Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Pits...

I've found myself being eaten alive by depression for almost three months now, and I'm to the point where I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever find a way to pull my life back together. So much has happened since my last post - some of it quite awful; other stuff equally wonderful... but the elation I experience from the good stuff only lasts a day, if that long, and then I slide back into the pit again.

The new year started out so promising... in mid-January I reached my 6-month sobriety mark and was so proud of myself. I'd gotten to the point where I wasn't doing any stinking-thinking any more, and the desire for Jack appeared to be a thing of the past. I was enthusiastically attending AA meetings, plowing my way through the 12 step program, doing a lot of writing, having weekly meetings with my sponsor, digging deeper into my head than I've been in decades, and getting some really good work done.

I was starting to practice the piano again, and making some serious progress on a couple of Rachmaninoff preludes; I dragged out my flute and managed to work myself up to a good twenty minute session a couple of times a week without collapsing a lung; I replaced the stacks of crap on the organ bench with my butt and dug into some Bach and, overall, was having a grand time.

I have a trunk show to present in November, followed by a class in January, and I was starting to make up a bunch of class samples, and was getting a good running start on my new direction of "Small-and-Embellished-to-Hell" quilts for this year's Open Studios.

Best of all I was working out at the gym three days a week and was building some awesome muscles and strength, as well as losing a few pounds. I was totally loving it and was experiencing a new kind of high like nothing I'd ever experienced before.

Then... Wham! Bam! Thank-you Ma'am...! Something fell out of the sky and practically shut me down, and I haven't been able to rev myself back up for shit. A good friend died in March, and totally knocked the wind out of my sails. Then a few crummy things happened to a couple of other friends, then the crap in Boston, followed by the horror in Texas... the kind of stuff that normally upsets me but doesn't lay me low... this time around everything has completely flattened me. In the meantime, my over-abundance of enthusiasm at the gym resulted in what's turning out to be a major case of "Trigger Thumb" in both of my hands.  The pain is from hell, and I haven't been able to work out in over a month, and playing any of my instruments has become impossible because it just hurts too fucking much. My creativity in the studio has tanked, and I haven't sewn a stitch for weeks.

Most damning of all is the worsening of my tinnitus problem. I'm now continuously barraged with high-pitched ringing in both ears, sometimes accompanied by a lower pitch (or two) and sometimes by a whooshing sound. I can no longer just sit and enjoy silence, as I once loved to do. But I sit anyway, and have begun to meditate every day, at which time I just sit with the noise and let it be what it is. Most of the tinnitus is caused by the blood pressure meds I take, and, recently, has been exacerbated by the addition of the Nsaids I'm now taking for the pain in my hands. I want to free myself from the Nsaids because I know they're dangerous, but, even in the short time I've been taking them, my body has become dependent on them, and when I stop, other pains from aging joints and old injuries make themselves known and it's quite dreadful. I must wean myself from them, though... that's all there is to it.

The only thing I've hung in with is tending to my orchids and violets, because I know they'll die if I don't stay on top of their care. My roses and other outside plants have completely gone to hell, and, if not for our recent rains, they would have croaked along with everything else. But now that the rain has stopped, I can't even drag my ass outside and turn on the frigging hose.

And my cats. I thank The Universe for my cats. They've been my only dose of salvation.

And... I haven't had a drink, though my caffeine and ice cream intake has gone through the roof.

So, that's where I am.

I. feel. so. lost. and. I just. can't. find. my. way. back.

On Monday, I'm leaving for a few days at a retreat center with a bunch of my quilting buddies. Today, as I was getting stuff ready to take, I felt the tiniest surge of excitement, and I'm hoping against hope this week may be the beginning of my return to My Life.

Please send some good mojo my way!


Martha Brettschneider said...

