My Week in the Psych Ward.

“Shoot, I am SO far behind on life! I didn’t even post my CSA share last week. I was inexplicably depressed all week long- despairing, laying-in-bed, up-all-night, not-eating depressed. At first I figured I was just a little low, but after a third day of picking my food over and being very much inside my head, I knew something was up. The surest way to gauge my mental state is to watch what I’m eating, and how much. It’s a great way for me to keep track of how I’m feeling psychologically, as well as an entryway into the exploration of my relationship with food. I popped in to see a naturopath, who hooked me up with some camu powder and maca, and talked to me a little bit about what behaviors might help to get out of my funk. Easy: friends, more yoga, meditation, running, writing, something school-associated, and lots of time spent outside. I took the kids to parks, rolled out my yoga mat at sunrise and sunset, meditated for thirty minutes a day, and contacted my closest friends for quality time. I have a tendency toward depression- I think most people do- but if I don’t find a way to come out of it, it can screw me up for months. However, as the years have gone on and I delve deeper and deeper into those things I love the most- the interests I cultivate so passionately- I have found my depressive states to be less frequent. I try to maintain a positive focus, and find enjoyment in everything that I do.

 

That is an excerpt from the second-to-last post I made on this blog, over a year ago. It’s also, though I didn’t know it then, the beginning of a downward spiral into the worst depressive episode I have ever experienced in my life, spanning over eight months and disrupting almost every single element of my lifestyle. For over a year I’ve been avoiding this space, pretending it didn’t exist. I didn’t want to think about that happy person who used to photograph her cucumbers and grow her own tomatoes and bike three miles to do yoga by a fountain at sunset. It’s easier to pretend she didn’t exist- that I had always been this way, overcome by my depression. To acknowledge that I had once been in a promising place in my life would acknowledge the responsibility I had to get myself back to that place, and I didn’t believe I was capable of something so demanding. My path into depression, and out of it, has been long and dark. Every time I thought I hit my lowest point, I fell further down, until finally I came to a stop- right at the ambulance entrance of Brooke Glen Behavioral Hospital. On December 28th, 2014, I checked myself in to a psych ward.

I have shared this information openly and readily with anyone who has asked. Without warning, I dropped off the map for nine days, so naturally I came home to plenty of inquiring texts and emails. When I first checked in, I was less interested in sharing my whereabouts. I was under the very foolish impression that my struggle with mental illness was something to be embarrassed about. Now, on the other side of my stay in the ward, I know that it is just another part of myself that requires management and care. For the most part, I don’t feel ashamed, and I don’t worry about what people will think of me when they find out. I’m glad I had access to a facility that could give me help and access to the resources that I needed to begin my recovery. If I hadn’t checked in to Brooke Glen, I would be dead right now. But that’s a story in itself, and my intention here is not to deliver a play-by-play of my long and complicated breakdown. It is to share a slice of my life that I have neglected to expose, but one that I think is very humanizing and relatable.

In a TED talk delivered in December of 2013, (coincidentally) shortly after I began to recognize signs of my imminent depressive episode, Andrew Solomon related an interview he had done with someone who had described depression as “a slower way of being dead.” Solomon states that this was very important for him to hear early on, and that it helped him realize how easily that slow deadening can lead to actual deadness. This is the best way I can think of to describe what I experienced over the course of a year, plus. Slowly, and at first almost imperceptibly, I began to shrink away from activities I had previously loved. I rode my bike less and less. I stopped practicing yoga so often, and eventually altogether. I stopped running. I didn’t renew my CSA share, and eventually stopped going to the farmers market. I became disenchanted with my studies. I didn’t go to the park as much. I didn’t go to the park at all. I moved into my own apartment in June of 2014, and the variety of my life slowed to a near dead stop. I took little joy in the everyday delights of Jack and Carolyn, despite wanting to revel in the experience of motherhood. All of the things I had previously loved to do became labors. I slept less, I ate less, I did less, until finally in December of 2014, when my semester at Temple had ended, I confined myself to my couch nearly around the clock, ate nothing for days on end, and slept in 45-minute spurts a few times a night. My social network had slimmed to a select few individuals, and my conversations consisted mostly of pained discussions of my mental troubles and how I felt incapable of overcoming them. I hoped, if I stayed on my couch long enough, I’d die there.

