A couple of months back, I noticed that I was getting irritable quickly, and angry at random things. I was quick to dismiss this as simply a manifestation of my depression, but when I was getting angry several times a day, I decided that it was time to do something about it.
Several panic attacks, visits to a therapist, doctor and finally psychiatrist later, I’ve found a combination of medication that seems to be keeping me stable–and more than that, keeping me stable at a happier level than what I was expecting. As an added bonus, I’ve lost about 20 lbs in the two months since I restarted my anti-depressant.
There are a few of underlying factors to this; first, when I’m uber depressed, I self-medicate with food. Second, one of the side effects of the anti-depressant is loss of appetite, though I feel like I more or less have my appetite back (or have gotten used to eating less food than I was before). Third, one of the medications is technically a stimulant, which, while calming my anxiety is also giving me all sorts of excess energy.
But more important than my changed eating habits, I think, is the fact that I’ve started to exercise more. Not a great deal, and nothing terribly fancy or strenuous, mostly walking. And really, it’s the exercise side of thing that I wanted to talk about today.
So, here’s what I’ve learned–and I’m not sure that’s the right phrase, this is all stuff I’ve heard repeatedly over the years, but it’s finally sunk in. Anyway.
1) It’s not a race. If I need to stop and catch my breath, it’s okay to stop and catch my breath. I was getting frustrated for a while that I wasn’t tired, but my lungs had given out. Sis has (very well controlled) asthma, and I asked her what I could do to strengthen my lungs. She talked about how when she was in high school, she was on the soccer team and played the baritone saxophone in jazz band. Her doctors told her that those two activities were the very best things she could do for her lungs. She said that when she was playing soccer, or going on a hike or something and she would start to feel the first twinge of asthma, she’d pull back a little bit until she felt better, then power through. She suggested that I do something similar. So now, when I’m starting to get winded I’ll pause for a bit, then keep going. And you know what? I’m not getting winded as easily or as often as I used to.
2) The numbers don’t really matter. Most weight loss gurus will tell you not to weigh yourself every day. I don’t think that’s necessarily sound advice, I find myself jumping on the scale a couple of times every day–but I’m not freaking out that it’s showing a few pounds heavier in the afternoon when I’m fully clothed and just eaten than it did when I got on the scale first thing in the morning before getting dressed. I’m not even concerned that the numbers might go up one day from the day before. It’s fun to see the overall downward trend of the numbers on the scale, but there are better ways to gauge weight loss–how clothes fit, for example. (I have no idea what size I am these days) I’ve known forever that muscle weighs more than fat, and I honestly think that I have less body fat than the last time the scale was showing the numbers that it is now–I know my muscles are stronger.
3) Don’t forget the water. There are days (mostly when I’ve forgotten my water bottle) when I come home from school completely wiped out. I’ll get a drink of water–and then another one, and in a little bit, I find myself feeling better. I’ve also read that sometimes when the body is craving water, it will manifest as a craving for food. I’ve noticed this in myself, when I’ve got my water bottle, I’m less likely to want sweets. Plus, when the cravings get to be too much, I can add some Crystal Lite to my water to satisfy my sweet tooth.
4) Don’t forget to eat. There was a time (three months ago) when I didn’t know how people (like my dad) could forget to eat. And now I find myself doing it. Most days, I wouldn’t have breakfast except that my morning medication needs to be taken on a full stomach–I’m still not a breakfast fan, but if I’m going to forget to eat until about 2 pm, I better have something early in the morning. And like the water issue, I’ve had days when I’ve just felt terrible, until I had something to eat.
5) Keep goals realistic. I’m not going to go from this:
and I’m okay with that.
I’m not going to run a marathon or hike the north rim of the Grand Canyon tomorrow, but if I keep working, maybe someday I’ll be able to.
6) Healthy is more important than skinny. As much as I’d love to look like Ms. Hepburn there, I’d rather be a healthy 200 lbs (and I still have a ways to go before I get down to 200 lbs) than a sickly 98 lbs. In fact, I’m viewing this whole thing more as getting healthy than losing weight–healthy mentally as well as physically.
7) Losing weight is the easy part. Keeping it off is hard. You don’t get to the size I am without trying to lose weight at least once, only to have it all come back, and then some. I read somewhere that a person who has lost weight needs 500 calories per day fewer than a person of the same size who’s never lost the weight. This same article said that people who maintain weight loss get on average one hour of moderate exercise six days a week. I’m hoping that by getting into the habit of eating right and exercising, rather than just letting the medication do the work, by the time I get down to a healthy weight, It’ll be enough of a habit that I’ll just keep going with it.
None of this is groundbreaking stuff–I know I’ve heard it all a million times before, it’s just been in the past few months that it’s started to sink in. And while I’m not, by nature, and adventurous person, this whole being healthy and happy thing is an adventure that I’m not sure I want to give up any time soon.
