Monday, December 03, 2007

Assuming the Mantle

Hannah pauses between flights
I was the designated taker-of-kids-to-the-sledding-hill parent this time, so I brought Atticus along just for good measure.

The kids had a BLAST on the hill back behind the Highland Park Rec Center, and I ended up by sledding down the hill myself.

Atticus had an amazing run in a desolate area of the field (acres of untramped snow for a dog to romp!) and we ended the day with lunch at Mickey's Diner, then I drove down to Bella Lana to pick up two more skeins of yarn for gifts. Good times!

I'm going to call the doc today - it's obvious that this cold/flu thing I have should be isolated in a petrie dish and used as a biological warfare deterrent.

- We dare not invade the US, they have the ACV* Strain!

Also, with Gerry so susceptible, it's just not wise for me to walk around with this. So I've made an appt to see my doc tomorrow, after I see the dentist. A full and rich day for me. At this moment, though, moving off of this couch seems like a monumental task.

Knitting
The sleeve hit a hitch when I found myself both running out of yarn, and unhappy with the heaviness of the fabric. So I ripped out and I'll be reknitting with a larger needle, and may even throw in some eyelets between the ribs and cables to keep the sleeves from being too thick and unwieldy. I'm not fond of ripping out - well, not when I feel a little rushed - but I'd much rather rip out than turn in something I'm not proud of.

And speaking of sleeves, I just can't seem to get the darned second sleeve finished on the Tilli Tomas Cardigan. I hate this betwixt & between period when I just have to get the darned thing FINISHED! The good news is that I worked a double knit edging along the front edges and neckline of the garment, so once the sleeve is done, it is DONE!

Cheer Up
The State Rankings on Depression Status have come out, and the last two states I've lived in rank among the top 6 in terms of dealing with depression. Yay! (Who knew?)

So in honor of this statistic I'll do a little happy elf dance, courtesy of Cindy & Office Max

The top 5 are:

South Dakota
Hawaii
New Jersey
Iowa
Maryland
Minnesota

Utah and West Virginia bring up the rear - which is not to say that they have more depressed folks, but according to the study they may not be putting the same importance on mental health issues as the other states.

Four factors used to rank the states were: 1) Adults and 2) adolescents experiencing one depressive episode in the past year. 3) Percent of adults experiencing serious psychological distress. 4) Average days in last 30 in which the population reported that their mental health was not good.

I don't talk about this much - mostly because it could open me up to a lot of negative comment and 'helpful' advice about dealing with depression holistically (not that this isn't an option, and I do take advantage of foods and vitamin supplements that can help enhance mood naturally) - but I am a proud member of the Fluoxi-team.

My name is Annie, and I take Serafem (aka Prozac.)

I can't say I ever felt guilty about taking it, but at the start I did feel odd. Rather like I should be able to deal with anything on my own, without the need for chemistry to enhance my mood.

I was also worried that my creativity would be affected. That turned out to be a non-worry; once I was able to prioritize my needs, wants and desires, I was able to be much more productive and creative.

More than a 'happy pill,' I feel that taking my pink and grey capsule helps me prioritize the important stuff, and allows me to let the other stuff take care of itself.

I feel that my dad was severely depressed - undiagnosed - and self medicated himself to deal with his chemical imbalance using alcohol and prescription pain killers. Not great for him, and worse for his family.

I have no idea what might have been, or could have been done differently for my dad, especially given the treatment resources at that time, but I have no doubts that my own life is enhanced by drug therapy. I know that my own kids have a happier and more balanced parent than I did. So at least in that respect we're gaining ground.

Folks who are resistant to this - either for themselves or for others - can be very vocal in their disdain. It's hard to admit to taking Serafem when I know that some folks may say, "Why can't you just handle a bad mood?" or "I don't think I'd ever rely on a drug to make me happy..."

But it's not really that way.

If you think of depression as a disease - and it is - then you begin to realize that taking a drug to maintain a healthy chemical balance in the brain is not that different from taking a drug to maintain lung health, or keep insulin levels in order.

That's quite a leap, though, for those who have been brought up to believe that drug therapy for depression is wrong.

A few years I ran into a good friend who was dealing with post partum depression. She'd had two babies in as many years, and was beside herself. She was also dealing with a husband and mother in law who were rather fundamentalist, and felt that the only 'drug' one needed to assuage feelings of depression or thoughts of suicide was Jesus.

Religion can be a help and a comfort, but in this case my friend was made to feel guilty for even considering that there might be something out there that could help her bridge the place she was at mentally and the place she'd like to be.

