I have not added an original blog post for quite some time. This blog usually serves as my stream of consciousness about my life, make-up, TV, working out, etc. But this year has been an emotional roller coaster. Every aspect of my life brought me stress or pain and that was too hard and too personal to blog about for me. Ironic, right? Blogs are supposed to be a way to share one’s personal experience and emotions.
Today, I’ve decided to reveal one thing that happened this year because I think it is important to share. Perhaps a reader will find some solace in reading about my experience. I know there is a risk that someone may relish in my pain and suffering but if they do, Fuck Them. My life is full and rich and not always perfect. But I live it on my terms.
2017 started out with quite a few challenges. At work, team members had begun to move away in droves. The Torrance office held “going away Happy Hours” and we raised the revenue of most local bakeries with our numerous “Best Wishes” cake purchases. A lot of change swirled around at work. And seeing friends leave the area felt heavy. Some would be commuting back to California their families for a year or more because their children were seniors in high school or their spouse or partner wasn’t ready to move. Others just sold everything and left California in their dust, happily trading expensive mortgages on smaller houses for their new Texas properties. And others made the move with trepidation and dread of the unknown. The majority of my friends loved their new living situation and enjoyed the change of pace. Hearing how excited some of them were to have swimming pools and media rooms made me happy for them.
Because of my role, a lot of team members would come to me for advice regarding their decision to move or leave the company. Although I had made up my mind to about 90% certainty, I did not want to influence anyone’s personal decision. I wanted to listen and allow them space to wrestle with their own pros and cons. Most people elected to move to Texas, more than I had expected and more than the company expected, too. But when I finally announced to my boss and the company that I did not intend to relocate, many people said they were shocked. Some said they were sad. Most said that it would be a huge loss to the company. That felt strange. It still feels strange. To hear so many remarks about how my leaving Toyota would leave a hole or have an impact on the diversity work at the company, that made me even more emotional. My emotions twisted up like a pretzel – some days I felt sad, some days I felt resentful, some days I felt happy, but every day I became more acutely aware that my tenure with the company had begun countdown. Each business trip felt a bit more precious. Each conference left me with a yearning to connect with people who have influenced my career and development. And each of these various emotions weighed on my head and my heart. Couple these emotions with the prospect of losing my regular salary and health insurance, boom anxiety and depression. Although I will receive a generous separation package for my nineteen years of service with the company, I will lose my car allowance and health insurance benefits. That will be a huge change for me.
At the same time, the dojo was hit our six month anniversary. We were slowly increasing enrollment and hitting our stride with a teaching routine. Even without a huge enrollment campaign, we found ourselves enrolling new students, one at a time. Personal referrals always work best. And, a strong Yelp! presence doesn’t hurt. Personally, I passed my test in March and that marked my start as Shodan. I know I have so much to learn as a black belt that I feel pressure to continue my growth and development. It isn’t second nature to me, like it is for Sensei Butch, so I put lots of additional stress on myself to work hard at being a good teacher. Then when I take a step back and think about what I do at work and who I am because of that, I try to be easier on myself. My gift is finding people’s strengths and leveraging those strengths for their growth and development. Applying that to the dojo seems like a perfect fit. And putting too much pressure on myself remains a personality flaw that I need to address.
And then, there was home. My daughter prepared for prom and high school graduation. *GULP* When did she grow up? I began to question whether or not I raised her to be prepared to leave the house for college. Would she be able to live on her own? Manage a bank account? Pay her bills on time? Keep her apartment clean? Trust new roommates? As a single mom, I know I doted on her a bit too much. And with her multiple allergies and learning disabilities, I had to insert myself into her growth and development more so than with other children her age. In some cases, it became a matter of life and death. But with all that, I did my best to give her tools to be an adult who contributes in positive ways to our society and the world. She has shown her compassion and emotional intelligence in remarkable ways. But I will always worry about her. Other things happening at home will remain confidential.
All of these emotions and pressures and changes hit me at the beginning of 2017 and I found myself spiraling down into a pit of depression. Usually my stress manifests as anxiety and it passes fairly quickly. But this time, there was too much change in my life at one time and my world started becoming dark and lonely. As an Introvert, I already prefer to rejuvenate myself in solitude. However, this year didn’t allow me any time alone. For multiple reasons, I rarely had a moment to myself. All of the pressure led me to lose sleep, eat poorly and at late hours, stop exercising, and drink too much wine late at night. I started online shopping for things that I didn’t really need. Not a good move when I am about to lose my job. My healthy lifestyle was obliterated by 2017. It knocked me on my big okole and manifested itself into depression.
After several weeks, I decided to visit a therapist and my doctor. The therapist allowed me to vocalize so many emotions that I was suppressing. I realized that I needed some help to get my head and heart back on track. It felt like I had cloud following me around every day. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to engage at work. I was on edge and sad and angry all at the same time. The one bright spot in my life was teaching the Togisala Tiger Cubs. Children have a way of reminding us adults how to live in the moment. And when we were on the dojo floor, all that mattered was keeping them engaged, teaching them basics, and reminding them of our core values of respect and discipline. That became a welcome distraction. But it was not enough to quell the depression.
I asked my doctor for Ativan to help me deal with anxiety and something to get me over the depression. Actually, the Ativan was just a precaution if I felt like I was going to lose my shit. I had a prescription for it some years ago, during my divorce. The smallest dose helped me calm down back then and I felt like I needed it again. For my depression, the doctor suggested a low dose of Lexapro. It felt scary to take an anti-depressant but I reminded myself that there are times when our brain chemistry gets thrown off. If we can’t manage through it naturally, there is no shame in relying on modern medicine. So off I went to start taking an antidepressant.
When I started taking the new medication, it was suggested that I start with a half dose for two weeks to allow my body to get used to it. Lexapro is a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor used to treat depression and generalized anxiety disorder. Since I was feeling both anxious and depressed, this medication seemed to be a good fit to help get my brain chemistry back to normal.
Some side effects I had to look out and experienced right off the bat were headaches, increased thirst (I am always thirsty and get dehydrated very easily), and a little bit of fatigue at first. But who can tell whether the fatigue is coming from the medication or the depression? A few other side effects that hit me, just for fun, were dry mouth, loss of sex drive (sorry Babe), and insomnia. A week later I was hit with bloating and a nagging cough. Once I was on the full dose, I would see mini hallucinations out of the corner of my eye. For example, I would see a zombie walking across the room or a creature that looked like the Night King on “Game of Thrones” would be staring at me. I never let these strange visions get to me to badly, I would talk myself out of buying into them as reality. But they were persistent and irritating while I was dealing with real life stressors every day.
After about four or five months, I had been feeling much more “normal” despite having gained a bit of weight and lost a bunch of sleep. I only went to one other therapy session but it was helpful and gave me clarity on how to proceed with my life. The plan was to begin a clean eating campaign, go back to exercising, and get off of the Lexapro. I recall that the doctor had told me not to just stop taking it, that could be very dangerous. So I went to the Internet to read about the risks of tapering off of an anti-depressant. There were risks of extreme panic attacks and tons of stories of people suffering horrific side effects like brain zaps, tremors, convulsions, all scary stuff. But these patients had been on the medication for years and/or were taking other pills for other ailments. I decided to go ahead and taper off the Lexapro, without seeing my doctor. My life was just too busy to go back to the doctor. Many articles mentioned that taking fish oil, calcium, a multivitamin, and B12 would help immensely with the transition. Easy enough for me. I went for two weeks on my regular dose then cut it to 3/4 the dose for the next two weeks, down to 1/2 for two weeks and finally 1/4 until I was done. It took a month to taper off but I did not experience the brain zaps or tremors. Thank goodness.
Now I am working on getting back into shape, eating properly, sleeping more, and allowing myself to be happy. No more antidepressants, just a lot more time with friends and loved ones. And having a puppy has really helped with the depresssion. She doesn’t care if I have a job or if I won an award, she just wants hugs and snuggles. So let me go on with my non taking antidepressant self for now. I will fill my days with hugs, not drugs.
Do what I love and love what I do, unapologetically.