Waiting for today...: January 2014

Tuesday, January 28

A Challenging Transition, Part 1

con’t from: Not Long After

While in middle school my best friend and I would share our dreams of moving away from Pennsylvania over games of M.A.S.H.  My best friend made it as far as the Philadelphia suburbs.  I wanted to be far enough from home to enjoy the fruits of independence but within driving distance to visit friends and family often.  I chose Virginia and specifically Virginia Beach with this and other preferences in mind.   It was approximately a five hour drive away, near the beach, in a developing city much smaller than Philadelphia and without all the crime.  Upon this, I decided to make a beeline for Virginia Beach soon after graduation.  I loaded up my rented U-Haul trailer and headed south in January 2007, desperately seeking to leave undesirable remnants of my life behind.  
Although my orientation began shortly after my arrival, I didn’t plan for the two to three weeks that I would have to wait for my first paycheck.  I believe now that I allowed the eagerness and excitement of my transition from student to professional cloud the view of my true bottom line.  Days after my arrival my excitement turned to anxiety when unforeseen and a few “should-have-seen” expenses depleted my funds.  Thankfully, I had financial assistance from the man I've called Dad since I was a teen and the added support of my unit manager who graciously offered me a room in her new home once she learned that I was staying week to week in a hotel.
As a registered nurse applicant I received registered nurse pay.  Within a month or so my financial woes appeared to cease along with my stress and anxiety.  When my orientation shifted from the classroom to the floor, however, the difficult transition from student nurse to nurse became painfully evident.  My anxiety increased.  Depression was not far behind as I dreaded the reality of having to sit and pass the NCLEX.   As a lousy test-taker, this exam terrified me.  And as the final weeks before the exam approached, the same pressure I felt in nursing school hung over me like a lead cloak.  But beyond skimming the pages of an NCLEX study guide, I failed to sufficiently prepare for the exam.  I was overwhelmed and paralyzed.
I failed the NCLEX and I didn't need the Virginia Nursing Board to send me a letter informing me of that.  I knew it when I sat down to take the exam… when I got in my car to drive to the testing site… when I went to sleep the night before.  Anxiety greeted me when I awoke the morning of the exam but just like my failing my courses back in 2003 and 2005, it left me the moment I exited the testing site doors.  I was indeed disappointed that I failed and there was a dreadful consequence to my failing this time: I was demoted to a nurse’s aide and my pay was cut in half.

next in series: A Challenging Transition, Part 2

Thursday, January 23

Not Long After

con't from: And So It Begins

“You’re a sprinter and you need to learn to be a long distance runner.”  In other words, my professor was trying to impart to me the need to pace myself.  This was very characteristic of the majority of my time in nursing school.  I would often start strong and then at some point along the way, I would lose steam.  Oh how I wished that was my only problem.  Before my last year of nursing school, depression would almost derail my career again.
This Could Be It.  This could be the end of my nursing career at (... University). I left… I just got my stuff and left. We took a break at around 11:00 and I “broke”. I don’t plan on going back either. My practicum was crap… incomplete, massively incomplete! We had to present them, informally, but still. What was there for me to present? Everyone else got their binders back. They were all at least ½ inch thick. Mine, a manila folder with two articles, my draft, resubmitted draft and a sub par write up of whatever, was handed off to (the Dean)…                   
I couldn't believe it. Immediately my stomach tied a knot. As she leafed through it and while others presented their projects my chest tightened. I felt sick. All I could think of is heading for the door as soon as we took our break. What was I to do? It would have come to be my turn, I would have presented the project and they would drill me with all sorts of questions that I could only answer ‘I don’t know’ to. The pressure would have been enough to throw a clot. All the while I waited, I thought of what could possibly become of my life... -- Wednesday December 7th, 2005 11:18pm
The final grade that I received in the Nursing Management and Leadership class was gracious but not enough to pass the class.  That somehow wasn't  enough to get booted from the nursing program.   I was given yet another chance.  Some of the minorities in the program had an inside joke that it was because there was a quota to fill.  Either way, I was grateful I had another opportunity to get closer to my dream of being a college graduate.
I don’t recall why the Dean granted me the option to retake the course the following fall semester.  But, one of my peers shared sensible pause for concern: taking a break from college is usually a nail in the academic coffin.  Many people don’t return and for many reasons.   Although, I found myself on the same side of conversations with people in the past, I had to elevate my needs above the  expectations of others.  I was mentally and emotionally drained and I needed a break.   Besides, I was too close to officially graduating to not follow through in the fall.  I only had one class to complete!  I had no excuse not to finish and finish strong.  