Of course, there were countless factors and events that complicated the situation. The stress of being a single mother with two young children became overwhelming when Jack and Carolyn hit simultaneous difficult stages. Temple was a huge and not entirely welcome change from Bucks, and I still feel so homesick for the Bucks campus and the professors I had come to love so much. With no workshop in the fall of 2013, I stopped writing. I am not a very self-motivated writer, and I know now that continued involvement in a workshop is imperative to both my productivity and my mental health. There were other things- other factors that added weight to an already heavy load, and I think if I hadn’t been dealing with so many “bad chemicals” (not my term, but I’m using it because it’s a good way to describe it), I would have been able to balance, rebuild, and recover. But I have depression, and because I didn’t know how to seek the help I needed, I crumbled.

I have been home for twenty days. My stay in the hospital was short- 81/2 days- and up until three days ago, I was beginning to believe it had been too short. Last Monday, struggling with side effects from medications and what felt like a relapse into a very dark state of mind, I went to the ER at St. Mary’s and discussed my options with a psychiatrist. Ultimately, I decided that another stay at a facility wasn’t what I needed just then, but it was a close call.

I don’t know whether or not I’ll ever have another stay in a psychiatric hospital. My hope is that it was a one-time event, and that going forward I’ll continue to manage my mental health and my needs effectively enough that I’ll avoid another stay, but I know that isn’t always a reality. There are, however, reassuring aspects of my experience that make the prospect of another stay not entirely unbearable. I had the great fortune of meeting some incredible people during my time at Brooke Glen. Although my eight days there was spent mostly on working with my doctors and figuring out a good medication regiment, I also found myself in the midst of a community of people who were facing the same struggles I was- struggles I had thought were so isolating and exclusive to me. As it turns out, they aren’t. They’re more common than I could have ever guessed, and the people I met in C2 were as diverse a community as I could have imagined. It helped to know I wasn’t alone, and I believe that played a huge part in the success of the initial phase of my recovery. I’ve stayed in contact with many of them, and think of them fondly and often.

I still struggle every day. I wake up most mornings and I want to crawl back under the covers and pretend that the day isn’t happening. Some days, doing the dishes still feels like impossible work, and I’ve skipped more meals this week than I’ve eaten. But there have been improvements- I’m practicing yoga again. I’m on low doses of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, and I’m working to find a sleep medication that works for me. I’m seeing a therapist, going for regular med checks, and I’m taking care of myself more and more each day. I reach out when I need help, and I try to have patience when the people who care about me most- the people who made it possible for me to get the help I needed, who have been loving and supporting me through this entire process- give me feedback on the choices I’m making. I think the most important aspect is that I’m open to recovery. I’ve been reading over my past posts for most of the evening, and at first it broke my heart. I hardly recognize the person who wrote those earlier posts. It felt as if I were reading a dead girl’s diary. I’m slowly beginning to indulge in the idea that I could get back to that person- not exactly her, because I’ve certainly been changed by my experiences over the past year, but someone similarly enthralled with her life. I believe, very tentatively, that it’s a real possibility, and I’m cautiously optimistic about the journey ahead.

I’ll pop in again and share more about my experience at Brooke Glen, because I think it’s a hugely misunderstood idea- that of staying in a psych ward- and I’d like to do my part to break down any misconceptions and share what it was like for me. For now, I’ll leave it here, and hope that what I’ve shared has shed some light on my experience, and serves as a satisfactory explanation for my absence. Until next time-

Advertisements

Friday Fun.

