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TMS. A month later.

It’s been about a month since I finished TMS treatment for my depression and anxiety.  A lot of you asked if I’d do a follow up after some time had passed so here’s a quick one.

I’m still feeling good.  Not perfect, but so much better than I felt before the treatment started.  Overall I think the treatment gave me a few glorious days of true remission but mostly it just pulled me out of the truly terrible depressive period I was stuck in the last year.  I still have clinical depression and anxiety disorder but it feels a billion times more manageable than it did.  I was hopeful that I’d be able to go off my antidepressants but I don’t think that’s a safe choice for me so I’m staying on them, although I might decrease the dose a bit if I still feel okay in a few months.  I think I could lower the dose right now but I worry about the depression coming back and at this point I’m terrified to do anything that might put me back in that hole again.

My anxiety is much better than it was before treatment.  My agoraphobia is almost nonexistent, which is something I couldn’t even imagine before.  I’ve been slowly cutting down on my Xanax dose and as of this week I officially don’t have to take it daily…only as needed during anxiety attacks.  I hesitate to share this here because I think it’s easy for people who don’t have anxiety to say “Good job on getting rid of those drugs!” because most people don’t understand that Xanax (while it has a lot of shit side-effects) is a damn life raft for anxiety.  And while I’m proud of the work I did going off it (because it was hard, honestly) I know that it’s entirely possible that I will have to go back on it and if I do I want to remind myself that that is not a fault or something to be ashamed of.  I’m happy and grateful that the treatment I’m on is working better than many of the things I’ve tried in the past but what I’ve learned is that I didn’t fail in responding to past treatments…those treatments failed to work for me.  And that is a big difference.  One we all need to keep in mind.

Because I feel better I’m able to do a lot of things to help myself stay better.  These were things that felt impossible a few months ago but now seem almost as easy as the people who don’t understand mental illness always insist that they are.  I walk 1-2 miles a day.  I get sun and fresh air.  I leave my house.  I’ve started cleaning out the piles of crap of accumulated when I was too tired to work.  I write.  I go to sleep before 2am.  I’ve stopped drinking and am training for a marathon.  HAHAHAHAHA.  Okay, not that last sentence.  If I ever exchange vodka for running-on-purpose it’s a pretty good sign that I’m in a cult and need rescuing.  But the other things are things I’m pretty proud of.  Again, I don’t think I could have done any of those things in the deep depression I was in, but I’m taking advantage of the fact that right now I can do them.

I still often feel like a failure.  I still have dark days.  I still have to avoid my triggers.  I still have massive problems with concentration and memory and motivation.  I’m still broken.  I’m still me.  I’m still looking for a way through.  But I’m glad to have found a way that helped me if for no other reason than to reaffirm that there is hope.  There is always hope.

PS. A few people have asked if I was compensated in any way for writing about TMS.  Fair question, but no, I wasn’t at all.  Insurance paid for some of it (after a ton of denials) and I paid for the rest myself.   I only share it here because I know I’m not the only  one struggling with this.  TMS is not for everyone and is still really in its infancy in many ways.  It doesn’t always work and when it does work it could stop working at any time and no one knows why.  It’s uncomfortable and time-consuming and expensive.  But for me, it was so worth it.  I was (and remain) very lucky.

 

JAPAN!

We’re leaving tomorrow to take Hailey to Japan for a week and I’m full of anxiety because I am a terrible traveler but Hailey and Victor are okay with me hiding in the hotel so it’s good that they have low expectations.  That said, I really want to go to the Parasite Museum and watch a robot do burlesque and hike through a volcano and  you should let me know if there is anything else amazingly weird that we absolutely should do/see in Japan.

Since I’m leaving tomorrow I’m doing my weekly wrap-up early and I’m not sure if I’ll have access to my blog in Japan so next week I think I’m going to share some of the best-loved bloggess posts of the last 12 years.  If you have a special request, let me know.

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And on an entirely different subject, it’s time for the Sunday wrap-up!

