x156 (weight loss, ednos, and side effects)

By Rafael Peñaloza, used with Creative Commons License, edited by Mydnyht Rantings

By Rafael Peñaloza, used with Creative Commons License, edited by Mydnyht Rantings

I’ve written before about my contentment with my weight and body image despite having a BMI that puts me as technically overweight. I’m tall, my waist to hip ratio checks out, BMI numbers tend to be inaccurate anyway, and my cholesterol and blood pressure have always been normal. However, there have been two things going on lately that have made me rethink my health and weight: an immediate family member was recently diagnosed with type two diabetes (something that runs in the family, coming with weight gain and old age), and another immediate family member is using me as an accountability partner in their own journey toward weight loss. Examining what I eat daily and confronting the bad habits I’ve gotten into, partnered with concerns about changing habits now before I am in my fifties or sixties and struggling with being borderline diabetic, has made me wonder if maybe losing a little bit of weight wouldn’t be such a bad idea. There’s one problem: I am technically still in recovery from a not-otherwise-specified eating disorder, and the idea of actually trying to lose weight – something I haven’t done since I was fourteen and restricting and purging – is terrifying.

There are a lot of reasons why I went from 130 pounds in January of 2012 to almost 180 at the current moment. The whole reason I weighed 130 in the first place was because the stress of dealing with a repressed memory of childhood sexual trauma sent my weight spiraling downward. I put on about fifteen pounds come the summer of 2012, and I was happy at 145 – I was slim but not too slim (as I felt I was at 130), and my weight was a product of healthy eating and a lack of added stressors in my life. By the winter of 2013, I was back up to 160 or so, and my appetite had increased dramatically. I’m guessing part of this was due to the antidepressant I was put on in April of 2012 – I started with ten milligrams of Viibryd and eventually worked my way up to 40 mg. I didn’t think anything of the weight gain at the time – my weight fluctuates pretty frequently due mostly to med changes, and I had spent so long teaching myself to eat when I was hungry instead of trying to ignore those feelings to obtain a dangerous ideal that I didn’t think it was problematic that I was waking up in the middle of the night to eat even though I was getting enough food during the day. By the summer of 2013, I was up to about 175 pounds, and I’ve been that way for the past two years, give or take a few pounds.

Is it possible to lose weight while on an antidepressant that doesn’t directly cause weight gain but instead increases appetite? Yes. Is it difficult? Yes. Is it even harder when you have a history of an eating disorder? Yes, yes, and yes. I see my med provider on Monday and I plan on bringing these concerns up with him and see what he thinks the next plan of action should be. There are other bothersome side effects that I’ve put up with for three years that are making me consider a med change, but as I mentioned in my last blog post about medication, I need to be careful and make sure I’m doing this for the right reasons. It’s classic of people with bipolar disorder to want to mess with their meds when things are going well, only to then spiral downward and need to go back on meds again (and then want to go off of them again). However, as I have learned with various sleeping medications I’ve tried, sometimes a med change to avoid one’s body building a tolerance to medication is just what one needs. I’m hoping that if there is a med change on Monday, it changes things for the better, and doesn’t send me many steps backward. And if there isn’t, I’m hoping I can come up with ways to deal with the unpleasant side effects that I’ve been dealing with for far too long.

x155 (medication, part three)

By Gatis Gribusts, used with Creative Commons License, edited by Mydnyht Rantings

By Gatis Gribusts, used with Creative Commons License, edited by Mydnyht Rantings

I wish I wasn’t so different when I’m off my meds. I wish I didn’t behave in embarrassing ways that I’m afraid to admit while I’m feeling more in control and “neurotypical”. I wish people I thought were my friends didn’t talk behind my back while I’m off meds, saying things like I’m over-reacting and being too sensitive. I wish the people I know are my friends didn’t have to try and let me down gently when admitting that there were problems when I’m off meds. I wish these things because I’m afraid of what the way I behave says about me when I’m off my meds. I don’t want to admit I have a mental health concern or a “problem”, so when it’s painfully obvious by the way I act that there’s “something wrong”… it hurts. It makes me doubt myself. I’m not really at a place where I can say that the person I am when I am medicated and appear “sane” is the person who I’m supposed to be, or the person who I really am, and so it makes me feel bad that I’m the kind of person who needs to be “fixed” in the first place. While there have been times where my meds weren’t working in the way they were supposed to, the only time I’ve actually not been on medication at all since I was about twelve was a four or five month period in 2011, the year where I started experiencing symptoms of PTSD due to a suspicion of having a repressed memory of childhood sexual trauma. There were certainly things that were off about the situation, but it’s hard to figure out what that “off” feeling was due to. Was it because I went off my meds cold-turkey without tapering them, and went through withdrawal? Was it simply an adjustment because the meds I was on weren’t working anyway, and so I was simply transitioning to a different type of not working? Was it because the deep depression I had sunk into right before I turned eighteen was finally coming to a head, after years of threatening to rip open and wreak havoc on my psyche? Or was it because, as I so deeply fear, I simply am a different (and in my opinion, lesser) person when I’m not on medication?

There were positives, as well. While I was incredibly depressed, to the point where even getting out of bed to go to the bathroom was difficult for me, for the first time in about five years I didn’t feel like I wanted to die. I was more aware of my emotions and felt more in-tune with my thoughts. I didn’t feel numbed down. I would have been interested to see if I would have made any kind of progress if I had a therapist during this time or if I had any sort of social outlet. I only went back on meds because of the December issue. Unfortunately, due to the stigma of being off meds while having a bipolar diagnosis, two things happened: people doubted what I believe was and is a legitimate concern that I have a repressed memory, and I will likely never have another chance to experience life without medication. In the event that my self-perception is warped, it’s far too dangerous to go off of my meds and realize that there are problems I have that will affect my interpersonal relationships that can only be fixed through medication. I don’t want to put the romance, friendships, and familial relationships I’ve cultivated over the past four years in jeopardy. Everyone says that if you have bipolar disorder, the last thing you should do when things are going well is go off your meds. Things going well means the meds are working, not necessarily that you don’t need them anymore. It leads to a vicious cycle of depression, medication, going off meds, mania, and then depression again. And although I wonder how well I’m really doing if I can’t even work, and although I wonder if I really even have bipolar disorder… meds it is. I guess it’s just a matter of working on feeling like I’m not damaged goods just because I need to take pills every night.

x154 (me time: work/life balance as a homemaker)

By Julie Kertesz, used with Creative Commons License, edited by Mydnyht Rantings

By Julie Kertesz, used with Creative Commons License, edited by Mydnyht Rantings

Sometimes, as a homemaker, I prioritize everything else but myself. “I have to have the house perfect for my fiancée! I have to make sure [x, y, z] is taken care of!” With a mental health concern, the most I’ll allow myself is easing myself into my day because I wake up tired and perhaps taking a nap later. I don’t always have time to read or to practice bike riding or any of the other things I’d like to do. And while it is important to keep up with the housework and make sure the pets are taken care of, sometimes I need to remember to take care of myself.

Today, I am writing this blog post in a local café. I got up, took care of the pets, did some of the basic chores so the house would look presentable if someone happened to stop in, and walked down to get lunch and a coffee. I was able to listen to music on the walk, something I don’t do often because I’m trying to be more in tune with my body when I take the dogs on a walk (plus, it’s easier to tend to training them when I’m not distracted by Pandora). I wrote in my prayer journal, read a few chapters of the Bible and ten pages of the Quran, and right now I am focusing on living intentionally and taking some time for myself.

I’m not saying I need long breaks like this every day. And honestly, I sometimes worry that I am a bit lazy or unmotivated and I should focus more on housework and not give myself so much grace during the day (Facebook and e-mail checking are huge time sucks, folx). But when I was debating coming down here today, I will admit that it felt odd that I was considering taking time for myself to do something that wasn’t housework or taking care of the pets. And I do have a lot of cooking to do when I get home (we have a family potluck coming up this weekend), not to mention that we’re having a guest over tonight so I have to make sure the house is spotless. I’m not even sure if I’ll have time to take the dogs on a walk, something I generally prioritize pretty highly. But all that aside, it feels nice to do something for myself during the week and to get out of the house. Sometimes a little “me” time is important. Obviously there are certain things that need to get done during the day, but recognizing that giving myself grace outside of sleep and a little bit of internet tomfoolery on occasion is a good habit to get into. I’m not just a homemaker and a pet mommy – I’m a human being who needs time to relax. Work/life balance isn’t just for those who work outside the home – those whose work is focused inside the home need a little bit of a break, too.

x153 (goals for the month)

By Daniele Zanni, used with Creative Commons License, edited by Mydnyht Rantings

By Daniele Zanni, used with Creative Commons License, edited by Mydnyht Rantings

I didn’t accomplish all that I wanted to in the month of July. I was unable to put money into savings and actually dipped into my savings to make it through the month. I also didn’t hang anything up, but I did get out the pictures I do want to hang and figured out the general area they’ll go in, which is half the battle. I’m still working on creating a guest list for the “framily” reunion – my side is pretty solid, it’s mostly getting my fiancee to solidify her side of the guest list and come up with a date that works for everybody.

There were some things I did manage to do, though – I did yoga four times using a YouTube video series I found that I really like. I also met with a friend from England for lunch whom I haven’t seen for years, and it was really nice to catch up with her and meet her beau.

For the month of August, I’d once again like to put money in savings, hang up some pictures, and start solidifying the date to the framily reunion and start inviting people. I’d also like to get up at 9:30 for 21 days in a row and make an appointment with a podiatrist. My feet stick out at an odd angle and always have, and I want to make sure it’s not too problematic or preventing me from running (something I’ve always struggled with). I’ve been trying to do this for a while but MassHealth being what it is, I’ve run into quite a bit of red tape.

Hopefully I can get all this done!

x152 (offbeat home & life guest post)

I had another guest post go live on Offbeat Home & Life yesterday titled “This is what I wish someone would have told me about relationships when I was young“.

Here’s what I wish a loving older brother or sister figure would have told us (and what I’m passing on to you young Offbeat Homies out there): there is nothing wrong with wanting a casual relationship. Not in your late teens and early twenties, and not even in your late twenties, thirties, forties… you get the idea […] Alternately, there is nothing wrong with wanting a serious relationship that ends in marriage. You don’t necessarily have to do something as strict as the “courtship” route, but if you go into relationships evaluating your partner for their potential to create marital bliss, that’s fine. Again, communicate this to your partner and make sure your goals are on the same page.

Check out the rest on Offbeat Home & Life!

x151 (nothing)

By Eternal Sunshine, used with Creative Commons License, edited by Mydnyht Rantings

By Eternal Sunshine, used with Creative Commons License, edited by Mydnyht Rantings

Lately my therapy appointments have consisted of talk therapy and trying to get me signed up for a local clubhouse. In mental health circles, clubhouses provide support, activities, and employment for people with mental health concerns who qualify. During our last appointment, I mentioned to my therapist that I had been triggered by something I had seen on TV. I am highly triggered by having my genitalia touched or even seeing someone’s genitalia being touched by someone else. I had been watching an episode of the National Geographic show “Taboo”, and while there wasn’t anything explicit or graphic since it’s a cable show, it was implied that a “sex guru” was touching the genitalia of one of his clients (a fellow “sex guru”). I ended up turning off the TV. I couldn’t handle it. My therapist asked if I would be comfortable working with this trigger in our next EMDR session, and I said yes. I would be happy to see this particular trigger go.

The other night, I was reflecting on this while laying in bed. I was wondering if, perhaps since this is such a strong trigger, I would end up having some kind of flashback or breakthrough in therapy or directly after this particular EMDR session. That catty, negative little voice in my head immediately responded with:

“No, because it’s unlikely something happened.”

And that got me thinking… what if nothing happened?

I feel like this is a topic I’ve explored on this blog many, many times. I thought I was molested (something I remembered), people told me “no, that’s not sexual abuse”, then I thought I might have a repressed memory on top of that, but outside of an incredibly triggering and difficult month, no memories have yet to surface. I have no idea if I have any right to identify myself as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I’ve seen psych papers that detail the phenomenon of repressed memories, and apparently if you have a traumatic event in your past that is never dealt with properly or that nobody validates, it is possible to subconsciously develop symptoms of a repressed memory – it’s your psyche’s way of garnering attention for something people have been ignoring. I know that, given the science and given the conversations I had with people I know about the histories of the person(s) I suspect of having molested me, that it’s not unusual and certainly not my fault that I would develop symptoms of a repressed memory. But it still haunts me. Almost four years later, it still haunts me. How likely is it, really, that something happened? The answer varies depending on who I talk to and what kind of training in psychotherapy and experience in sexual health and trauma they’ve had. Is it pointless for me to continue with EMDR in therapy if there’s “nothing wrong”? If I do have PTSD (which, I was recently diagnosed with), then what is the traumatic event that caused it? Can you have PTSD without being able to identify a single traumatic event it could stem from? I mean, I can think of plenty of traumatic things from my childhood – or, rather, things I think were traumatic, even if they wouldn’t affect anyone else in the same way. If you touch my backside, I react very violently and am massively triggered. I don’t even kneel in church or walk around the house naked because the feeling of my exposed backside is triggering and more than I can bear. I have nightmares, both about the incident I do remember that some people say isn’t sexual abuse, and about what I think happened where I can feel the molestation occurring. Given all that, how can it be nothing? This is the question I continually ask myself. But the longer it takes to have an exposed memory, the more I doubt myself. The less people are willing to talk with me about what happened, the more I question my fears.