I told her about my own experience, and she was very grateful to know someone - anyone - who had been going through was she was going through, and had found some light at the end of the tunnel.

Nothing in life is perfect, and I know some folks with mental health issues have been misdiagnosed and badly treated using incorrect medications. But for me this route has been working very well for a few years - and I'm very glad that I'm on it.

And now to drag my warm and cozy behind off the sofa so I can take Atticus for a chilly walk - which he loves! He's a snowdog!

*[Annie Crud Virus]

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42 Comments:

Blogger susanc said...

Annie:

I'm glad you had such a great time yesterday. I hope that the doctor can give you something to knock out the ACV! There is a lot of that going around right now.

Take care of yourself and I'm glad that the Prozac helps. A little chemistry every now and then can be a big help. There's nothing wrong with that.

December 03, 2007 10:55 AM  
Blogger OfTroy said...

thank you for your honesty.

i think we (as country/nation/people) are still very dishonest about mental health..

i remember some 30 years ago, when no one said "CANCER" out loud.. it was whispered about.. it was a secret (and a dirty secret at that!)

now we talk about it.. how to get tested (pap smears, mamograms, others)

we know how to recognize the inital symptomes. (lump, or the ABCD rule for skin cancer)

and we all know more about how to treat it..

and more people know more about different treatments.. even people who have never had cancer know about aspriration biopsies.. or lumpectomys, vs, breast removal, vs a full mastectomy (with removal of nodes and underlying tissue)

we need the same honest about depression. and bi-polar disorder, and about post partium depression, and about all sort of other metal health problems.

so thank you for you honesty. its one of the reasons i keep coming back to your blog!

December 03, 2007 11:03 AM  
Blogger Netter said...

I was on fluoexetine for a few years myself. I had PPD and Depression. I live in NJ and I think the main reason the state addresses it so well is due to the former first lady, Mary Jo Codey; she's been very public about her PPD and struggles with depression. My husband used to think the pills were mood enhancers, but he quickly realized that I wasn't getting "high" but returning to my normal personality.

December 03, 2007 11:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Annie,

I'm glad you found a way to balance your life...be proud you are a good parent for your kids...be especially proud you have helped others...

Sharon

December 03, 2007 11:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree there is such a stigma with taking anti-depressants. I started on Lexapro a couple months ago. My stress level was so bad, I thought I was going to have a heart attack. Seemed like I was constantly in that "fight or flight" mode. I feel so much better now, and you're right it allows you to prioritize. It helps so much for me to get "out of myself" and be creative and enjoy things without thinking about my anxiety! Before my prescription, I was taking kava kava, which worked, but not good for the liver so herbal is not always the way to go. It is really an aid, not a crutch.

December 03, 2007 11:20 AM  
Blogger Alyson said...

I'm a member of the Fluoxi-team, too. It is a choice between dreading getting up in the morning, dreading going to bed, and dreading everything in-between, or being on an even keel most of the time. I, and my famiy, prefer the even keel, less chance of capsizing while using my little capsules. I wish I didn't have to take them - have been on them pretty much continuously for the last three years. But clinical depression runs in my family and without the anti-depressants, I can't handle day to day stress at all. And it's way better than drinking.

Now, if I could get rid any of my pills, it would be the ones for high blood pressure. Honestly, that fact that I am 46 and have to take those, upsets me way more than the prozac. I know how to get rid of those pills, but losing weight is tough.

December 03, 2007 11:29 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Hi, I Elizabeth and I'm a proud member of the Lexapro team. Represent.

Seriously, there's nothing wrong with acknowledging that one has "sloppy brain synapses" as I like to describe my chemical imbalance. Hell, it's WAY better than feeling like I'm in the bottom of a well all the time!

Feel better soon--toes up by the fire and warm drinks...I've often heard that lots of good beer also helps in the recovery process!!

December 03, 2007 11:52 AM  
Blogger Mary Lou said...

depression is linked to osteoporosis, heart disease and is proved to damage the amygdala and prefrontal cortex. This sounds like a disease to me. I often wonder if the same people who poo poo antidepressants would also dismiss antibiotics/chemotherapy/heart medication because you should just be able to handle life without chemicals.

December 03, 2007 12:00 PM  
Anonymous LisaD said...

You've flown the friendly skies enough to know that you should put on your oxygen mask before assisting others. Kudos to you for taking care of yourself: seeing the dentist, the doctor and accepting depression as part of the whole picture. Breathe deep!

December 03, 2007 12:10 PM  
Blogger shoeboots said...