Shit I made in my shop (Named “EIGHT POUNDS OF UNCUT COCAINE” so that your credit card bill will be more interesting.):

Shit-you-may-or-may-not-want-to-see:

This week’s wrap-up is brought to you by Storyworth.  Remember my post about my dad’s stories? Father’s Day is next Sunday, and a StoryWorth book is the perfect present for your father/grandfather/etc. Once a week for a year, he’ll get an email with a question about his life – asking him to describe his life in high school, or his favorite memory of you as a child. All he has to do is reply with a story, which is forwarded to you and any other family members you invite. At the end of the year, his stories are bound in a beautiful keepsake book you will cherish.  I can’t recommend it enough. Get $20 off at www.storyworth.com/bloggess.

This isn’t a real post but it’s a nice one

So today was my last day of TMS treatment.  40+ hours in the chair.  And I think?  I think maybe I’m in remission from my depression?  I’m afraid to say it out loud in case I jinx it all but I feel good and I’ve felt good for a few weeks, which is a long time for me to go without a depressive funk.  It’s probably not forever, but it’s something…and I’ll take it.

In the last month I’ve worked on my book.  I’ve left the house.  I’ve answered emails and phone calls.  Victor and Hailey usually travel without me because I’m not a traveler.  They’re going to Japan in a few weeks and Hailey asked if I’d come with them this time.  And I said yes.  I’ve already warned them that I’ll probably stay in the hotel and just read while they explore but even that is a big step and one I’m happy about it.  And scared about.

I’m feeling a lot of stuff right now…lucky, afraid, hopeful.  But it’s good to feel.  It’s a nice change from the exhaustive numbness of depression.  And I’m writing this down so that I remember that it’s worth fighting for the good days even if you know the bad days will probably come again.  You’re worth fighting for too.  I promise.

 

 

Getting closer to Nowhere…

So!

Today was my 30th TMS treatment and it’s been hard.  We tried some new spots on my brain for treatment and it didn’t work.  So last week we went back to what helped last year.  And today?  I feel good.  Even though the weather is nasty and I’m tired and overwhelmed and scared.  I feel the normal sorts of emotions a normal sort of person would feel after coming out of a depressive period.  And it’s amazing.

I’ve felt good for almost a week now.  Today I have energy.  Instead of staring at my blog and thinking that nothing I write is important enough to share I find myself wanting to talk to you.  I’m responding to texts and emails.  I’m leaving the house.

I hope this time I can go into full remission, but if I don’t I will remind myself of these good days…and that life is so worthwhile, even when you have to wade through the terrible moments your brain throws at you.  And that’s a very good thing.

So here is what’s happening with me:

Ten years ago today I quit my job in HR to give myself a year to try to finish my first book.  It feels like yesterday.  It feels like a million years ago.  Both of these are true.  I still feel like the weird girl from HR pretending to be an author.  I still look at other writers who have accomplished so much more in the last decade.  But I’m proud of the three books I finished, and the two more I’m writing now.  I am slow, but that’s okay.  Thank you for making that okay, and for not giving up on me even when I’m not in the spotlight.

My friend Laura (of Beyonce chicken and dog grave-robbing fame) and I the day we both left our jobs. We haven’t aged a bit. *cough*

In other news, Nowhere Bookshop has a logo!

The one that you guys picked had some issues but it worked out because we ended up with something similar but even better…

And if you liked the other logo design options you’re in luck because I bought a bunch of them so you’ll probably see your favorite on t-shirt and bag designs in the future.

If you want to follow me Nowhere (I can’t tell if that sounds awesome or terrible) you can keep up with the latest on instagram, on twitter, and Facebook.

More to come soon…

PS.  Can’t wait for a t-shirt?  Click here.

Really, me?

So this week has been particularly hard for me mentally and I think there must be something in the air because it feels like lots of people are struggling right now.  My doctor was concerned enough though to move the TMS coil to another area of my brain and hopefully that will help.  The depressing part about treating depression is that so much of it is a bit of a science experiment.  Is the TMS working and would I have been much worse without treatment?  Is it not working as much as last time?  Is this my brain lying to me?  Is it working for my motivation and anxiety but my depression is so strong that I can’t appreciate the improvement?  I don’t know. But I’ll keep moving forward if you will.  Nothing is perfect…treatment, life, me…but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile.

