Category Archives: vulnerability

Medication Frustration

This is the top drawer of my bedside table, a.k.a. the “med drawer”:

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This is where I keep the stuff that most folks organize neatly in a medicine cabinet. Mostly, it’s full of your typical and over-the-counter remedies: ibuprofen, pepto bismol, benadryl, cold medicine. It’s also where I keep my meds for anxiety, depression, and migraines. It’s a necessary, if messy, drawer. Usually, I open this drawer at night to take my daily medications without so much as a thought; it’s automatic, an action I’ve taken every night for years.

Sometimes, however, I really fucking hate opening that drawer. This week is one of those times.

I’ve been on some sort of daily medication to treat anxiety and depression pretty consistently since I was sixteen, which makes fifteen years of me opening this drawer (or its previous incarnations at my parents’ house and other apartments and dorms) every night. I’m incredibly grateful for this drawer, for the drugs in it (which have changed over the years several times–if you want to talk about the benefits and drawbacks of prozac vs. zoloft vs. lamictal vs. lexapro vs. a couple others I don’t remember at this point, I’m your gal) and for the doctors and therapists and friends and family members who have helped me get my shit together and get the help and medication I need to treat my anxiety and depression.

And yet, right now, I really hate that fucking drawer.

I hate that I have to cut my lexapro doses into little quarters as I wean off a higher “winter” dose to treat SAD (seasonal affective disorder). I hate the bitter taste of the pill residue that gets caught in my throat sometimes when I don’t cut the pills perfectly. I hate the fact that that higher dose made me incredibly drowsy in the afternoons for two months and eliminated my libido. I hate that these pills make it hard for me to lose weight and even, sometimes, to experience joy. I hate the fact that I rely, to some extent, on a pill to make myself “normal,” if there is such a thing.

I know that these feelings are valid–and likely temporary. I also know that there are alternatives to medication that I may try down the road in addition to my current therapy regimen. I also know that if I decide to try those methods and they work, that’s great. I also know that if I decide to try those methods and they don’t work, that’s okay, too, and meds will still be there and probably still be able to help me from falling into a non-functional depressive black hole.

I sincerely hope no one thinks that I’m saying meds are inherently bad or that no one should take them; I don’t think that at all. If you are feeling low, and especially if you are thinking of harming yourself, please go get help, and if a doctor or therapist thinks meds will help, consider their advice seriously. I’m also not advocating that anyone take meds if they truly feel they aren’t working for them. Basically, I’m the non-judgmental ninja over here, promise!

All I’m doing is sharing with you that, for whatever reason, this week I’m just tired of the process. I’m tired of opening that drawer. I think it’s okay to be tired sometimes. It’s okay to hate the drawer and to feel grateful for it at the same time. I hope, if you have a drawer, you know that, too.

 

 

The Thirty-First Year of the Jackie

So, it turns out that–despite the existence of alcohol and chocolate–I have made it to my thirty-first birthday. A year ago today, I was in a sort-of-impressive-sounding corporate job with a four-hour round-trip daily commute and an email addiction. I was really depressed, and so, shortly after turning thirty, I took a leave of absence which ultimately led to me quitting my job. It was the scariest thing I have ever done in my life, with the possible exception of going into that super gross hot tub at Myrtle Beach during our senior trip in college (those flesh-eating viruses are NO JOKE).

Now, one year into this journey off the beaten high-achiever path that I’ve dutifully followed for most of my life, I’ve achieved a new milestone: being proud of myself on my birthday.

This may not sound like a big deal, but for me, it really is. Once I was legally able to drink, I stopped enjoying my birthday. Every January 5th brought on a contemplative funk during which I lamented my lack of achievement and progress during the previous year: “Some people my age are olympic medalists! Half my friends have graduate degrees! Look at that guy; he’s only twenty-three and he makes so much more money than I do! Look at that girl; she’s only twenty-five and she’s married with a baby!  What have I done? Look at how worthless I am!”

I once expressed this attitude to one of my coworkers at Google a few years back. She was a pretty cool chick and refreshingly honest, and she was baffled by my view of aging. She’d lost a close family member at a young age and birthdays inspired gratitude in her–she was always happy and relieved to make it another year. I remember nodding and chastising myself internally for not being grateful enough for my birthdays and for not having cancer or losing an arm to that Myrtle beach hot tub, and then going right back to dreading early January and berating myself.

This year, however, is different. When it comes to traditional measures of success, this year certainly hasn’t touched most of those that preceded it. I can’t say that I work at a fancy company. I can’t say my salary is XYZ bucks per week. I can’t talk about awards or kudos or performance scores at work, or drop the name of any executives I work with.

What I can say, however, and what I’m proud of, is that I’ve had the most new experiences in the past year of my life than in the previous eight put together. These experiences ranged from good to bad to everything in between, but they made me think (and blog) about myself and the world deeply, and in different ways than I have before.

I experienced the joy of realizing that I could write, and write well(ish), and write enough words and sentences and paragraphs to make a whole book-type document that people might want to read. I experienced the excitement of getting an agent, and the subsequent anxiety and boredom of submitting to publishers.

I experienced the love of my family, and the grief of saying goodbye to a family member, albeit a furry one. I also experienced the excitement of welcoming a new love into my life, though this created drama with my old love, which was iced coffee (sorry bae).

I experienced the stress and exhilaration of travel, from people-watching the crazy costume-clad nerds of San Diego Comic Con to getting knocked up by food in Florence and trudging through the rain in Paris in super ugly shoes and seeing Britney dance way worse than when I saw her on tour when I was sixteen.

I witnessed two amazing couples get married on opposite-ish sides of the country and cried my eyes out both times because I AM A SAP, OK?

I experienced breakdowns and bad nights, and discovered new coping mechanisms to pick myself up when I fall or when the world seems too much to handle.

In short, I experienced life, and I had the time to really take it in, as opposed to watching it all pass me by. And, for the first time since I was a little kid, I’m proud of myself for that fact alone. I’m proud of myself for trying to live well, and I’m grateful to all those people (both IRL and on this blog) who have come along on the journey with me this year.

So, here’s to the thirty-first year of the Jackie! May the thirty-second be just as interesting, and may you still be interested enough to tune in and read about it once in a while 🙂

Love,

The Birthday Girl

 

 

Shame (Part I)

Disclaimer: this post is not about the film “Shame” starring Michael Fassbender.  I have not seen this film, but am assured by many that it is great, and also that you get to see Michael Fassbender naked in it, so I understand if you got excited upon reading the title of this blog post and are now intensely disappointed.  Sorry.

Brené Brown, a researcher/therapist/speaker type person who specializes in shame and vulnerability, defines shame as the sense that we are not worthy of love or belonging because we are deeply flawed.  This is a definition of shame that I am familiar with after 2 years in therapy, but only recently have I truly understood this definition in my heart and soul and come to grips with the extent to which shame has shaped my life.

Some of my earliest recollections are of feeling ashamed, especially regarding my body.  When you’re a young girl who, ahem, develops early, everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) in your life feels the need to comment on your body, from fellow students to teachers (oh, the skeezy male teachers, how I DON’T miss you), relatives, and strangers on the street.  Now, I’m not trying to be all “woe is me!” because I had boobs at age 10 – ALL kids, especially girls, are shamed by others about their bodies at one point or another.  The point is that I, like most people, grew up with shame, and it still defines me – except now as an adult, my shame about my body has lessened (somewhat) and has been replaced by other shames…pieces of myself that I’m afraid to name out loud to my closest friends, family members, and therapists, much less to the internet at large.

And that’s too bad, because the way out of shame is vulnerability.  Being open and honest and risking failure or rejection or hatred or disgust – THAT is how to regain a sense of worthiness, of belonging.  That is how to overcome the limitations of shame.  Vulnerability is the light shining in the darkness, the sun revealed by a shifting cloud, the…other metaphor about light?  I dunno, insert one yourself, I’ve run out of metaphors because I only had one cup of coffee.

Here on this blog, I’ve shared a lot of myself, especially regarding my depression and anxiety and even body confidence.  But I still feel unworthy and like I don’t belong.  Why?  Because there’s so much more I could share, that part of me is DYING to share, but that I can’t bring myself to even whisper aloud.  I don’t have the courage yet.  There are secrets (not, like, “I murdered someone!” secrets, to be clear, but still, secrets) that I rarely, if ever, discuss with the most important people in my life because a primal part of me just KNOWS that if I talk about these things I will be rejected and banned from the human experience.  The universe will confirm what part of me has always known – that I am fundamentally and irreversibly wrong.

So basically I feel like a coward – another source of shame.  I’ve been vulnerable on this blog and in my personal life, but only about certain things, so I vulnerability-shame myself (#vulnerabilityshaming, let’s get it rolling peeps) to the point of paralysis.

So how do you overcome shame with vulnerability when you’re ashamed of your lack of vulnerability regarding your shame?

I’m not the therapist, I don’t effing know, but I’m going to give it a stab by posting this entry and being vulnerable to you, dear reader, about my lack of vulnerability.  I’m saying it out loud (well, out loud on the internet): In my own mind, I am a coward for not being vulnerable enough.  I don’t have the courage to say the things I really want to say.  I am a fraud.  Sorry.

So there it is – my entry on Shame: Part 1.  I don’t know if this will make any sense to anyone; it hardly makes sense to me.  I don’t when – or if – I will write a Part 2.  For now, I hope that this is enough, and I wish you all the ability to be vulnerable in the face of shame, because you are a worthwhile, lovable person.  You are enough.

xo