Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Thoughts on Childhood

I was a strange child. Wait…that’s not right…let’s try again.

I was never a child. Yes, at one point I was a small person, but I have few memories of childhood, and even fewer that are happy.

I am my parents’ only child. I showed early signs of giftedness, including reading from the age of 2 ½. My parents separated when I was five, and my mother became emotionally dependent on me. In kindergarten, noises were made about moving me to 2nd grade, but my parents would not allow it. Later that year, I was taken to a 6th grade classroom to read to the students; my tested reading level was higher than the best reader in that class. When I reached 2nd grade, I asked my teacher if I could stay in during recess to talk to her; I felt I had more in common with her than with my peers.

Few toys held any interest for me. Baby dolls were hated, and would be immediately broken and/or discarded. Even at a young age, they gave me the willies (and still do). Crayons and other art supplies were good things. I wanted Legos desperately but never had any of my own. I never played with Barbies until 4th grade or so, but I used them only to develop the characters in the stories I wrote. Always, books were best.

After my parents separated in 1981, they engaged in a protracted legal battle. Three years later, they were divorced and my mom won full custody. Shortly thereafter, my dad married a manipulative, hateful, nasty woman. They will celebrate their 27th wedding anniversary this year. My parents’ separation was a direct result of my mother’s depression, or rather, her refusal to submit to treatment for it. My maternal and paternal grandparents are old-school about mental illness. Depression isn’t a disease, it is indulgent behavior. You don’t need to see a doctor, you need to just get over it. Because of this attitude, and because my mom would’ve sooner set herself on fire than do anything that might disappoint her parents, she suffered. She is still suffering now. Mom has occasionally seen a therapist for a short time, but she refuses to be medicated, and she will not open up during talk therapy.

So there we were…a barely functional (and sometimes non-functional) woman and a small, strange child. Mom only worked for about six of the eleven years I lived at home after my dad left. My grandparents’ connections got her two of the three jobs she’s had since I was five (she could hold a job, she just couldn’t get one without help). My grandparents and the child support my dad paid supported us when she was unable to work. She did not - and does not - have friends. She did not cook one single meal after my dad left. We ate fast food or had pizza or Chinese delivered twice a day. She rarely did laundry and hygiene was spotty; I was the stinky kid for a big chunk of elementary school. That stuff I could live with. What bothered me was mom’s need to control me. She wasn’t overly concerned about what books I was reading, or what time I went to bed, but if I talked to my friends on the phone, she had to know everything that was said. When I came back from my dad’s every other Sunday night, I had to sit with mom for at least one hour (and sometimes much longer), describing every single detail of the entire weekend.

I fought with my mother from the age of ten or so. These were not little spats. We fought daily. I screamed, cursed, threw things, and slammed my bedroom door so often I’m surprised it didn’t break off its hinges. I hated her. I didn’t feel like a normal kid, and never had. I was expected to be my mom’s emotional support. I was expected to act like an adult, yet I had more restrictions than most of the kids I knew. And the more I rebelled against that control, the more mom tried to control me. Finally, three weeks into my senior year of high school, I moved into my own apartment. Until I turned 18, my dad paid me the child support he would’ve paid my mom. Everything else was up to me. I worked my ass off and still graduated tenth in my class.

I’ve been on my own now for more than half my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But it’s hard for me to relate when my friends talk about the joys of being a kid. Maybe they really did have happier, or more traditional childhoods than I did. Maybe it’s because they are seeing the world through the eyes of their own kids, and they’ve forgotten the things they hated about being a kid.

Or maybe I wouldn’t have enjoyed being a kid even if I’d had “normal” parents. I'd sooner set myself on fire than be a child again. I was never a kid, anyway.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

2010’s Top-Rated Books

Everyone knows I’m a voracious reader, and I’m often asked for recommendations. I decided that on or around the first of each month, I’ll post a list of the books I read the month before. I give each book a numeric rating, from 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent. To kick this off, here’s my list of top-rated books for 2010.

These books were rated a 5:

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
What on Earth Have I Done? by Robert Fulghum
A Happy Marriage by Rafael Yglesias
Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

These books were rated a 4.5:

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Crazy as Chocolate by Elisabeth Hyde
A Big Little Life by Dean Koontz
The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Connor McNees
She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb
Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin
Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Virgin’s Lover by Philippa Gregory

Friday, May 27, 2011

Prohibition = FAIL

This topic is so fundamentally logical that I cannot fathom another person not seeing it the way I do. Prohibition does not – cannot – work.

Does this mean I believe we should wipe all laws from the books? No, of course not. Murder should be prohibited. Driving while impaired should be prohibited. Abuse or neglect of children should be prohibited. But people will murder. They will drive when they shouldn’t. They will be abusive. And they should be punished.

