So I had this dream the other night that I had one more class to pass before I could graduate (college? grad school? not sure). It might have been an English class–but then, it might have been math. In any case, it was a class I hadn’t been keeping up with like I should. It was getting down to the last couple of weeks of the semester, and I realized that I had all this unfinished work, some of it almost due, some of it overdue, all of it really difficult (MUST have been a math class…) and it was going to be a struggle to finish it all. But I was telling myself, it’s okay, this is the only class you have this semester, you can put all your time toward studying, and you only have this final to pass, you can do this! And then the teacher started giving us MORE work, very DIFFICULT work, and I just started to freak out. Because there was no way I was going to be able to do it all in time and pass and graduate. So I ran out into the hall to try to get to the bathroom, and people in the hall were being jerks, and I used some possibly unnecessary violence on them, and I finally got into the bathroom, and I couldn’t find an empty stall with a door that worked, and the stress was just building and building and I started sobbing, about to burst into tears–

–and I woke up, gasping for breath. Because I have sleep apnea and my throat had closed. My chest muscles had also really tightened, trying to get my lungs working, so I had an intense physical stimulus of stress long after I wasn’t stressed about the dream anymore.

And I realized, this is what sleep apnea has been doing to me for YEARS. My body spends most of every night on high alert, trying desperately to keep me ALIVE. It invades my dreams, it exhausts my body, it gives me stress signals even when there’s nothing to stress me out. It’s no WONDER I’m exhausted. It’s no wonder I’m depressed! Even though I’m rarely conscious of it, my body knows perfectly well that it’s been struggling to keep me BREATHING every night for nearly a decade. It’s no wonder my brain thinks everything is hopeless. I can’t concentrate–because I never get into the deeper levels of sleep my brain needs to repair itself. I can’t find enjoyment anymore in activities I used to love–because I never get peace, uninterrupted dreams necessary for a healthy psyche. I can’t exercise–because my body spends every minute of the night fighting for breath, so my asthma kicks in the moment I try to make my lungs fight for breath during my waking hours. I’m irritable–because my body is in a life-and-death struggle for at 8+ hours a day, so every little bit of stress that’s added to my life causes a backlash. If I can sit through a day in front of my computer and not get suicidal, and not fall asleep at the wheel when I drive to town, and occasionally have enough energy to supervise high-schoolers for seven hours–I’m doing pretty damn well!

Knowing that part of my problem is as simple and visceral and intense as sleep apnea is really helping me make sense of symptoms. It’s one thing when you say, “I have hypothyroidism and every cell of my body is struggling with an energy depletion and that does funny things to me.” It’s something else to say, “I spend several hours every night in a desperate struggle to breath and I probably haven’t had a good night’s sleep in nine years.” It really concretizes it all for me.

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I’ve been having a really rough time lately with my depression and fatigue. I went to see my thyroid doc for a checkup, and took with me a veeeerry long list of my unexplained symptoms. He told me that most of them were symptoms of hypothyroidism–and I later discovered a list of 300+ hypothyroidism symptoms, of which I have more than a hundred. So the doc put me on a higher level of hypothyroid medication.

Unfortunately, after about two weeks on the meds, I’m not seeing any actual improvements yet. My Christmas was okay, but shot through with depression and fatigue. Luckily, I have an appointment on the fourth with a pulmonologist to get a sleep study. It’s extremely likely that I have sleep apnea: all three members of my immediate family have it, I’ve woken up a couple of times this year gasping for breath, I experience abdominal convulsions and weird sensations in my chest while sleeping which are likely my diaphragm and chest muscles going, “BREATHE, DARN IT!!” Sleep apnea can cause a number of problems (two links there) that I have, such as obesity, chronic fatigue, post-exertional malaise, night sweats, sore throat, irritability, anxiety, depression, mood swings, difficulty thinking, focusing, or concentrating, brain fog, teeth grinding, digestive problems, drymouth, and more.

I’m really hoping that getting my apnea taken care of with a CPAP machine will make a big difference in my health and mood. So many times before I’ve thought I found the answer as to what’s wrong with me, and it’s failed in the long run to change anything. But thinking this is sleep apnea causing this is at least making me be gentler on myself. I haven’t been getting a good night’s rest for YEARS; it’s no wonder I’m upset and I can’t concentrate!

For those of you who pray, I’d really appreciate your prayers right now.

Paradoxes

I’m really hesitant to post this, because I don’t want to give people the wrong idea, but I’m going to anyway.

So I had an interesting experience last night.

I’ve been thinking that my fatigue problem might be caused by sleep apnea—since the other three people in my immediate family all have it, and there have been a couple of times this year that I’ve woken and couldn’t breathe. And I was lying in bed last night, trying in vain to get to sleep, and I thought, It’d be really nice if I just stopped breathing in the middle of the night and died quietly in my sleep.

Now here’s what’s interesting about this little macabre thought: I’m not suicidal. My depression has been doing much better. In fact, I’ve been keeping a little health diary lately to see if my mood/fatigue is affected by my menstrual cycle, and for the last two weeks I’ve averaged a mood of 7 out of 10—almost every day. I’m not sure it’s dipped below a 5. I still shy back from the very idea of suicide, and I would feel too guilty about the people I leave behind to ever think of planning it.

AND YET, I think it would be very nice to just die, at this point in my life, as long as I could do it quickly and pretty painlessly.

So why is that?

I think the problem is that I can’t imagine a future for myself.

I used to imagine dying, and think about whether I was ready or not, and my answer was always, No, I have other things I want to do! I have books I want to write, I want to get married, I want to find a good job, I want to get a place of my own, I want to paint…

The problem is that now, I have either done those things and found that they didn’t fulfil me, or I don’t think I’m going to ever do those things.

Now, if you ask me to rationally tell you whether I think I’ll ever get a job and a place of my own, then I’m sure I will. The problem is that I cannot imagine it at this point, and if I imagine it, I might believe it rationally, but I don’t BELIEVE it emotionally. (Just like in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.) I’ve been so unsuccessful in my job search—and I am currently so unsure of what kind of career I would even want to go into—and I actually cannot really imagine myself getting a good job and being able to move out of my parents’ house and support myself and have a happy and independent life. The job hunt has simply burnt that hope out of me.

At the age of 31, knowing that I have never had a boyfriend and am on the asexual spectrum, I think it unlikely I will ever find anyone or get married. I have published two books, and neither of them have brought me anything like the happiness or recognition—or even money—I dreamed they would. I have spent this year painting and embroidering, and though I enjoyed making the art, I’ve reached a point of boredom and lack of ambition to do more. So all the things that might make me feel like my life is unfinished, I either have no desire to do anymore, and no hope that I ever CAN do. So just quietly, with no guilt, finding a quick and immediate end to everything just sounds really nice right about now.

This is the problem with taking “one day at a time.” My mood has certainly improved, and yet my hope for the future has not. And it’s hope for the future that makes further life desirable.

Guilt and its source

My church is doing a book right now in small groups called Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman. I am not a fan of Not a Fan, but that’s a subject for another post. This book keeps making me feel bad about myself, even though I don’t think I really have anything to feel bad about. So I started thinking about that and why that would be.

I listen to Christian radio, and there are a lot of songs about guilt and sin and shame and how much people need forgiveness. And yeah, we all need forgiveness, and I’m grateful for it, and so forth–but I don’t really feel convicted right now, at this point in my life, with any particular sin. Sure, I could be more patient with my family and more forgiving, but I don’t feel like there’s a lot of sin plaguing my life. I’m probably at a pretty good place, sin-wise, in my Christian walk right now.

And I was thinking about this, and then I suddenly realized: if I don’t have a lot of sin in my life right now… why do I constantly feel so anxious, guilty, and unworthy?

Is it possible… the things I’m feeling guilty and bad about myself about… aren’t actually BAD?

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Signs and eagles

I just had a really cool experience.

I’ve been having a lot of trouble with fatigue lately. I’m planning to have my Mirena IUD taken out tomorrow, so I’m hoping that will help a lot with the fatigue, along with a number of other symptoms, including my depression, weight gain, and back pain. (Yay Mirena, she said sarcastically.)

I was getting particularly bummed about the fatigue this morning and how little I felt I could do–and how little I felt my family understands about my fatigue and how severe it is. I was feeling pretty raw.

So I’m driving home, sobbing my eyes out, saying, “I’ve felt old since I was 25! I’ve lost my youth! And I know God has good plans for us, but that doesn’t mean they get fulfilled in this life, and I have DECADES to go before I can DIE!” I was trying to trust in God and not worry about the future, but it just came over me and I couldn’t shake it.

And then I saw it: a bald eagle.

There NEVER used to be bald eagles in this area. I thought I had seen one a month or so ago, but I hadn’t seen the head, and it was kind of small, so I thought I was wrong.

Well, this one flew right overhead–I got a faraway shot of it with my camera through the sunroof–and it was DEFINITELY a bald eagle.

It was just like those times having a break-down in the car (this seems to happen to me a lot? lol) when I saw a rainbow and I felt like God was telling me to have hope. I thought, “This is a sign.” I mean, seeing a bald eagle around here is practically miraculous. And then I thought, “What does it mean?” And immediately I thought of the passage in Isaiah:

…but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

That verse is not just talking about trusting God: it’s about fatigue. God literally sent an eagle to tell me that my fatigue is going to resolve. Whether it’s with this next step tomorrow or not, I will reach a point where I can run and not grow weary.

My new book is out!!

cover

It’s available on Amazon.

Here’s the back-cover blurb:

Challenging readers to rethink what they read and why, the author questions the aesthetic assumptions that have led to the devaluing of fanfiction–a genre criticized as both tasteless and derivative–and other “guilty pleasure” reading (and writing), including romance and fantasy. The complicated relationship between “fanfic” and intellectual property rights is discussed in light of the millennia-old tradition of derivative literature, before modern copyright law established originality as the hallmark of great fiction.

“Absorbed reading”–the practice of immersing oneself in the narrative versus critically “reading from a distance”–is a strong motive for the appropriation by fanfiction of canon characters and worlds.

If you’re curious, you can also read the introduction and part of the first chapter on Google Books!

I thought I’d talk a little (okay, a lot) here about what led to me writing this book.

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A thought-ful solution

I’ve realized lately, through the cognitive behavioral therapy and other things, the major thought pattern that is causing a lot of my depression, and what to do about it.

Throughout my depression, I’ve known intellectually that God wants to be with us and help us in hard times. But I couldn’t figure out how that was supposed to WORK. The big problem, the thing causing the hard times, the thing that God needed to fix, and that he WASN’T fixing, despite my prayers, was (is) that I needed a full-time job. Since that was the way I expected God to be with me in my hard times, and since that particular prayer was currently going unanswered, I felt like God wasn’t with me.

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Going to church depressed

Things are a lot better now, but when I was particularly depressed, going to church was extremely difficult for me. The problem was that a lot of people didn’t understand how church could be such a struggle and they would teasingly guilt me for skipping church. I feel like it might be helpful to give a description of what church is like for me when I’m seriously depressed.

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DIY First Try: CBT

Originally I wrote this as an anonymous tumblr post, because I didn’t want to share my feelings. But I feel like this might be a good example for other people who want to try DIY CBT, so I’m going to put myself out there and post it. It starts with a rant of what I’m feeling right now, and then goes into applying the CBT techniques suggested in the video I posted the other day. I’m feeling a lot better since I did this!

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DIY Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

I had heard of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, many times before: sites online would talk about how it was proven to be one of the most effective treatments for depression. However, none of my doctors had ever mentioned it, none of my therapists had ever mentioned it or done it with me, and I’ve had some… interesting experiences trying to find a good therapist, so I wasn’t in the mood to try to find one who specializes in CBT. So what did I do?

What any red-blooded Millennial would do. I searched YouTube!

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