It is 10:57 on a Friday night, and I am sitting at home watching Kitchen Nightmares and eating my way through an enormous bowl of steamed edamame (u-pick from the CSA!). Toss in a mug of jasmine green tea, and this lady’s got herself a rockin’ Friday evening! Seriously though, I begged off every invitation for drinks, dinners, coffees and walks. I’m still in recovery from last night…

IMG_3820

IMG_3826

IMG_2450

IMG_3822

Dear god. Hilarious. I. love. my. friends.

It was a lazy week for us. I’ve been studying my heart out for the GRE- hello, PowerPrep and all things Kaplan! It’s really difficult for me to study at home- way too distracting- so I’ve been leaving at night and going downtown. It’s actually been very pleasant, and I’m able to get my evening yoga in right beforehand. Win!

Tuesday was supposed to be my big study day, but I ended up taking a much-needed break from Newtown and making the impulsive decision to drive down to Wildwood and spend the day at the beach!

IMG_2369

So, so good, I can’t even tell you. It just felt better to get out of town for a day. I needed it desperately, and the kids LOVED going on an adventure together. We got to Wildwood, and ended up passing the boardwalk on our way to my friend’s hotel. Jack spotted the roller coasters, and for the rest of the day all I heard about was the rides and how much he wanted to go on them. It was adorable 🙂

IMG_3706

They were both really into the whole beach scene. They were (justifiably) afraid of the water, although they did brave it a few times with the adults.

IMG_3692

IMG_3726

IMG_3713

We had fun sitting in the shallowest part of the shore and letting the waves roll over our legs. Mostly, though, they were loving the sand 🙂

IMG_3691

IMG_3689

IMG_3723

IMG_3725

IMG_3731

IMG_3734

IMG_3743

IMG_3746

IMG_3750

We left the beach around 5(ish?) and went back to the hotel to dip in the pool, followed by showers for everyone, and dinner at an Irish pub. They had the most amazing french fries- giant potato wedges baked to perfection! Also, a grilled veggie wrap and homemade potato crisps. I swapped the mayo for some herbed vinaigrette, and it totally rocked my world. All throughout dinner, Jack talked about the rides at the boardwalk, and even though it was getting late, I knew I couldn’t in good conscience drive him home without letting him on a few rides. It killed me, how much they meant to him!

IMG_2378

IMG_3800

IMG_2379

IMG_3781

IMG_3778

IMG_3792

IMG_3816

One of the sweetest parts of being a mother, at least for me, is seeing how much the simple things mean to Jack and Cal. Their desires are so pared down right now, and even a few spins in a motorized tractor is enough to make Jack’s whole day. The purity of their wants is so, so sweet.

Carolyn was too little to ride most of the rides, so she sat out, although not happily.

IMG_3796

I felt terrible about it- I know she wants to do what Jack is doing, and it was sad to have to hold her and watch her watching Jack. We did get her on the carousel, though!

IMG_3788

Next year will be her year 🙂

It was a really quiet ride home. We didn’t pull into the driveway until about 1, but it was worth it to spend the day soaking up sun and sand and waves.

Wednesday I ran around trying to get a few errands off of my to-do list. First up: tires for the Murano! Mine were in really bad shape, and I had been putting it off. I took Jack with me, and Carolyn stayed home with Luis. In hindsight, I think next time I’d leave them both at home…

IMG_2387

IMG_2400

IMG_2392

IMG_2397

IMG_2402

It was a challenge trying to keep Jack from ripping apart the waiting room. Imp. We ended up leaving with my Mum and grabbing some lunch during a break in her day, which was timed perfectly with my tire work. I picked up the car, zipped home, popped the kids into their beds for naps, and ran over to the CSA to do my u-pick for the week.

IMG_2428

IMG_2407

Check out all that gorgeous garlic!

It was really peaceful being out in the field by myself and picking at my leisure. Wednesday u-pick is definitely the way to go.

On my way home, I stopped to pick up a new tire for my bike. My rear tire stopped holding air and was really worn out. I hadn’t been able to ride my bike for weeks, and I was over it.