As a coworker of mine says, "Better Living through Chemistry!". I wouldn't be nearly as productive and/or able to multitask ANYTHING without my ADD meds- far be it from me to chide someone taking meds to help them cope with a serious mental health issue. It's nice to see someone talking about it- I think it helps take away the stigma.

December 03, 2007 12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have struggled with medication resistant depression for a very long time. I used to say I was depressed back before depression was cool. I perservered and finally found a good doctor and the right combination of medication, at least for now.

December 03, 2007 12:28 PM  
Blogger Cindy in Happy Valley said...

Bravo to you for recognizing that depression (all types) is a REAL medical disorder and getting appropriate treatment. I have been trying to explain to a clinically depressed friend-for years-what you said so eloquently about freeing your creativity. Yet she remains unconvinced.

Also I too have the "crud virus" and it's a bugger. Nothing has kicked it yet, but I'll let you know if I find something!

December 03, 2007 12:39 PM  
Blogger Kay said...

Annie, I was the other customer at the counter at Bella Lana yesterday; you know, the one who just had to recite the idiot story about the woman who stashed her yarn behind her credenza. I thought I recognized you but was too shy to say anything but hello. And then I babbled on about someone none of us even knew. Good Grief! My apologies.

Anyhow, you have a wonderful smile!

December 03, 2007 1:08 PM  
Blogger Connie said...

I take Lexapro 2 weeks of the month to handle my PMDD! It is a life saver! There is no reason to have a all-out RAGE during "that time of the month". My family really appreciates it and I feel better too. My dh always says "Better living through pharmaceuticals."

December 03, 2007 1:39 PM  
Anonymous Kathy Sue said...

Remember back in the 70's when they said "better living through chemistry"--I think it was Monsanto--some plastics company. Anyhow, it quickly came to mean the use of drugs also. Today the difference is the drugs are controlled and prescribed. A lot safer. And a lot more effective I imagine. I does take a lot of courage for you to speak out about your depression and your medications. As you said, a lot of people would rather hide from the issue than admit to a problem.
Wow, I was just going to make a cute joke, and here I go on and on. Must be the nurse in me. She never goes away. Take care, Annie. I think I actually envy you the snow.

December 03, 2007 1:55 PM  
Blogger tamdoll said...

Wow.
Well, wanted to comment for a while to thank you for your heretic knitting info - I have been knitting this way since I found your website & am so happy!

And, am glad to hear that you are still creative even with meds - I stopped taking Lexapro recently & am miserable - was trying to exercise and find other ways to fix things - it's not working & I've been reluctant to try something else. Is this scary that I get mental health motivation from blogs? Well, back to the doctor's for me. (Is this too much info for a comment? eek)

December 03, 2007 3:45 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

This post has been removed by the author.

December 03, 2007 5:12 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

nnie, I hope you can get rid of the crud. Mannnnnn, I hate it when I get that crap. As to happy pills...more power to you for recognizing that you need more than "positive thinking" or even prayer to get yourself healthy. I'm not dissing positive thinking or prayer, but why not use all available tools when necessary? Good health to you (physical and mental)

December 03, 2007 5:14 PM  
Blogger Jenny said...

I always relate it to diabetic medication. My body produces too much or too little of this or that neurotransmitter and this puts it back where it should be. If our country were more open to discussing (and treating!) mental health, well, it would be better. Rosalynn Carter is also a big activist for parity in health insurance coverage for mental health treatment. As usual, you rock, Annie!

December 03, 2007 5:37 PM  
Anonymous rb said...

I'm convinced taking Paxil, albeit for a relatively short time, saved my life after I lost my first child to cancer. No shame. Good for you for going public. There would be no stigma if we all just owned up.

December 03, 2007 6:15 PM  
Anonymous witchknitter said...

I am a proud member of the Fluoxi-team too! For many years now. When I was diagnosed I was devistated!! But the chemistry helps a lot! I've considered going off it, but the family said NO! We like the prozac mom.
and my hubby is a Lexapro team member.
I am surprised to not see my state in the top 8--Michigan.

December 03, 2007 6:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't worry what others think. Be true to yourself and what you know!!

December 03, 2007 7:17 PM  
Blogger no-blog-rachel said...

You go, Annie, I love your honesty.

December 03, 2007 8:20 PM  
Anonymous Nicole said...

Thank you for sharing yourself and experiences. It is refreshing to hear your views on everything... even depression.

Also, I love seeing pictures of your family and Minnesota. It makes miss my family and my home state, but helps fill in some of it!

December 03, 2007 8:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I doubt anyone would start saying "if you just concentrated and tried harder, you could breathe better" to an asthmatic. Lexapro has helped me immensely. The brain has troubles just like any other part of the body, especially after huge stress like both you and I have had lately. (and may I say I knit just like you and always have). :-)

December 03, 2007 8:38 PM  
Blogger suzenew said...