Today during treatment I pulled out an embroidery project to distract me from the woodpecker-like pounding in my head and congratulated myself for being able to concentrate enough to work on a project.

(Pattern by Odd Ana Stitch)

…Until I realized that I had somehow sewn myself to the fabric and literally had to cut myself out of my own mess.

This feels very metaphorical but I’m too unfocused to pull it all together so instead I’ll just say that if you’re struggling this week you are not alone and I love you and you will get through this.  I promise.

Progress looks weirder for some than others.

So yesterday I woke up to this:

Some of the hail was big as baseballs and now there are some holes in the side of my house and roof looks like crap but we’re safe and had a lot less damage than some of our neighbors.

When I was taking pictures of the damage I found this:

View this post on Instagram

My new scientific discovery. Hail nipple.

A post shared by Jenny Lawson (@thebloggess) on

And I was very excited that I would be immortalized forever (or at least my nipples would be) because obviously I would name them after myself and whenever there was a freak storm people would be like, “Bring the cat in or she’ll be knocked out by Jenny Lawson’s Nipples!” but then scientists on twitter were like, “Those were already discovered” so that was disappointing.  But the nice thing is that normally this would shatter my nerves and I was…kind of okay?  So maybe it’s a sign that the TMS is working more than I thought.

Then Victor decided to run with the baseball theme and take advantage of me being able to leave the house so we took Hailey to her first baseball game.  And it was lovely except that there was a taco there and I thought his head looked like a clitoris and Hailey was like, “WHAT.  It’s clearly a hot dog.”  And I was like, “Why would a hot dog be in a taco?” and she gave me a look like, “WHY WOULD A CLITORIS BE IN A TACO?” so I decided to ask the taco himself and he can’t talk but he mimed his flabbergastedness very well and for so long that a small child finally came up to comfort him.  Then he gave Victor the “Go with God, my son” gesture which seemed an overreaction but maybe was kind of fair.

(Also, I assure you there were no small children around when I asked him about his clitoris, although technically I think it’s good for kids to be more aware of medical terms  because even spellcheck has it underlined like, “What’s a ‘clitoris’?  I don’t think that even exists.

You’re part of the problem, spellcheck.

And as the sun set and the fireworks exploded I realized that maybe I’m going to be okay after all.  And that I probably won’t be allowed back at the baseball game ever again.

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And on an entirely different subject, it’s time for the Sunday wrap-up!

Shit I made in my shop (Named “EIGHT POUNDS OF UNCUT COCAINE” so that your credit card bill will be more interesting.):

Shit-you-may-or-may-not-want-to-see:

This week’s wrap-up is brought to you by The Seeker’s Dungeon.  Guest writers are wanted for the new blogging event over at The Seeker’s Dungeon.  You need not be a blogger, just have a story to tell.  The new event, From Darkness to Light, is about sharing how you turned a trauma or tribulation into motivation in following your own life’s purpose.  By sharing our stories we can inspire others while remembering that we are not alone.  Add your voice!

Well that’s embarrassing.

For those of you following along at home I just finished my 17th TMS treatment this week and I’m feeling some improvement especially in anxiety and motivation but I’m still dealing with some depression so today they moved the magnetic coil around to a different location to see if that will help.

I actually would have said that I wasn’t feeling much of a difference in motivation but then I realized that this week three things happened that were a big deal.

1.I finished a new chapter in my book and it actually made me laugh out loud when I wrote it.

2. I easily drove downtown to look at a bookstore location and I have NEVER driven downtown on my own because driving in busy places terrifies me.  And when I got back home I was still okay and not a giant puddle of exhaustion and I didn’t need to recuperate for a day.  That seems ridiculous to normal people but trust me, it’s rather shocking for me.