But when it comes to social problems, such as abortion, drug use, or gun control, my attitude changes.

I am vehemently pro-choice. I believe that I alone (with medical counsel) should make decisions concerning my body, and those decisions should extend to a fetus growing inside me until that fetus is developed enough to survive outside my womb. However, I understand the pro-life position. Being pro-choice does not make me pro-abortion. I wish no woman, anywhere, ever had to make that incredibly difficult choice. And I believe that women should never use abortion in place of birth control. But outlawing abortion will not prevent a woman from having an abortion if that is what she wants. The stories and statistics about abortion in America pre-1972 are horrifying. I wish pro-lifers could see that the way to stop abortion is not to outlaw it; you have to stop women from wanting abortions in the first place. Picketing outside Planned Parenthood and similar facilities disrupts many women’s access to birth control, but women with birth control don’t seek abortions. Education about birth control, about real life after becoming a mother, and about adoption could all prevent women from seeking abortions. Making abortion illegal will only return us to the days of women drinking drain cleaner and impaling themselves on metal coat hangers. I have to believe that no one wants that.

Drug addiction is a medical issue, not a legal one. People place themselves in dangerous situations to feed their addiction. They steal from and endanger innocent people. But real help for addicts is extremely difficult to obtain, and when available, is often just a band-aid on a severed limb. Again, education is the key. We must give our children the real, hard truths about drug use and where it leads. And we must educate society at large about the true costs of drug addiction, and the (relatively) easy way it can be managed and eradicated by treating it as a medical matter instead of a criminal one. Doing this will benefit not only the addict, but also society at large by reducing crime. Demand for drugs feeds the very profitable black-market. Without that market, the gangs and cartels will fade.

I like the bumper sticker that says, “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” I think that sums it up perfectly. I don’t like guns. I’ve never been around them or handled them, and I absolutely will not ever have one in my home. But I understand the desire to have guns for protection or for hunting, and I think that’s fine, within reason. What I don’t get are people who think we ought to round up all civilian-held guns in the U.S. and destroy them. Really, they think that would work? Come on…the truth is that honest people would be disarmed, leaving them defenseless against outlaws.

Maybe I’m wrong about all this, but it just makes such perfect sense to me. I know that making these shifts in our attitudes and policies would be difficult at first. But it would benefit everyone. So how come I'm the only one who sees it?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Friday Happy Hour (on Monday)

From Mental Floss: "Every Friday, I post a series of unrelated questions meant to spark conversation in the comments. Answer one, answer all, respond to someone else's reply, whatever you want. On to this week's topics of discussion..."

1. Among your friends and family, what short-lived TV series, style of clothing, book, day of the week, vacation destination (or whatever) are you seemingly alone in liking?

~ The movie “Clue.” It is my all-time favorite. I’ve watched it hundreds of times, can quote the entire movie, and still laugh my ass off every time I watch it. But apparently, I’m the only person on earth who feels that way.

2. What was/is your college major? If you’re out of school, have you been able to put it to use? If you could do it all over again, would you choose something else?

~ I started college in 1994 as a physics major, then added a major in mathematics. When I considered returning to school in 2007, my planned major was mechanical engineering. At this point, I have no plans to return to school, but if I do, I’ll major in classical languages and become a Latin teacher.

3. What topic would hold your attention for 800 pages of interviews?

~ I can’t imagine any topic would hold my attention for 800 pages; interviews are extremely hard for me to read.

4. What’s a great website you only recently discovered?

~ I didn’t discover it recently, but Joshua Hoffine’s horror photography is amazing!!! Check it out here.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

UPDATE: I'm Pretty Sure I've Lost My Mind

I have worked my ass off all weekend, but I'm officially done. Everything on the list is complete, except for these things:

CVS - allergy medicine (I decided not to buy allergy medicine this week because I don't really need it yet and it wasn't on sale.)

Take items to storage (We aren't moving anything to our storage unit right now.)

Watch movie so it can be sent back to Netflix (I didn't watch the movie, because I just wasn't in the mood for it. However, I did finish the book I was reading and started a new one.)

J. was a HUGE help with everything this weekend. I am completely, utterly, totally proud of myself. It feels so good to have the energy to work so hard, and to get so much accomplished. We're going to the Rangers game on Wednesday (a day game against the White Sox). Friday is expected to be an early release, since Monday is a holiday, but we won't get official word until Friday morning. And, of course, Monday is Memorial Day. I am looking forward to a good week and a long, relaxing weekend!