I soared and shined in my final semester of nursing school and finally stood eligible to receive my baccalaureate in the science of nursing.  Since I walked in May, all I had to do was pack up and make my way to the place that would become my new home.  I decided to leave some nasty habits behind.  I even promised myself that as soon as I settled in, I would seek therapy.  However, with the move, the reality of nursing and the lack of social support I would do more than crack under the pressure.  I would almost shatter.

next in series: A Challenging Transition, Part I

Saturday, January 18

Article: Normalcy, Neurosis and Psychosis: What Is a Mental Disorder?

Speaking with my psychiatrist got me to thinking about neurosis…
n. pl. neu·ro·ses
Any of various mental or emotional disorders, such as hypochondria or neurasthenia, arising from no apparent organic lesion or change and involving symptoms such as insecurity, anxiety, depression, and irrational fears, but without psychotic symptoms such as delusions or hallucinations.  No longer in scientific use.

As I looked to my peers in the mental health community, it was brought to my attention the frustrations many had with being misdiagnosed.  Misdiagnosis subsequently leads to prescribing errors which can have debilitating even life-threatening consequences. Because of this and other reasons, I made it a point to remember to ask my psychiatrist about mood disorder as it seemed like a very general diagnosis. Unfortunately, I don’t remember getting a concrete answer.   

On that day she likened depression to a fever, which is a symptom of an underlying disorder. Later she would state that I had bipolar features which I eventually agreed with after examining and being honest about my highs. What piqued my interest was her mention of neurosis.   Although the definition of neurosis asserts that it arises “from no apparent organic lesion or change”, I refused to believe that it is something that just emerges without a root cause.  I say this confidently as other definitions suggest neurosis involves symptoms of stress.   My history tells not only of a low stress tolerance but also poor stress management. The following article helped me to further understand neurosis and how it differs from, the more severe, psychosis.

We each live in close proximity to the artificial line created by society, psychiatry and psychology separating "sane" from "psychotic," "normal" from "neurotic." All of us straddle that non-existent border at times, depending in part on our experiences and circumstances.  Many flirt with or cross over this threshold temporarily, returning sooner or later to the land of the "normal." And some never recover from this departure from "normalcy." But if what we mean by "normal" is defined solely by how well a person conforms to society, does what is expected of them, and does not stand out too conspicuously from the herd, what becomes of individuality? Creativity? Self-expression? Indeed, it could be argued that much of what we deem maladaptive, abnormal or pathological behavior patterns are, at some conscious or unconscious level, acts of rebellion rooted in anger about not being allowed to authentically be oneself in society...
con't reading: Normalcy, Neurosis and Psychosis: What Is a Mental Disorder? by Dr. Stephen Diamond Ph.D., contributor at Psychologytoday.com and author of Evil Deeds blog. Retrieved January 11th, 2014 from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evil-deeds/201003/normalcy-neurosis-and-psychosis-what-is-mental-disorder

Monday, January 13

Longing for Springtime...

Adam Thoroughgood House backyard arbor overlooking the Lynnhaven River...

... reminds me of springtime.  Looking through the arbor also reminds me of how cut off from the world I feel at times like these.  With the passing of the holidays my mood has not improved at all.  Time to make an appointment with my therapist and psychiatrist; I'm definitely ready for the dosage of my medication to be increased.

As a child, I remember being fascinated by everything around me.  I took to drawing early, trying to capture those things.  My earliest remembrance of this fascination is from elementary school.  Instead of paying attention in class, I went about trying to recreate a design I saw on a hand-woven bag.  My creativity has waxed and waned since then.  As I grew up and became aware of cameras, my interest shifted from drawings to photos.  It never evolved beyond pointing and shooting however.  And just as I lost my passion for drawing and “less than amateur” photography, I lose my desire to write from time to time.  I am almost certain that my lack of creativity is a symptom of my depression.  So on days like this, when I’m speechless and lacking, I’ll share instead one of my photos in hopes to somehow keep my diminished creative flow from dying altogether.