Thanks Annie for sharing, as always, your honest, real, connected perspective on things. I think that we all keep coming back to read you because we know that we can count on that honesty and it allows us to feel that it is okay to face those hard things in ourselves.

December 03, 2007 9:01 PM  
Blogger BalletMommy said...

Thank goodness they have antidepressants now! My great grandmother committed suicide (lye, of all things!), my grandfather became an alcoholic, as did my mother and myself. I'm now 14 years sober and have been taking Zoloft for about 10 of those! And Annie, like you, I"m much more productive and creative now than I EVER was! (I think hitting my 50's has helped too! :-)

December 03, 2007 9:17 PM  
Anonymous aquarianshoes said...

Annie-
I, too, have used Prozac to help with my depression. I think it saved me after years of not being able focus properly on my life. It corrected something deep inside.(The talk therapy also helped.) I've been off it now for a number of years, but would not hestitate to take it again if I felt the "empty hole" opening up.
Take care Annie. I love your blog and I live across the river in Minneapolis. I saw you and your family at Crazy Aunt Pearl's booksigning at MOA, but was too shy to say hello and intrude. You all looked so excited and happy that evening.

December 03, 2007 10:20 PM  
Blogger Helen said...

People talk such rubbish about depression, as if it were a moral issue, not a medical one. I am prescribed Fluoxetine for something else, not depression, but after I'd been on it for a few months a friend remarked, perfectly sincerely, that I seemed 'a lot more relaxed these days', and I realized that I might have been a bit of a handful sometimes. Medication doesn't just improve the life of the person taking it, but those around them too. Stay well.

December 04, 2007 6:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bravo Annie! This is what we need, successful people like you who are not afaid of telling it like it is! If more people realized that mental health has the word "health" in it, as apposed to unwellness or sickness, things could be a lot easier for them. Meds are there to help when we are unwell, whether it be for a back ache or for a "feeling" or "mental" ache.

December 04, 2007 6:31 AM  
Blogger cathyannhenry said...

You are so amazing to be willing to talk about this--it's be hidden under the rug for too long. I have been on antidepressants myself (with the added feature of beating myself up because it took TWO drugs for me to get better). I was able to get off of them after two years, but am always watchful for recurrences (menopause is around the corner, so who knows what will happen to my brain chemistry then). It's nice for the moment not to need them, but I would take them again in a heartbeat if I found myself unable to cope with life as we know it.

I had a friend who told me that "if I had to take drugs to feel better, I just couldn't live with myself." I am sure she is still depressed. Sorry to say I had to walk away, because she is a person that insists you keep trying to make her happy but refuses to BE happy.

So glad to hear the good news about how Gerry is doing, too.

December 04, 2007 8:01 AM  
Blogger Iris said...

I lived in the Maryland/DC area from birth through grad school, except for one year in Los Angeles - the year I was in 6th grade and it was my parents fault - they moved and took me with them (which was a good thing, though), and then moved back.

Maryland is on that list? It comes from living so close to the seat of our government and knowing the real scoop.

I have to believe that Hawaii is on that list because so many people move there thinking that great weather and surroundings will make them happy, but they find out that they don't.

December 04, 2007 8:35 AM  
Blogger Eve said...

Several years ago I took Paxil for anxiety attacks that would keep me awake for hours, then later I took Serafem to help deal with endometrosis. Both times the medication probably saved my sanity.

I just recently joined the wellbutrin crowd - A unsatisfactory job, turning fifty and starting menopause did me in. I was totally falling apart - crying all the time, couldn't sleep at night and getting more and more scared that my body would just give out. My thought processes were so impaired due to exhaustion. Three weeks into it and I am beginning to feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it isn't an oncoming freight train! Work doesn't drive me as crazy as it did and I'm having more creative energy to devote to knitting.

When I hear people say derogatory things about antidepressants I like to ask them if they wouldn't take insulin if they were a diabetic or synthetic thyroid meds if their thyroid was out of whack. I think some people worry too much about potential side effects or the stigma from using antidepressants rather than focusing in the improved quality of life for the patient and their family. I wish one of my family members would take them for his bipolar depression. He thinks he's managing it in other ways but the rest of his family can state that his highs and lows have a devastating impact on his life and ours as well.

I once remarked that your columns on Gerry's illness were helping many other people cope with their situations. I think once again, you've done the community a great service by being upfront and talking about depression realistically. Thank you!

December 04, 2007 8:56 AM  
Blogger canknitian said...