Friday, May 20, 2011

I'm Pretty Sure I've Lost My Mind

Now that I'm feeling better, I'm trying to tackle all the projects that have fallen by the wayside over the past few months. Of course, I also need to handle all the normal weekend stuff. I thought it might be interesting to document my Tahdo* list, just to see exactly how much stuff I'm going to (try to) do this weekend.

1. Get car inspected
2. CVS - allergy medicine (I have coupons)
3. Kroger - pick up prescriptions and fruit
4. Fill water jugs
5. Plan for Saturday's grocery shopping - take inventory at home and go through ads
6. Pack away books (they are in the way for cable appointment on Saturday)
7. Try on previously purchased bathing suit and decide if I'm going to keep it or exchange

1. Appointment with cable company
2. Grocery shop (Walmart - a necessary evil)
3. Pick up items being held at library
4. Pick up dry cleaning
5. PROJECT 1: Bedroom storage area
- Remove everything from storage area over bedroom
- Organize; determine if anything can be taken to storage
- Replace items being kept
- Break down boxes for recycling and take out
6. PROJECT 2: Closet (yes, we only have one)
- Remove all hanging items from closet
- Organize items on shelves and closet floor
- Determine if anything can be taken to storage
- Organize hanging items for summer and put back in closet
7. Download cds from library
8. Dinner with J.'s sister and her husband

1. Laundry (we have to go to a laundromat)
2. PROJECT 3: Kitchen
- Clean off top of refrigerator, top of kitchen cabinets, and shelves
- Arrange cookbooks on top of kitchen cabinets
- Organize and replace all items.
3. PROJECT 4: Recipes
- Finish typing recipes
- Print
- Place in binder
4. Return items to library
5. Take items to storage (if necessary)
6. Watch movie so it can be sent back to Netflix.

Wow...that's a really ambitious list, huh? Some might say it's downright crazy. But I know I *can* do it, and I know I will feel so good if I can get it all done. And the bonus will be no projects for the long Memorial Day weekend!

Of course...I'll have a whole week to come up with something else that needs to be done...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My husband, the photographer

J. is very interested in photography (as a hobby). He hopes to take some classes while he’s in school, and I will definitely encourage that. I think he has an amazing eye for beauty in the ordinary. Maybe that's why I love J.'s photos so much; they're the same things I love about Robert Fulghum, except in pictures instead of words.

Here are some of my favorites:

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Day Eighteen

Think “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” … I FEEL BETTER!!!

I really, really do. Today is my 8th day at 150 mg, and I have noticed dramatic improvement this week. The severe afternoon drowsiness has passed. I have been much less irritable and less anxious. The biggest (and best) difference is that I actually feel able to function!

My normal routine is to run errands as I can through the week, so we have less to do on the weekend. I had gotten to the point where I wasn’t doing that; it was all I could do just to go to work and home again. But this week I’ve managed to accomplish several things. I’m not talking about major chores: dropping a box at UPS, buying gas before the tank is dry, and going to the library are not a huge deal. But those little errands add up when you have to do all of them on the weekend. And I love that I feel like doing these things. Not only does it show me that I truly am getting better, but it allows me to feel like I’m contributing to our household, instead of leaving everything for J.

The thing about depression is that feeling lousy makes you feel lousy. When depression sets in, it’s really easy to beat yourself up:

“Why didn’t I do that laundry today?”

“I didn’t return mom’s phone call again!”

“The deadline on that project is looming, and it’s not even close to finished.”

For most people, a day with depression is like riding a wave, with high points and low points. When my depression was uncontrolled, my lows were during the day, and my mood would improve at night. I’d spend the evening alternately beating myself up for the things I didn’t do that day and making big plans for all the things I’d accomplish the next day. But the next morning, I’d wake up and not be able to get out of bed. It feeds on itself.

The good thing is that the reverse is also true: feeling better makes you feel better. Being able to cross things off my to-do list feels good. Getting more done at work because I’m not drowsy all afternoon feels good. Feeling less irritable and not snapping at J. feels good. Having the energy to play with the cats when I get home feels good. And all those good feelings feed on each other, too.

Still…I’m not 100% better. My dose increases to 225 mg on Sunday. I considered not increasing, but I’m still having enough symptoms that I think it’s necessary. However, I’m hoping that 225 mg will be a stable dose for me. The last time I was medicated, I was on 300 mg of Effexor, which is a fairly high dose. I’ve lost 50 pounds since then, and based on the way I feel now, I think 225 mg may be just perfect.

Stay tuned…

Friday, May 6, 2011

When I have money, I buy books...

…actually, I don’t. J. and I are both voracious readers, and there is no way we could ever afford to buy all the books we read, or to have a large enough home to store them all. Thank goodness we live in the city of Dallas, so we can take advantage of the public library system. Our branch is exactly a mile from home, and we are there at least once a week. I get on the library’s website just about every day to check due dates or add items to our hold lists.