Dear Francie -- I'm so sorry you're experiencing so much pain right now. I was on anti-depressants for years, but when I got breast cancer four years ago my Wellbutrin was yanked away since it made the breast cancer medication (Tamoxifen) less effective. The silver lining was that they also said I needed to do 30 minutes of cardio exercise a day to reduce my risk of cancer recurrence. I hated running, but started anyway (cancer can scare you into anything). Once I worked up to 4-5 days of cardio a week, I noticed a major improvement in my mental health. Don't know if this would be a help for you, and I realize your tinnitus complicates all of it. But you don't need your thumbs for running.

I read a great book on this stuff called Spark: The New Science of Exercise and the Brain by Dr. John Ratey (I may be off a word or two in the title). Strength training is important, but it's the cardio that brings about the chemical shifts impacting our emotional states. Just set yourself tiny goals, like putting on your shoes and exercise clothes and only heading out for 5 or 10 minutes. The hardest part is starting. So glad you shared what you're going through. Sending warm and positive vibes your way. ~ Martha

Francie said...

Martha, Thanks so much for your comments and support. I'm sorry to hear of your breast cancer experience, and I hope your condition is improving. You're right about the cardio making a difference. When I go to the gym, I do a half hour on either the treadmill or stationary bike. I can't run because of knee problems, but I really like the treadmill and definitely DO notice a change in my mental state when I use it.

I'm hoping to return to the gym week after next, after I return from the retreat. Besides the treadmill, there are several other machines I can use that don't require gripping or pushing/pulling, which irritate my hands. The really nasty thing about my depression is that it's kept me from going to the gym, even though I KNOW I can do a few things there. I'm told the retreat house I'm going to has lots of walking trails, so I intend to take advantage of them.

Thanks again for your support. ~~ xoxo

Anonymous said...

Powerfully honest post, thank you. So glad you have your cats and tulips and have fun on your trip and let that little bit of excitement burst! :)

Dali Lobo said...

Sorry things seem so down for you right now. I do agree with Martha. Aerobic exercise really makes a difference. I go to the pool every day for this reason. I feel great after a swim. I hope you can find an exercise that does that for you.

Healing Woman said...

Hi Francie~

I also read "Spark" and agree with your friend Martha-it definitely has been shown that exercise causes chemical shifts. I know you say you work out at the gym but I have found a better way! A few years back, I started what is called "Silver Sneakers" I believe there are Silver Sneakers gyms in California but not sure. Anyway, they have a water aerobics class. The instructors for these classes are extremely upbeat and always recommending new and important health ideas. BUT, the beauty of the class is that it is a wonderful place to network. We all are women (and some men) in our 60's70's and even 80's. Everyone laughs and talks as we do our exercises and the hour just disappears. Laughing with this group makes life worth living..honestly. And, the workout in water is even better. The water caresses your body all the while working those abs and joints. I hope you join a water aerobics class soon. I just know you'll love it and they will love you. You are interesting and lead an artists' life with much to share.
Hugs to you and congratulations that with alllll these things happening in your life, you have not started drinking again..Bravo! You are amazing....
Many hugs, xx00

Birdie said...


Being in recovery is very, very hard and you absolutely must be good to yourself. Most of all, be proud of yourself! It is going to take time to learn other ways of coping. And just when you think you have it figured out, everything shifts and you need to learn again. Fucking shitty. You have self medicated for so long. It sounds like you are doing the right things for now. Meditation is awesome!
Have you spoken to your sponsor?

I don't have any suggestions except to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep going to meetings (Al Anon is awesome if you can find a meeting) and stay connected to other alcoholics.

I am SO proud of you. Honestly, when I read this I want to give you a big hug.

Francie, I know you don'y know me but I would love to send you some things in the mail. It sounds as if you need some cheering up. Since we can't go for coffee, I would like to send you a little care package. If you don't feel comfortable giving out your address that is fine. I am a big girl and my feelings won't be hurt. Don't be co-dependent and think you have to say yes! ha ha


Francie said...

Birdie, send me an e-mail and we can talk further...