Thank you for being brave and sharing your experience with anti-depressants. I had a lot of the same feelings when I started taking them...and went through it all over again last year when my original Rx failed (after five years) and I had to basically start over. There is definitely a stigma and people tend to be quite polarized in their response to the idea of anti-depressants. My bottom line now is that some people take heart medication, and others take brain medication. I think, like you, the biggest difference for me was the improvement in my ability to prioritize. I'm not perfect at it, but I know I'm myself again.

December 04, 2007 9:02 AM  
Anonymous Hester said...

THANKS FOR COMING OUT ABOUT PROZAC. Yes, my life would have been very different if my grandparents (both sides) and my parents and my generation had Prozac or the newer generations of anti-depressants. BETTER LIVING THROUGH CHEMISTRY. Folks who have not had a life-long battle with depression, either because of genetics or circumstances, have no idea what chronic depression is about.

Its rather funny when I get together with my closest friends (all of whom are creative in one way or another) and we discuss our medications. I always ask the nay sayers, would you deny a diabetic their insulin, or someone with high blood pressure there blood pressure medication? There is no difference as far as I am concerned.

Also, I am glad that the practice in the 80s and 90s by some psycholgists or psychiatrists of, lets get you off the medication so we can see what is really bothering you has diminished.

Also, if you are chronically depressed it might be worth your while to check into sleep apnea. Turns out I have major sleep apena problems which certainly where a major part of my depression.

ON TO BETTER LIVING THROUGH CHEMISTRY and a happier more balanced life!!!

December 04, 2007 11:35 AM  
Blogger Isabel said...

I only went to the doctor when a good friend confided in me about her mom's use of antidepressants. I didn't realise how badly off I was until years later. Antidepressants saved my life. Well, first a friend's openness about antidepressant use saved my life.

Thank you so much for sharing your story.

December 04, 2007 11:55 AM  
Blogger Jeannie said...

Annie, your courage continues to inspire and uplift me. I never experienced depression, even during the worst events in my life (and there have been quite a few), so I was totally sandbagged when both of my daughters were diagnosed -- one with bi-polar disorder, the other, after a suicide attempt, with severe clinical depression. Of course, only after that did I find out the depression history running through my husband's family. Proper medication, properly administered and monitored, has been the key to both of them returning to the light. For this I am extremely grateful.

December 04, 2007 3:12 PM  
Anonymous twinsetellen said...

I love it, Annie, that when you open up to everyone in such a vulnerable way, that is when you get your biggest support. A lesson for all of us.

Check out the Wirth Park tubing hill for your next Twin Cities snow adventure - it even has a tow rope!

Cheers,
twinsetellen (formerly ellen in minnetonka, but now have a blog going with my twin @ twinset.us)

December 04, 2007 9:13 PM  
Blogger Angie said...

Annie, thank you. I have been on Zoloft for 3 months now, I always thought that I was strong enough not to need the meds and then I got into a big "ditch" and just simply couldn't claw my way out of it. The meds helped tremendously and I am beginning to realize that perhaps I had been sliding down the slope into the deepest part of the ditch for a long, long time. Perhaps some day I will be able to admit it to my family the way you so eloquently admitted publicly. Kudos to you!

December 05, 2007 7:36 AM  
Anonymous S R said...

Annie:

You have an amazing bunch of readers. Not one of them tried to justify the vitamin/herbs/minerals treatment.... It's not a bad idea to take them but I doubt if there has ever been any serious help for depression from such treatment. I was especially encouraged that nobody defended the Jesus treatment. I have never understood why anybody would follow such a route when the very 'being' that is supposed to help is the one that let them down in the first place.

Thank Goodness (goodness coming from doctors, not God) you are doing ok.

December 06, 2007 7:50 AM  
Anonymous danielle said...

I've been on an anti-depressant of some sort since high school. I had a few years of mis-guided "off" time in the past, but have been on Effexor now for 5+ (more?) years, and love it. It helps me feel like many people claim to feel on a regular basis, that is, normal. I've tried talk therapy, st. john's wort, light lamps, thinking positive, but dammit, just give me the drugs and shut up. :-) I know I have a good life, and I know my brain chemistry won't let me enjoy it, so if a drug helps make that up, so be it.

http://blog.lib.umn.edu/mahlu002/oneday

December 12, 2007 2:48 PM  
Blogger Helen said...

I've already left a comment but I was reading Dooce today and she's saying the same thing. I don't know if you read her, but she is a wise woman http://www.dooce.com/2007/12/13/because-i-couldnt-say-it-phone

December 13, 2007 6:14 PM  

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