Unfortunately, silly things like work and sleep are taking up far too much of my reading time. In 2009, I read 88 books. The count for 2010 was 87. I’m on track to read 36 in 2011. This is a major problem for me!

Of my favorite authors*, seven have new titles slated for release later this year. In addition, I am already in line for ten books at the library. And my to-be-read pile at home has grown to at least 20 books. Plus, I’m constantly getting recommendations from different sources, so I can easily add a couple of books to my “I-want-to-read-that” list every week.

This is not a bad thing. I love to read, and I don’t ever want it to feel like a chore. But as the list grows, I start to feel that I have to put reading on my to-do list for it to get done. I truly *want* to read these books, I just get distracted by life. I know many people recommend that busy couples schedule time for sex so it doesn’t get overlooked. Maybe I need to start scheduling reading time…

In case anyone is interested, my favorite authors* are listed below:

Alan Bradley
Chelsea Cain
Marisa de los Santos
Nelson DeMille
Linda Fairstein
Tana French
Emily Giffin
Philippa Gregory
Jonathan Kellerman
Gregory Maguire
Jodi Picoult
Kathy Reichs
Daniel Silva

For those of you who are readers, I'd love to hear who your favorite authors are and why you love them. Please leave lots of comments - I'm always looking for a good book! :)

(*For the purposes of this post, “favorite author” is defined as an author I like enough to have read their entire body of work and to watch for new releases. There are other authors, such as Stephen King, that write some things I love and some I don’t. For these authors, I consider the subject matter of a new release and then decide if I want to read it or not. )

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Day Eleven

My dose of venlafaxine increased from 75 mg to 150 mg today. A little over four hours since I took my meds, I’m a bit queasy, which is normal. I felt this way when I started the med, and it passed in about 24 hours. I expect this will, too. I can also feel the effects mentally, although it’s a very difficult feeling to describe. I think the best way to say it is: I feel out-of-focus. Like I’m not fully present in my body and what’s going on around me. This should also pass in a day or so.

As far as what effect the venlafaxine is having on my depression, it’s too early to tell, although I’m still optimistic. Doctors often tell patients that anti-depressant medication may take weeks to begin working, but it has never taken that long for me. Maybe it’s a placebo effect, but I’ve always felt some relief within a week of starting medication. This time has been no different. Obviously, I’m not cured, but I’m beginning to have periods of time when I feel much more normal. So far, it only lasts a few minutes to an hour, but it’s progress.

I’m still battling afternoon drowsiness, but I expect that to continue until I’ve been on a steady dose for several weeks. I’m managing it with extra breaks from my desk, even just to walk around the office, and extra caffeine, though I’m trying not to overdo that. I’ve been going to bed even earlier than normal, and I’m planning to take it easy again this weekend.

J. has been wonderful through all this; he’s patient with my anxiety and neediness and is always willing to comfort me (even if he doesn’t really understand why I need comforting at that moment). I’m not quite sure how I’ve gone through this alone in the past, especially considering I’m better off now than at any previous point when I’ve sought treatment. One of the symptoms of my depression is crippling insecurity, and I have the little voice in the back of my mind telling me that J. will leave me if I don’t get my shit together. That no man wants a wife who has no control over her emotions. That my anxiety and insecurity are pushing him away. I know those things are absolutely not true. But those feelings feed on each other, and a tiny spark can quickly become a raging bonfire in my mind. Luckily, J. loves me enough to be patient with my craziness; we both know I won’t be like this forever, which helps a lot during the bad times.

I'm scheduled for ten days at this dose; I’ll move up to 225 mg on May 15. I'll post an update then, if nothing changes before.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

(Not) proud to be an American

I am not rejoicing over the death of Osama bin Laden. Did the man deserve to die? Probably. Does his death change anything? Absolutely not. Within a few weeks (at best), Al-Qaeda will have a new leader.

America is hated by millions of people all over the world, and I think, in many ways, we’ve earned that hatred. I touched on my feelings briefly in
this post, but the bottom line is that I believe most Americans are celebrity chasing bigots who are a literal waste of oxygen. Those are harsh words, and I know many people personally who do not fit that description. But when I look at the general behavior of Americans, I am ashamed to be an American. I could start listing examples of how this country is irreparably broken because of its citizens, but I’d still be writing next week.

Consider, for one, all this birther nonsense. If Barack Obama was Caucasian, this would not have been an issue. Period. I’m not a fan of Donald Trump, but I never expected this level of idiocy. And he has support from the masses! Sigh…on that note, I give you this: