Monthly Archives: April 2016

Baby Steps


I went for a walk yesterday. A short one, to be sure; calling it half a mile would be generous. But I went. I went the day before too.

People who have been in severe depression know this is important. Doing anything is important. Commercials for antidepressants know it–as annoying as I find them, they are on target with this. The patient is out doing simple things like walking a dog or watching a child’s soccer game, and this is progress.

The other thing I find on target is that the actress in the commercial (why is it always a woman? Men suffer from depression too) usually still has a faraway look on her face most of the time, as if she is not quite present. She’s still at least partially phoning it in, but she’s showing up and trying.

Since starting my new meds, this is how I feel. Not sure about any of it, but a little more able to show up. So I am taking my meds, and going for walks.

I’m carrying a heavy emotional backpack on my walks, because taking this body out and moving it means being acutely aware of the damage it has suffered recently. Various parts of it ache, and I need to sit down and rest sometimes. I feel frail, and am careful where I put my feet. I miss the freer and stronger stride of even 30 pounds ago.

Intellectually, I know that if I continue to move my body it will get stronger. I want to be strong, not only for practical reasons but because it would be a kind of acceptance. I want to say all right, I accept the weight I am now and everything that goes with it. I accept that, right now, I must carry this weight, and I want to be strong to carry it.

Gratitude is important too, and the lack thereof is dangerous for me. I need to appreciate that I can still walk around my apartment complex and sit on a bench and watch ducks. Not everyone can do this; I have many privileges mixed up with my problems.

Positive Feedback

What has happened to me in the past year, and especially in the past few months, is really not hard to understand from an engineering point of view. It’s a classic positive feedback loop.

If you’re in marketing, positive feedback means people like what you are doing. In engineering, not so much. “Positive” just means that the output of a system is feeding back into it in such a way as to produce more of that same result.

More snow on mountaintops melts as a result of global warming. The snowmelt exposes more dark material where snow would have been. More dark material absorbs more sunlight, causing more warmth, causing more snow to melt, and so on. Science is full of examples of such positive feedback loops.

My recent visit to the endocrinologist (who had a cancellation and saw me within a week, much to my surprise) has me trying to think about where I am in a more logical and solution-oriented way. My metabolism developed a serious problem, we don’t know exactly when. I put on weight, which raised my blood sugars, which affected everything from mood to immune system to energy levels. The thyroid issues got worse, which led to more weight gain and more blood sugar issues. The sicker I got, the crazier I got. The more tired and dumb I felt, the more I neglected my self-care and got sicker. Sometime in the past three months the process sped up.

It is painfully obvious that if I’m going to have a chance to survive this phase of my recovery, I have to accept where I am and try to set aside baggage about how I got here. The endocrinologist has given me meds that will address my issues, but it’s up to me to take them. She has told me my sensible food plan should be adequate once the meds have had some time to work, but it’s up to me to practice patience and not go back to self-destructive eating.

I have to take an active part in healing this body, the one I have at this moment. I can’t wait until 10 or 20 or 40 pounds of it is gone. I need to take this body for walks, and feed it well, and give it its medicine.

I don’t talk much about it on this site, but I used to be a scientist. My first degrees were in the field of biological science, and I used to work in labs. I was trained to think like a scientist…and I have to try.

When All Else Fails…

Tell the truth. It’s something I tell myself about the things I write. Can’t be clever, or cute, or topical today? Then just be authentic. Tell the truth about something, and let it be enough. I’ve been surprised, sometimes, by what eloquence emerges or where it takes me.

Truth: I’m sick. Sicker than I’ve been in a long time. Dangerously depressed, physically ill in ways that are making it much worse, and apparently bent on my own destruction. The slow slide of the past year is accelerating, and I’m afraid I won’t be able to stop it. I fled a recovery convention early two weeks ago, unable to tolerate the crowds and unable to shed my shame long enough to celebrate still being clean.

Truth: I stopped taking my meds for nearly two weeks and now have to titrate the dose up again.

Today I had another medical appointment. I got some more of my blood work back, and confirmed that the thyroid issues are getting worse and not better. My blood sugars are acting up, thanks to the weight gain

(insert every gut-clenching description of shame and frustration I’ve ever written here)

and I need to monitor them and take a little medicine for them again. As for the hormones, apparently my bipolar meds are interfering with the treatment.

I am at last being referred to an endocrinologist, but it will most likely be a slow process. I am being advised that the best, most disciplined eating plan I can carry out should not be expected to do more than (hopefully) keep me from gaining any more.

My meds are covered for another six weeks or so…time is running out to find a psychiatrist who takes my insurance and is willing to accept a new patient.

Meanwhile, life is happening to my loved ones and they need me. They need me to love them, and help them, and be capable of thinking.

Truth: I would rather die than fail them. The trouble with this sentiment is that dying would be failing them.

Truth: The early posts on this site annoy me now, because they were written by a woman making strides forward in her recovery. As I fear sliding back in time, I become the audience she is trying to reach. I resent her for having hope I don’t, even as I wonder how I can become more like her. I wouldn’t give up what I have learned, but I don’t want to believe I will never feel so much grace again.

I am ill enough not to be able to come up with the longer pieces I enjoy posting on this site; attempts tend to peter out after a couple of hundred words. I am giving myself permission to post shorter things until I improve.

So, goodbye for now. Only for now. I have not given up.