Life has not been fun lately.
I’m having a hard time adjusting to this new semester–I like all of my classes individually, but together…I don’t know. I think part of the problem is that I am going to school six days a week, and so I don’t feel like I’ve got much time to relax.
I did start on an anti-depressant, but I had the bad luck of getting hit by a head-cold/ear infection pretty much the same time I started taking the pills, and so I’ve been headachey and dizzy, and I don’t know what’s side effects from the medicine, and what’s because I’m sick.
Emotionally, though, I’m feeling more stable, so that’s a plus. I’m not losing my temper the way that I have been, and while I’m not happy, I don’t feel hopeless.
Even with the beginnings of stability, I feel like I’m being kicked in the teeth. And it’s nothing big, it’s just the little things that keep piling up until they get overwhelming. It’s the anxiety, the frustration of trying to understand the reading, the not being able to sleep, making stupid mistakes then paying the price…. You know, life.
I’ll readily admit that I’m not the smartest person in the world, but I know that acting in anger only leads to more anger, retaliation, and the next thing you know the Navy SEALs are sent in, when the whole situation could have been avoided with simple words.
After giving myself a day and a half to rage about the lolcat, (also, here) I came up with several revenge plans–which are much funner to plan than to enact, especially if you’ve got enough foresight to envision the consequences–then made a decision as to what I should do. And, when I’m trying to smooth things over, what I do usually involves baking.
Today, I made a batch of bread, and left one of the loaves on the lolcat’s doorstep, along with this letter:
Please accept this homemade whole wheat bread, and my apologies. I feel like there is an animosity between us that, as neighbors, we can ill afford. I am sorry that my dogs are noisy at times, but I want to make my position known.
I have spent most of my life battling severe emotional disorders—I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder at the age of ten, and my depression often manifests itself in the form of anxiety. I have spent a lifetime talking to therapists and trying to find the right combination of drugs that would get me, if not to normal, than at least to functional. Over the years I’ve learned that acting in the heat of emotion never results in the outcome desired, so I’ve allowed myself a couple of days to calm down, and collect my thoughts and feelings. I wish I was a brave enough person to explain all this in person, but I am not.
I share this with you not as an excuse, but as an explanation of how important Max and Lulu are. It’s been three years since they’ve come to live with me. In that time, I’ve been able to completely cease both psychotherapy and drug treatment—and it’s because of my dogs. On my very worst days, the days when I don’t want to get out of bed, I still have to, because Max and Lulu need me. They calm me down when I’m anxious. They cheer me up when I’m sad. They have quite literally saved my life—when I lost my job last year, I was suicidal, but I couldn’t abandon my dogs. The simple fact that before I could do anything to harm myself, I needed to provide for their care and welfare prevented me from doing anything rash.
Max and Lulu were adults when I acquired them. Their previous owners had done an excellent job with most of their training, but socialization was lacking. However, as the previous owners live on a side street in a quiet, rural town the fact that they would bark at passing vehicles or pedestrians wasn’t as big of a deal.
When they came to live with me three years ago, everything seen and heard outside the windows would set them off. Passing vehicles, people on foot, the roosters in the pen to the east, the trains, the birds…everything. I spent a lot of time teaching them to be apartment dogs, and have gotten them to the point where they only bark when they see, smell or hear another dog, when people are talking loudly outside, or when Lulu wants someone to come pay attention to her. And yes, I realize that that seems like a long list, but consider how much noisier they would be if they barked at every car that drove by, or every person going to check their mail.
I have tried to be a good neighbor when it came to Max and Lulu, and I honestly thought I was succeeding until a couple of weeks ago. I realize that living in a condo complex like Lakeridge comes with challenges, like hearing the neighbors dog’s bark, or crying babies, or loud music, for instance. I assumed that everybody else did too. I’m not really sure how to proceed at this point. On one hand, I’m angry at the idea of having to run the air conditioner when it’s in the 60s outside, because if I leave the glass door or windows open the dogs might bark and be annoying—I’m still looking for a job, and am on a very fixed income, and I don’t want to pay a cent more in utilities than I have to—but on the other hand, I don’t want you to be angry at me, or my dogs.
Likewise, keeping them contained isn’t an option. I know you didn’t believe me when I tried to explain this on Sunday, but being confined to the crate doesn’t stop the barking, rather, it intensifies it, and adds digging, growling and howling. The crate lives in my bedroom—directly above your bedroom. If the dogs are keeping you up at night, (and if they are, why don’t you tell me that, rather than the vague “annoying”?) restricting them to the crate would only make things worse. Furthermore, I don’t feel good about restricting their access to water at any time, especially as the weather warms up. You said that it’s not that hard. I say it’s not that easy.
Max and Lulu are my world, but I know to you they are only yappy little dogs. Imagine if someone was leaving vulgar notes on your door complaining about your sweet baby, and perhaps you can understand why this has upset me so much Please know that we are trying, and we are getting better. In the mean time, please be patent with us.