IMG_2416

Thursday was so dreary here, so we kept it low-key and fun. Scones with Grammy in the morning…

IMG_2420

IMG_2426

…followed by CSA pickup, but just from the barn. Hallelujah, because it was so rainy, it would have been miserable in the fields. One of the girls working in the barn gave the kids each a garlic frond, so they had fun splashing in all the puddles and “sweeping” up the water.

IMG_2433

IMG_2434

I gave it my best shot with Carolyn’s hat, but she chucked it into a puddle and it got soaked, so that was that.

The CSA for this week:

IMG_2438

Kabocha squash (KABOCHA SQUASH!), new garlic, 2 heads of lettuce, 1 celery, 1 bunch scallions, 4 hot peppers (1 jalepeno, 2 long hots and 1 cherry), 2 pounds of bell peppers, oodles of summer squash (all different varieties), new onions, a gajillion tomatoes (heirloom and regular), and new potatoes.

U-pick:

IMG_2418

Tomatillos, cilantro, edamame, basil, purple basil, chives, cherry tomatoes, husk cherries, and parsley.

This week’s share is disappearing very quickly. I made two huge jars of fresh sauce using most of the tomatoes, basil, garlic, and onions. I also steamed the edamame and ate it straight out of the pods, in addition to adding it to a quinoa-black bean-cumin salad. Yum!

I biked to yoga last night, and followed it with a night out with some friends, which turned into an epic event. It was great- I keep looking at the pictures and feeling so glad that I have such fun and wonderful people in my life 🙂

Which brings us to…today. Technically, yesterday- it’s 12:37. Today was so lovely, after yesterday’s rain, I knew I wanted to get the kids out and moving. We went over to Milk House to pick up a few items and hang out with the chickens.

IMG_2464

IMG_2477

IMG_2478

Also, a massive watermelon:

IMG_2494

Followed by a trip to Barnes and Noble for a book they didn’t have in stock. Bummer! But we caught story hour, so it wasn’t a total waste.

IMG_2471

After the kids listened to the story (read: played with the trains), we parked on State Street and walked.

IMG_2483

IMG_2488

They held hands the entire time. It was priceless! Someone actually pulled over on the street and leaned out of their window to tell me how cute the kids were! 🙂

Jack loves the Book and Record Exchange (who DOESN’T?!), so we stopped in to say hi.

IMG_2472

I ended up finding a beautiful copy of David Copperfield. Woohoo! It boasts one of my favorite opening lines ever.

IMG_2481

Swoon.

The kids were pretty awesome, so I figured a playground trip had been earned.

IMG_2479

Followed by naps, and a nondescript second half of the day. I rank a lot of tea in an effort to recover myself from the night before, and by the time Luis got home, I was ready to take a few minutes for myself. I loaded up my yoga bag and hopped on my bike- for three miles, over to the Garden of Reflection.

561823_735134842275_369964663_n

IMG_2507

184492_735135555845_328577608_n

It was wonderful- yoga, watermelon, husk cherries, meditation, and the spring issue of Chickpea. I loved the ride over, too- the back roads take you past some gorgeous farms. I kept stopping to snap pictures, I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was, and how special I felt for getting to experience it.

IMG_2496

IMG_2498

1005327_735136434085_1079210567_n

I actually really enjoy driving, and when I’m upset or stressed, that’s usually what I go to- I’ll drive the back roads near my house until my gas light comes on, just listening to music and thinking. However, nothing compares to being on my bike, and it has the added bonuses of being a great form of exercise, and also providing me with an openness and a connection that I think a car doesn’t afford. I ended up logging about 12 miles total, just from going to the garden and back and biking a few loops around town. I even stopped to stretch in front of Isaac’s, but I resisted the urge to go in, and instead came home to brew jasmine tea. Which brings me to now, as my eyes begin to itch from fatigue and a post-ride stiffness creeps up my calves. Time for bed- we’ve got another busy weekend ahead, including a trip in to New York on Sunday, and this momma needs her sleep!