Treating Depression Like an Illness

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I will readily admit something to you: until recently, I did not treat my very own depression and anxiety like a chronic disease. Instead, I looked at it as a personal character flaw, despite the overwhelming evidence that it was a genetic disposition: e.g., family members present similar problems, these symptoms presented themselves right at adolescence when I got my first period, I have tried dozens of nonmedical treatments and they have not worked long-term. Etc.

Of course, if anyone asked what my opinion on whether depression/anxiety was an illness or a personal character flaw, I would tell you hands down: illness. It was just a personal flaw for me. Because I’m special like that.

Part of this specialness comes from when I first tried out medication. In short, it didn’t work. Not even a little bit. I tried a few, to no result. Then I went to therapy (oh, SO much therapy), and slowly, over time, I got better. I think I stayed “better” enough until last spring.

Last spring, and summer, were hell. HELL. Anyone who was emailing or texting or talking to me then would know that I was not myself. I was always anxious. I spent every moment I could in bed, sleeping, trying to sleep, reading, pretending to read, trying to stave off anxiety attacks. I cut off my hair in an attempt to get back to feeling better. I stopped blogging. I restarted blogging. I started a new job. I tried a few other life-altering things, including therapy. But nothing was working.

In my many years of therapy, all of my therapists said to me, “You wouldn’t deny a diabetic for taking his insulin, so why not try out medication?” On the surface, I agreed. In reality, I didn’t. (What? You can’t tell therapists the truth. They’d think I was crazy!)

In reality, this is what I thought: some diabetics, like my very own father, could control their disease through diet and exercise. So why couldn’t I cure myself? I just wasn’t trying hard enough. Obviously.

Then, of course, came a point where my dad couldn’t control his illness and had to take medication. D’oh.

So, I think I changed my mind about treating depression like an illness when it became glaringly evident that I had absolutely no other choice but to try it. I also think that I finally realized that I had nothing to work on in therapy. I mean, I had things, but not like before, when a therapist could have bought at least one of those crappy Mercedes with my payments. At least. Probably more like one of those crappy BMWs.

The thing that changed, that switched for me, was that before, I kind of hated my life. I didn’t have anything in particular to get well for. Crappy job, aimless, no kids, no real life, etc. I didn’t care. I’d been depressed since I was eleven years old, so it’s not like I ever even had a chance. (Wow, when I think about that, I’m actually quite impressed I did so much unmedicated. I studied micro-freaking-biology! I won scholarships! I got ENGAGED to a normal human being! And then MARRIED!)

But this last spring, I had: an agent, a job, two kids, a house, a dog, a husband, great friendships, and and and…I missed my life. I wanted it back. It was like when I decided to take Sudafed so I could go in to work, even though Sudafed makes me high as a kite. Better high than not working, I thought, and took it. I think that’s where I was: okay, better high as a kite than losing my life to depression, a life I didn’t want to lose. My motivation was different.

I tried again, and at first it was a huge disaster, but eventually, earlier this winter, I finally found a really great combination. It took months and months of tinkering, but I’m finally at that sweet spot with all my medication. I can honestly say that in some ways I’ve never felt better.

I used to wonder how people had so much energy throughout the day. By the end of every day, even in my “good” years, I was completely spent by the end of the day. I thought that was just me, but it turns out it was low-level chronic depression. I’ve never been very energetic in the evening, but it got so bad that I was going to bed at 8pm every night and sleeping until 7 the next morning. (I thought it was anemia.)

It’s not perfect. I had a bad day today, and had to take some emergency back-up medicine (which I refused to take until 5pm tonight, because I never, ever learn my lesson) because I was having a full-on anxiety attack. It was one of those moments, like the moments that led me to seeking medication instead–am I actually emotionally distraught over not finding my cell phone in my purse, and there are too many wadded up tissues in my pocket, or is this PERHAPS a medical condition, and not childhood trauma rearing its ugly head? (I am now picturing a therapist having to ask, “What do the wadded up tissues REPRESENT?”)

So maybe this new perspective is a little better.

I feel much better now. Like “myself,” except a version of myself that I didn’t actually know existed until this winter. I didn’t feel this way training for marathons, or drinking, or falling in love, or any other over-the-top feeling. I’ve NEVER felt this peaceful and calm and like I can actually see what the world looks like for the first time. Life is HD, and I can totally see every actor’s large face pores in my new medicated state and oh is it face-pore-glorious. (Seriously Dustin Hoffman. Those are some impressive nose pores.)

So, here is what I say to those of you who think you can solve your depression without drugs: better living through chemistry, man.

Housework Question

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Okay, not a real post, but a question: how do you split housework between you and your significant other? I’m asking all families, with or without kids, married or not, working outside the house or not.

Here’s what we used to do:

Me- take the kids to school, school lunches, all the cooking and cleaning, homework, school volunteering, bill paying, taking care of pets, errands, laundry

Gregg- Clean up the kitchen every night, walk the dog at night, read to the boys and put them to bed every night, all the house repair stuff, including dealing with contractors, etc.

And here’s what we do now:

Me- school lunches, all the cooking, homework, school volunteering, taking care of pets, errands, laundry, clean the kitchen half the nights, read to the boys at night

Gregg- takes the kids to school, bill paying, cleans the kitchen half the nights, walks the dog at night, vacuuming, mopping, all the house repair stuff, puts the boys to bed after book reading

So, it’s more even than it used to be, and some of it is necessity-based: I have to be at work usually before the boys are awake, and Gregg is at work too late to even think about cooking. I’m a morning person, and things like school lunches and laundry can easily be done in the morning. I found that I used to be too tired from being with the kids all day to read to them at night, and now I find myself looking forward to it. We all usually sit on the bed at night and read. We’re reading the first Harry Potter and Gregg and Kesh are always reluctant to stop. (A lot of it goes over Sachin’s head, and on those days, one of us will go in another room and read another book to him so he’s not bored.)

I like how it’s going. Some days I’m so completely exhausted I fall asleep at 8:30, but it’s still a good life. I do think sometimes Gregg could pitch in more, but the truth is that I care about a lot of the stuff that Gregg doesn’t (like whether my children are taking a bath in a dirty bathtub or not).

I used to feel that I needed to do ALL the work because I was the stay at home parent. Even if I go back to being a stay at home parent, that ain’t how it’s going to be from now on.

How do you split it up?

Things I’ve Given Up

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1. Trying to get people who don’t like me to like me.

2. Trying to write blog posts without lists in them.

3. Consistently clean floors.

4. That I can be as happy off medication as I am on medication.

5. Wearing a bikini.

6. That, as my mom told me in middle school, my eyebrows would thin out as I aged.

7. Trying to let other people’s ideas about my life mold my life.

8. Sit ups.

9. Thinking I need a better house/body/relationship/skirt/moisturizer to be happier/prettier/more fulfilled.

10. The days of updating this blog frequently.

11. Any type of bra that is manufactured for girls who don’t need bras.

12. That my opinion is more important than anyone else’s.

13. Being angry for someone cutting me off in traffic.

13a. Being angry for someone doing something mean. They don’t mean it, and if they do, they deserve my sympathy, not my anger.

13b. Okay, I’m trying. I’m not Gandhi over here.

14. Being mean, even if it’s just to myself.

15. Caring if I take shitty photographs.

16. Keeping up with trends, or food fads, or celebrities.

How about you?

10 Things Making Me Happy Right Now

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10. Throwback Thursday. Seeing old photos is the funnest.

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9. Wine. Specifically this one:

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(Running, not dorky sock and shoe combos, but that might be a bonus.)

7.

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6. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

5.

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(This is old, but who cares. It can make me happy right now, right? Yes.)

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(International Delight Hazelnut Coffee Creamer should win some kind of Nobel Prize for Happiness.)

3.

Not so surprising chickens. Don't tell Gregg I let them out. Shhhh.

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Because joy is contagious.

Twelve Reasons Not to Have Kids

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1. If you are a blogger, and a female, even if you never, ever, ever speak of your children, you will forever be known as “that mommyblogger.”

2. Stretch marks like a tiger. No, a zebra. No, a new zebra-tiger hybrid.

3. The glass ceiling is even lower for moms. You have to crouch just to fit in the room.

4. You will never, ever have time, and constantly be tired.

5. Stitches. Not just c-section stitches or ladyparts stitches, but the possibility of stitches on your children, all of the time, which is much, much worse than ladyparts stitches.

6. Caring about breastfeeding debates. You will just want to go back to caring about what Putin is doing to poor Crimea, which has far more gravitas than which ladies fed babies with their boobs and which did not.

7.

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8. Trying to figure out how to make a healthy dinner between work, after-school activities and homework without the aid of a time machine.

9. You will dream of punching anyone who decries McDonald’s because McDonald’s saves your life every Tuesday and Thursday. (Even though you used to decry McDonald’s.)

10. Not being able to listen to the news in public, ever, because those dying soldiers are someone’s children, and you’re going to end up crying. A lot.

11. Tuition payments.

12. Your heart walks around outside without you every day, and one day, it will not need you anymore, and leave.

An Open Letter to Everyone Who Thinks I’m Unemployed

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Dear Neighbor Pointing and Giving Me Pity Eyes;

I know you think my life is sad, walking my dog at 11AM in the morning, but I’m on a mid-morning work break, and the dog is old and totally needs the walk. I swear, I’m not unemployed. I have two jobs. I’m a librarian and a writer. Sorry, an author.

Three if you count being a mother, which we’re doing now because we’re feminists and raising kids is yo, totally hard work. Just ask that lady from The Hours. Actually, I didn’t watch The Hours, or read the book, but I totally got the gist from that one YouTube clip. Four if you count messing around on the Internet. (What’s that? No one counts that? Okay, then back to three.)

And I know it seems like I’m not working, walking my dog, but I’m thinking about the next plot point in my novel, which, bee-tee-dubs, is going to be great. It’s going to be like Kierkegaard meets Faulkner meets The Hours. Actually, that sounds totally terrible, but you get the idea. It’s going to be great.

Besides, I’m not the one who uses “literally” all the time, like, “literally, I am looking at these kids and laughing!” I know you’re literally looking at the kids and laughing, because I’m standing right next to you, and I can see you. Literally. You don’t need to use the word “literally.” Ever. It’s the word “figuratively” that could be used. Like, “I have the worst headache in the world right now…figuratively, because I haven’t surveyed all the world’s occupants to find out if my headache is the worst, and besides, pain is subjective and complex.” That’s what you mean. We don’t need you to point out the literal. The literal is point-out-able already, because it is literal.

And listen, mister, just because I don’t make that much money doesn’t mean my jobs aren’t important. Think about the children whose minds I nurture, being a librarian and a mother. The children are our future!

Excuse me? Your pity eyes are because I stepped in something? You said, “What’s that doo?”, not, “What’s that you do?” and then you pointed to my shoe, which I thought was some kind of degrading salute you created from reading too many post-apocalyptic novels, but was really just you pointing to the poo on my shoe? 

Oh, okay then. Thanks. I’ll scrape it off before I go inside.

So, The Hours is really good, huh? Literally, I had no idea.

XO,

Shalini

Why, Hello There!

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Keshav - July August 07 017

This photo has nothing to do with this post, except that this morning on the way to school I was telling Keshi how much I loved him and how cute he was, and he told me to “please stop” before anyone saw us. This is my retribution, K. MOM POWER FOREVER. You have nothing to fear but fear itself, and your mother.

So! Hi! Hiiii! I have almost nothing to report, but whenever I catch up with people, I realize: I never have anything to report. So it shall be today on ye olde blog, just reporting the little nothings of the month for now.

Here are the things I do not have to report:

1. I wrote 30,000 words in January, if any of you would like to donate to RAINN, like I mentioned in a post previous to this one, which I am not linking to because I don’t feel like it this second. I did not run at all. I’ve been doing yoga, because apparently now I’m a hippie and did I tell you about this new hemp purse I got and kumbaya?

2. I am sending cookies to people. There are many dozens of you, so this may take me all year, but I WILL SEND THEM. I will. If you’ve asked, you’ll just get a lovely melty surprise in the mail, in, say, July. You can still email me and request cookies, any time. I would LOVE to send them to you. It is a great gift for me to be able to do this.

3. My new book is coming along! Finally! I think I shall have it out in April-ish. Unless it is May-ish. It is another romance novel, if you like that sort of thing. If not, carry on, non-romance-novel reader! We shall never speak of it again!

3b. My current book has been doing so well because of you and all those readers out there, so can I just say thank you? Thank you. You are making it possible for me to contribute to my household financially through writing, which is a really big deal. So, thank you. You’re wonderful. Your support and kindness means the world to me and my family.

4. I have decided, for now, because of my panicky-ness about various things that I will not bore you with, to not buy any more clothes except from consignment and thrift stores (minus the beloved Big Lady Panties. I will never give you up, six packs of Hanes Her Way. They can take away my freedom, but they’ll never take away my underwear that hits my ribs. Never!). I feel surprisingly not panicky about this. I have not bought a cheap Target shirt in….at least a week! Let’s see how long I can make it before succumbing to the Boden catalogue in the mail. (Curse you and your cute boatneck sweaters, Boden. Curse you to the moon!)

5. Every Monday, lovely retired people in my neighborhood make sandwiches for homeless men at a local shelter. I have wanted to this for years, ever since I started staying home with the boys, and I have never gone once, because I am scared. Of lovely retired people who give generously of their time. Well, I am going Monday. I am! Maybe! I hope! Maybe give me a pep talk and tell me the lovely retired people won’t eat me like I’m the little mammal and they’re the big T. Rex? I hope?

6. All of my hippie natural body and hair care is going really well! Except I kind of gave up on oil pulling because I got a cold. I haven’t washed my hair in a month and a half and haven’t used deodorant in a month. I’m sure you’re so proud of my filth! (I promise I bathe and look like a normal person, even though I will probably start pamphleting houses very soon about how the satellites are getting into your brains and so you should definitely be wearing this tinfoil hat).

7. I am working in a library again, part-time, as, get this, a librarian. Between the book writing and the librarianing, I am afraid that my addiction to the Internet has had to suffer. I’m just going to start pumping twitter and instagram through my veins one day, but until I do, just know that I’m on the other side of this screen, doing really completely well and good and fine.

8. I don’t know WHEN I’m going to do a “books I liked” post again, so let me tell you right-quick that you should check out Elisa Nader’s Escape from Eden if you like fast-paced thrillers, and The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert if you like literary fiction about lady scientists (or, you know, if you just like lady scientists).

9. Have I not sworn this entire post? FUCK IT ALL.

Internet Time-Out

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You know when sometimes you feel all sad and angsty with humanity and you just realize that what you need is to be around the happiest, best people in the world? So you can then be happier and better, and spread happiness and good news instead of the ick?

I’m going to go do that.

(But you can still email me and ask for baked goods! Because giving is happiness-inducing, that’s why. You’re helping my serotonin levels!)

Outfit of the Day

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Sometimes your kid is sick and you still have to get ready and go to work and write and blog and find out who is going to take care of your kid (probably your kid’s dad, until you can come home), so you frown and take a quick photo and are just happy you’re wearing clean clothes. You know?

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Shoes: Keen; Pants: AG; Shirt: H&M; Tank: Target; Frown: All mine!

(Also, please send me your address if you want baked goods! I would link to it but I have a sick child sitting on top of me, so just doing this is a feat!)

How to Use Statistics To Scare People

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1. Use a graphic, hopefully like the one above that is meaningless, and is completely shocking.

2. Use “in their lifetime,” to make numbers bigger. For instance, “The average woman will consume 4 pounds of lipstick in her lifetime!!!” Even though Snopes has proven this statistic wrong, let’s break down the scare factor as if it were true.

Let’s say the average woman lives 86 years. (I’m making shit up and not citing sources in this math.)

That means that, each year, on average, she will consume 0.74 ounces per year of lipstick.

That is the weight of three quarters of a slice of bread.

Ergo, gluten is bad for you.

See what I did there? SCARY STUFF.

3. Try not to have any frames of reference.

Frames of reference, if you remember from high school physics, tell you the context of things. If you’re traveling toward a car at 30 miles per hour, which is also 30 miles per hour toward you, your collision will be at a speed of 60 miles per hour. Because: frame of reference.

Taking the frame of reference out makes it much scarier. “Shalini was hit by a car at 60 miles per hour,” gives the impression that I was standing still and a car was traveling 60 miles per hour at me. Even though it is technically true, it sounds much scarier without mentioning the frame of reference. And that’s what we need: to scare more people.

4. Make shit up, even if you have credentials that should teach you not to do that

In this article on gluten sensitivity, a MEDICAL DOCTOR WITH A MEDICAL DOCTOR DEGREE says this: 

“Dr. Ford, a pediatrician in Christchurch, New Zealand and author of The Gluten Syndrome, says he believes the percentage of people who are gluten-sensitive actually could be much higher — potentially between 30% and 50%.

“There are so many people who are sick,” he says. “At least 10% are gluten-sensitive, and it’s probably more like 30%. I was sticking my neck out years ago when I said at least 10% of the population is gluten-sensitive. My medical colleagues were saying gluten sensitivity didn’t exist. We’ll probably find it’s more than 50% when we finally settle on a number.”

Where did he settle on the 50 percent? The article doesn’t say. This could be the fault of the journalist, or the fault of the doctor. WHO KNOWS. The fact is FIFTY PERCENT IS SCARY AS SHIT. Sure, there’s nothing to back it up but OMG FIFTY PERCENT. BURN ALL THE BREAD!

5. Don’t cite sources

87% of librarians won’t believe what you’re saying if you don’t cite your sources, but everyone else will probably just ignore that.

So, in short: logic is not your friend in making amazing statistics. News sites everywhere thank you for making statistics scarier and less comprehensible for everyone!