What if nothing happened?

Do I deserve to identify as a survivor?

Am I “lying”? Am I ruining people’s lives by “accusing” them of molestation and sexual abuse? Should I stop trying to speak up about it?

I don’t know.

I keep asking.

And I still don’t know.

x150 (motivation)

By Tramidepain, used with Creative Commons License, edited by Mydnyht Rantings

By Tramidepain, used with Creative Commons License, edited by Mydnyht Rantings

I didn’t always want to be a homemaker or a stay-at-home mom. In fact, the first career I ever recall aspiring to was that of a Catholic priest when I was at the tender age of four (my father told me I would be the first female Catholic priest; my mother told me women can’t be priests. She was raised Catholic and he converted. Can you tell?). After that, I wanted to be an artist. Then a paleontologist. Then I went back to wanting to be an artist, although since I was no longer five and had started to think about college, I more specifically wanted to be an animator. The closer I got to college age, though, the more I wanted to be a mother. If I had unlimited funds to provide for a child, I probably would have tried to have or adopt children right after high school (as ill advised as such a far-fetched dream may have been, the only obstacle in my mind between myself and being a mother was lack of money). I remember getting to a point where I realized that a “career” was only a means to an end for me – I would work until I was either married or had enough of a savings cushion that I could be a single stay-at-home mom. What motivated me was my love for children and my craving for motherhood – being a homemaker was on the back burner at the time. My mother had encouraged my brother and I to help keep a clean house and I was a relatively neat person unless my depression was getting the better of me, so I didn’t think much about keeping house. It was just something you did in addition to other things, and never my sole focus.

Once I was unable to work, therapy and socializing (which was important to help me get out of my negative and anxiety-ridden headspace) were my main focuses. I was consumed with my repressed memory and living in fear of a flashback, desperately wanting to get out of the house where I suspected I had been violated as a child because it was so triggering. I helped out around the house because it was what I had always done, and because it gave me some sense of contributing even if it wasn’t financially. It wasn’t until I started dating my now fiancée that I gave any consideration to being a homemaker as a primary occupation. Early on in our pre-relationship discussions, she stated that she was fine with me not being able to work because it meant when we had children that someone would be home with them, and she hated the idea of putting her children in daycare. When we first moved in together and people asked what I did for work, she would quickly chime in that I took care of our needy dogs and kept the house running ship-shape, something she couldn’t imagine doing on top of holding down two jobs between the both of us. This avoided the embarrassing admittance that I, in fact, could not work. My motivations for being a homemaker – or, in fact, my desire to label myself as a homemaker in the first place – were changing. Keeping house was no longer something I did on the side: it was a full time occupation and it was how I shouldered part of the responsibilities of adult life. My fiancée worked and was the primary financial provider for our family, and I made sure that the housework was kept up with, fresh bread was made twice a week, and a from-scratch dinner was on the table every night. I was keeping house to provide for my family, not just as an afterthought.

If I had a Titus 2 mentor, someone who would school me in the ways of Biblical womanhood, she would tell me that my primary motivation for being a homemaker would be G-d, and my secondary motivation would be to create a welcoming haven for my husband and family. If I produced more goods than my household consumed, my primary motivation would likely be sustainability, a la the radical homesteading movement popularized in the recent economic downturn. While I can’t say I believe that a woman’s G-d given calling is to care for the home under the jurisdiction of her father and then her husband (in fact, the concept can be a bit creepy under a certain light), it is nice to know that in some circles the work I do is highly valued and seen as important, and even spiritual. Eventually I would like to expand our small porch garden so that we have more output, and get into canning and otherwise preserving the summer harvest so that we can incorporate more and more from-scratch items into our kitchen. We try to be eco-friendly and make things other than food from scratch as well, such as household cleaners and laundry detergent. But religious conviction and sustainability aside, I would say that my primary motivation at the moment to be a homemaker is to provide for the well-being of my family. I’m not engaged to a man and thus I’m not under anyone’s headship – it’s our choice that one of us works and the other stays home, and those roles are not dictated by Biblical authority. In fact, once the kids we plan on having are school age, I’d like to do some work outside the home. Nonetheless, keeping things running smoothly on the home front is something I’m proud to be doing, especially since it benefits my fiancée and our pet babies. My motivation for keeping house is to benefit my family, and although it might not fit in with the goals of other Christian homemakers, it’s good enough motivation for me.