3.  When I went to TMS I had my phone in my pocket and somehow my leg unpaused the podcast I was listening to in the car and it blasted a sexy improvised musical theater number across the crowded waiting room of the psychiatric center and everyone was staring at me as I frantically searched for my phone which was screaming, “BECAUSE THE ARROW IS A DICK AND THE TARGET IS A VAGIIIIINNNNNAAAAAA” (thanks, Off Book).  Then in my actual session I was wearing headphones because the TMS machine is crazy loud but I heard this weird noise and then I realized it was farting and I thought maybe it was the counselor who has to watch me and make sure I don’t have a seizure but it was going on way to long to be healthy and I was actually starting to be a little impressed/concerned and then I realized that the farting was coming from me.

Not from my butt though.  When I’m nervous I rub my feet together and apparently the fake leather of my shoes rubbing against the chair was making these incredible farts.  I have no idea how long I’ve been loudly farting-but-not-farting during my hour-long sessions but I suspect the answer is “Forever, you idiot” because the counselor was just taking phone calls like everything was normal even though probably the people on the other line were like, “Is she farting?”  And the me of last month would have been like, “Well, clearly I can never come back here and also maybe I should burn the building down” but me of now was like, “Honestly, if you’re going to be horribly awkward and do mortifying things it should be in a psych unit because it’s probably encouraging for everyone else around who is feeling like shit and needs a good laugh.”

The real killers.

And that’s how my week has been going.  You?

 

It’s all in the way you look at it.


So this past week I’ve been dealing with mental illness bullshit and I don’t think I’m alone based on what I’m seeing on the internet so if you’re struggling please know that you are not alone and that it will get better.

Today was my 5th TMS treatment and honestly I was getting sort of depressed about being depressed because it sucks to feel like shit and also have to drag yourself to the doctor to get punched in the head for an hour a day but then a few hours ago I suddenly got a burst of energy and my vision cleared and HOLY SHIT I ALMOST FEEL NOT DEPRESSED.  It possibly will only last for another hour or so but I’ll take it and I’m writing this down to remind myself that not-depressed-me says the dread and self-hatred that depressed-me is feeling is totally a lie.

I took this picture today during treatment because Victor and Hailey keep saying that they can see my depression in my face lately and I wanted to see if it was any better and I still looked depressed but all of a sudden a rainbow showed up and I’m pretty sure it’s just a light artifact but I’m choosing to believe it’s some sort of leprechaun magic and I am here for it.  You should be too.

Also, there’s been a weed growing out of my gutter for the last few weeks but I’m too tired to clean the gutters so it just keeps growing and I feel like shit when I see it because it seems very analogous to how my life is feeling right now but today when I saw it I noticed that the weed has flowered and it made me smile because technically I think this is the longest I’ve ever kept a plant alive.

It’s all in how you look at it, I guess.

 

Really keeping the “Repetitive” in “Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation”

So last year I did rTMS to try to whack my brain out of chronic treatment resistant depression and it was pretty helpful.  Not perfect, but it pulled me out of a deep hole I was stuck in.  I also treated the other side of my brain for anxiety and that was really helpful.  I’ve taken one xanax in the last 6 months and anyone with severe anxiety disorder knows how big of a deal that is.

Unfortunately I’ve been in a bit of a hole lately and my doctor said another round of TMS treatments might really help to stop me before I’m too far gone so I started again this week.

I’m doing the same treatments as before but in slightly different spots (the science on TMS changes so quickly and doctors are always using the latest studies to try to perfect the treatment) and I’m also doing deep treatment on my right ocular something-or-another and I don’t entirely understand it but they think it may help break up the intrusive negative thoughts that get stuck in my head.

It is as painful as I remembered but less painful than living with mental illness so I’m down with it.  They play nature videos with relaxing melodies so you can distract yourself  but that’s not really my thing so instead they’re letting me watch Shrill on their TV and it’s lovely except that my headphones ran out of juice so the counselor who monitors me just turned up the volume in the room right as a particularly awkward sex scene came on, which was made even more awkward by the fact that I was forcing other people to watch it.

Embarrassing, but honestly, very on brand.

PS.  Last treatment they had to find my hand through my brain (making my thumb move by punching me in the head with magnets) but this time they had to go deeper, which meant that I had to take off my shoes and get magnet punched until I involuntarily kicked myself.  I was still wearing tattered remnants of months-old nail polish and I apologized for the state of my feet but no one seemed to care and honestly I suspect that if your feet look like shit it’s maybe just another sign that you need to be medicinally magnet thumped for a few months.

Working the program

Dealing with chronic mental illness is hard.  A few months ago I finished TMS to treat my depression and anxiety and it helped but I still struggle.  I have a friend who is in AA who talks about working the program…doing the steps you continually need to do to stay healthy…and I realized how much I relate to that right now.

TMS gave me a reset button but I still have bad days.  I still feel myself dip back into that dark place.  I have more tools now than ever and that helps but sometimes the only thing that I accomplish in a day is just surviving.  It’s both an amazing achievement while also tinged with shame as you see others who seem to whiz past you as you barely tread water.  Maybe they’re treading water too.  You can’t tell.  You’re just trying to breathe.

Today is one of those days for me.  I think it’s the weather.  It’s dreary and rainy and my joints hurt and it makes me not want to get out even though my doctor prescribed walking 30 minutes a day to keep my depression at bay.  It’s part of my program.  Today I took Hailey to school and then I went back to bed and stayed there until noon.  I didn’t enjoy it.  People without depression won’t understand that, but the fatigue of mental illness makes your very body a prison.  The bed smelled sour.  I couldn’t concentrate on reading.  Victor is out of town so I have no one to make me get up.

But I have to work the program.  So I got up.  I walked in the cold for 10 minutes.  Then I did another 10.  Then I hit 30.  I brushed my teeth and took a shower.  I brought my light therapy lamp out of storage.  I wrote this post.

This is a good day.  As far as mental illness is concerned, that is.  I got out of bed.  That in itself is pretty amazing.  It doesn’t always happen.  But today it did and I’m proud of that.  I will continue to work my program.

It’s a program I add to all the time, finding tools that work for me.  I share them with others.  Others share them with me.  We get along.  Together.  And alone.

So today I’m sharing some of my steps.  I’m not sharp enough to think of them all but for now I’m writing them down to remind myself that I’m worth following them.  If you have steps that help you please share them.

  1.  Follow your doctors orders.  For me that means antidepressants and behavioral therapy.
  2. Exercise 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week.
  3. Get sunlight, or if you can’t, use light therapy.  Do not over use even though you want to.
  4. Treat yourself like you would your favorite pet.  Plenty of fresh water, lots of rest, snuggles as needed, allow yourself naps.
  5. Avoid negativity.  That means the news, people, movies.  It will all be there when you’re healthy again.  The world will get on without you seeing it.
  6. Forgive yourself.  For being broken.  For being you.  For thinking those are thing that you need forgiveness for.
  7. Those terrible things you tell yourself?  Can you imagine if the person you love most was telling themselves those things?  You’d think they were crazy.  And wrong.  They think the same about you.  Those negative things you are thinking are not rational.  Remember that depression lies and your brain is not trustworthy.
  8. Give yourself permission to recover.  I’m lucky that I can work odd hours and take mental health days but I still feel shitty for taking them.  Realize that sometimes these slow days are necessary and healthy and utterly responsible.
  9. Watch Doctor Who.
  10. Love on an animal.  Go adopt a rescue or if you can’t go to the shelter and just snuggle a kitten.  Then realize that that same little kitten that you’re cradling isn’t going to accomplish shit but is still wonderful and lovely and so important.  You are that kitten.
  11. Get up.  Go brush your teeth.  Go take a hot shower.  If you do nothing else today just change into a new pair of pajamas.  It helps.
  12. Remember that you are not alone.  There are crisis lines filled with people who want to help.  There are people who love you more than you know.  There are people who can’t wait to meet you because you will teach them how unalone they are.  You are so worthy of happiness and it will come.

One day when I’m in a better place I will come back to this and fix the typos and add all the things I’ve forgotten but today I know that if I don’t publish it I will delete it and hate myself for not finishing it.  So I’m publishing it.  And I suppose that’s another step.  Trust in your words, even when you second-guess them.

Sorry this is so rambly.  It’s the best I can do.