this blog!

November 3, 2008 at 9:31 AM


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