I tried to be gentle. I tried to show understanding and compassion, and above all, I used vowels. I also signed my name.
I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I hope that we can put this whole business behind us. I’m afraid that it won’t be that easy, though.
edit:The neighbor that I thought was the lolcat came to return the bread. She’s not the one who left the note. On the plus side, I have a new friend, and an ally in this whole issue. On the downside, I’m horribly embarrassed, and have no idea who the Lolcat actually is. So… now, I don’t know what to do.
Is happiness an inherent right? As an American, I’ve totally been indoctrinated to the idea that “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are inalienable to all men.
So, pursuing happiness is okay, but what happens when I find it–or don’t, as the case may be? Is my potential happiness worth more or less than another persons? Should I abandon what makes me happy, or at least what has the potential to make happy to allow someone else to find their happiness? I think the answer to that is a resolute “yes” if my happiness willfully causes someone else pain, but what about otherwise?
This all stems from my neighbor the lolcat. She struck again yesterday, but this time, I caught her at it. And, apparently, I can’t have my windows open, or let the dogs have free range of their home because they might bark, and that’s annoying to her. Never mind their mental or physical well-being, or mine, not to mention energy consumption because I have the air conditioner on when it’s 60° F outside. If she mentioned sleep, or disturbing her baby, I wouldn’t be so upset by it all, but no, what she says is “annoying”.
On the whole, this has put me in a bigger funk than it strictly should have. I don’t like inconveniencing other people, and the thought that what brings me the most happiness on a regular basis–to whit, the dogs–causes someone else annoyance bothers me a great deal. I don’t know how to deal with this situation, I hate that my neighbor has had this much power over me, especially when she didn’t have the balls to come and discuss her issues face to face. At the same time, I realize that I do have neighbors that I share common walls with, and don’t want to annoy them any more than possible.
I do have to wonder, though, if the lolcat complains about the other children, or the loud music, or the trains, or the roosters, or the traffic or the other dogs or any of the other noises that comes from living in an apartment complex conveniently located to both campus and the freeway. And is the random, loud sobbing of a grown woman better or worse than a barking dog?
In less whiney news, I’ve started gathering inventory for an Etsy shop. I’m still not sure it’s going to pan out–I’m working out shipping and pricing and the like. Still, I figure it won’t hurt (much) to try.
Yesterday, I waxed…emo about the end of the semester and the various changes it brings. I guess maybe I should offer proof that I do indeed know that change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and the value of growing and stretching.
Case in point: This semester, I’ve been taking a watercolor class, which ended yesterday, part of what brought out my inner whiner. But this class–well, on the first day, when our instructor told us what we’d be doing as one of our last assignments–namely a portrait–I was skeptical and a little frightened. I’d tried watercolor before, but I wasn’t that great at it. Of course, I was trying to teach myself, and had low-quality paints. I also knew that my drawing skills weren’t that great–a potential problem for an arts major–even if my emphasis is graphic design.
ANYWAY: here’s the point. And a bit of showing off. This is the first thing that I painted in class, back in January:
This was my first graded assignment:
These had the same reference photo. Notice, among other things, that I completely lost a snow bank in the color image.
This was my portrait, and very easily the best thing that I painted for this class:
I’m not happy with the left eye, but still. Four months. That’s what it took for me to get from the random artichoke and tree-symbols to a fairly decent portrait.
It would have been easy to be half-assed in this class, and not progress beyond artichokes and tree symbols, but I worked hard, and I kind of can’t believe the results. I know I’m a long way from opening up an Etsy shop, let alone quitting school to paint full-time. It makes me wonder then, what can I accomplish in the next four months? Four years? Four decades? If I sit around and resist change, I’ll never know.
Change is a constant in life, as hard as it is. Logically, I know that this is a good thing, that without change nothing would get done. Forget sitting around in mud huts, if we never changed, we would have never crawled out of the primordial stew. It is only when we change that we can grow and develop.
I know this, but lately, I’ve been looking at the lives of my friends. When you live in a college town, and are surrounded by people who stubbornly refuse to grow up and graduate already, this is the time of year for change. People are graduating, moving, getting married, quitting the crappy jobs they worked to pay for school and getting real jobs in their chosen professions. It’s all a bit overwhelming, and it’s not even me who’s doing the changing. Even the end of the semester–changing classes, having to meet a whole new set of people, and not going to sit with the friends that I’ve made over the past few months seems a little overwhelming. I don’t want to make new friends, I just want to keep the ones I have.
To make matters worse, I’m also painfully aware of the consequences of not changing, namely being 30 years old, single, unemployed, and doing school the way I should have ten years ago. Refusing change equals stagnating, and I lost most of my twenties to stagnation.
So, onward and upward to better and brighter things. Or something like that. I know that change isn’t always–or even usually–bad. But still…