Wednesday, January 8

And So it Begins

a chronicle of my history of depression, from initial diagnosis to the eve of my thirty-five birthday

“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” (KJV) ~ Ecclesiastes 1:9

Well, well, well… some crazy stuff happening here man.   First, I failed Maternity/Child Health.  I was doomed from the beginning…  Today I decided not to go to clinical.  As a result, I failed out of the class.  Ever since my birthday (the big 2-5, eww), I’ve been feeling really down… not wanting to do anything.  Just wanting to lay in front of the TV or sleep.  I get into these funks from time to time, but I don’t like ‘em.  And honestly, my funk began early semester. -- Wednesday November 19th, 2003

At the time, I didn’t know how serious my depression was.  I was in complete denial.  Depression wasn’t real!  I was just apathetic, lazy, unappreciative and faithless.  I was just “in a rut”, “in a funk” or “burnt out”.  The Dean of my program didn’t share my line of thinking.  It was on the last day of clinical that I called my professor and told her that I wasn’t coming.  It was a short time later that the Dean called me with an ultimatum: go and see a counselor or you’ll be released from the program.  I was stuck.  My refusing to go to clinical that day actually lifted a load off of my shoulders.  However, I saw a greater load up ahead that came with getting kicked out of the program.   There were my student loans that I couldn’t pay back on a hostess’ wages, being a failure in the eyes of all of my peers and folks back home, having to live with my mother for God only knows how long until I came up with another plan and then after coming up with another plan… having to start all over again.   The thought alone was enough to roll myself out of bed, by pass the shower, skip  changing out of my pajamas, and go to see the counselor.

It was on that day that I was diagnosed with moderate depression.  Continued therapy in addition to an antidepressant was recommend.  At the time I was adamantly against medication.  I was a nursing student.  I had the drug guide and was fully aware of the adverse reactions of those medications.   An alternative to prescription medication was the over-the-counter medicinal herb hypericum perforatum, or St. John’s Wort, commonly used to treat depression.   My hopes were thwarted however, when a handful of my professors raised concerns about the adverse reaction of heart palpitations.  That was enough for me.  I gave up on psychiatric treatment for a time and I just continued to see the therapist.  I don’t remember telling anyone of my diagnosis or my therapy sessions.  Other than the nursing department faculty that were privy to my ordeal, I had no other support.  Nor did I seek it.

What I knew to be my "social support system" was not equipped to support me.  My mother suffered with depression.  Although she would drown her sorrows in alcohol for a time, she was in denial therefore she never sought treatment.  My best friend’s mother suffered with depression as well.  I call her my second mom.  She not only sought treatment but she was also placed on medication.  I learned of her struggle over the pulpit one Sunday morning as she “preached” her first message from the topic of miraculous healing.  Specifically, she proclaimed that God told her she didn’t have depression and instructed her to flush her meds down the toilet.  I would later over hear a cynical conversation between my second mom's mother and siblings debunking the realness of depression.   Which was odd to me since one of her siblings had a nervous disorder when she was younger.  Her symptoms were physical, everyone could see it... so it was somehow different.  Before my depression was diagnosed, I became the product of my environment.  For these and many other reasons,  I would continue to suffer my illness alone and in shame.

next in series: Not Long After

Friday, January 3

My Own Worst Enemy...

“Its bad when you annoy yourself… Don't wanna be my friend no more,
I wanna be somebody else.”

Don't Let Me Get Me by P!nk

My own worst enemy is, me.  I’m filled with negative thoughts although I try to give the impression that I find the best out of every situation.  I’ve become a nuisance to my potential to have an extraordinary life…  Why am I sabotaging myself?

Ever since I moved back to the states as a school age child music has played a huge role in my life. In the late eighties, Michael Jackson, Madonna, the hair bands and hip hop grabbed my attention as my home in the islands did not have cable television.   Music helped me through that transition, from elementary school to high school, from college to the working world. You name it music has helped me cope through it.  When the world seems to be crumbling down around me, music helps me to escape.