PMS+Cipralex=Weirdness

Dear people who are still – still! – uncomfortable with periods, I’m about to talk about them.  A LOT. So bugger off, or grow up. 

There I was at my entrance interview with the new doc, feeling like a very desperate girl on a first date. Finding and keeping a doctor in this town? Bloody impossible. In fact, the only reason I found Doctor Awesome (now gone back to trauma care because presumably, I was boring her – but I’m not bitter -) was because I needed to be monitored on these antidepressants. So anyway. I literally blurted out to the new doctor, Blue Eyes (BE): “Hi. I’m on antidepressants and I want to come off them in the next six months and I think it’s stupid to do it alone and I lost my favourite doctor EVAH and will you PLEASE be my new doctor?”

Smoooooth.

Whatever. He kind of ignored all of that – presumably he sees blithering patients with some regularity – and talked to me about my reaction to Cipralex, my current feelings, my overall health. He took my blood pressure (110/70, reliable as ever), taught me how to do a breast exam (thanks, Manject) and, you know, shone lights in my ears and down my throat and proclaimed me healthy. Then he asked if I had any adverse reactions to Cipralex:

Me: Not really. Every now and then I get a ‘down’ day or two, but it always goes away.
BE: Does this coincide with anything? Missed pill, bad sleep?
Me: Nope, not that I can think of.
BE: Hmm, okay. writes things down.
Me: Oh wait, yeah. It’s around my period. I figure it’s just low energy from, um, low iron or something. (Note to readers: I do not understand my reproductive bits. I had mono when they taught sex ed, and I never learned, and frankly, peoples’ insides pretty much squick me out. I generally go with the Tom Robbins “Glowing Ball of Light-Powered-Humans” theory.)
Him: Stops writing. Right, that makes sense.

Here’s the explanation BE gave me. As women go through our cycles – Anyone else hate that word? Sounds so Red Tent. ‘My cycle’. Whatever. – we experience a steady decrease in oestrogen, followed by a rise in progesterone. http://hcp.obgyn.net says it looks like this:

If you want a proper definition of Estradiol, it’s here, but from what I understand it’s basically the Breeding Purposes Estrogen. Though it also does lots of other things, like help us grow bones. Cool.

(Sidebar: Anyone know what’s up with the spelling of Oestrogen/Estrogen?)

How does this link to depression?  “Estrogen appears to have a significant effect on serotonin levels. In the brains of those who are depressed, there is a lack of serotonin, which can occur due to reduced serotonin production and release, over-activity of receptors that remove serotonin, and/or over-activity of the chemicals that break serotonin down. Estrogen naturally affects each of these levels of serotonin functioning, which is why estrogen may serve as a natural anti-depressant.” From This Website, I pulled a much more succinct explanation than I could have written. That’s what BE told me. (The whole interview is interesting, if you have the time to read.

For the record, I’ve never been hit hard by PMS (or at all by PMDD, but I’ll get to that) before, so this is clearly a cipralex-related thing. And again, it’s not unmanageable, it just sucks for a couple of days, and I am reduced to my previous, untreated state.

The idea that there is a connection between estrogen and depression changes much of our thinking about PMS. Very few men, women, or clinicians doubt the reality of PMS, but there remains some belief that PMS is either a social construction or just a common phenomenon whose symptoms are over exaggerated to elicit sympathy or some other secondary gain. Consider how often we hear statements like, “It’s just her time of the month,” or “She’s probably just having PMS.” These statements show how desensitized and immune we have become to the pain and debilitation that can accompany PMS. Unknowingly, these statements minimize or trivialize the depressive symptoms of PMS, which leads to both an under pursuit of treatment and an under administration of effective treatments.” From the same site

The thing I learned there is that PMS isn’t something to which we should be desensitized, and in a similar vein, it’s not a term we should throw around. On that note, though, it’s also not one to be taken advantage of. PMDD, however – Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder – is a whole other thing. It’s characterized by basically wrecking your life for a week or so each month. (Why yes, I do have a website to suggest for that as well.) If you have PMDD, you have a real problem, and you should talk to someone about it. Mine’s not that bad – with said new job, I can still go to work. But that’s it for those two days.

Anyway, maybe not anymore. BE suggested that for those two days, I take an extra half-dose, just to see what happens. Should be a low enough dose that I won’t have the dreaded dry mouth, but enough to compensate. I’ll let you know how it goes at the end of the month.

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Iiiiit’s Testicular Exam Time!

Yup. Day 11: Give yourself a Testicular Exam. 

Instead, I’m going to meet my new doctor (my doctor of awesomeness left, and I will miss her, for she was rational and sane and all things unlikely in a doctor). Anyway, she referred me over to some other guy, so fingers crossed.

Instead of a testicular exam, I’m going to finally – at the age of 30 – learn how to do a breast exam. I know this isn’t quite equivalent, but I couldn’t figure out how to examine my ovaries. (All right. I didn’t try.)

If the new doc has my files – which he should – I might even have some exciting cipralex-ey related stuff to share at the end of the day.

Wish me luck!

 

Back to the Manject: Day 10

I’m trying a fancy new scheduler gadget, so I hope it works…

My next task in the Manject is to Memorize ‘If’, by Rudyard Kipling. ‘If’ is a pretty great poem, and if (har har) I’m being honest, I’m not much one for poetry. Anyway, I spent a lot of my childhood reading bits and pieces of that poem – my dad had a shortened version somewhere – and I love it.

But. If this is a Gwen version of a Man project, shouldn’t I be able to find an equivalent piece of poetry about women? Something about their strength, and wit, and character, something about what drives them to succeed and how they dream and think? Yes, I should. But I can’t, so far. As I said: Poetry = not my forte, so there’s probably something out there, but my googlings have turned up a Whole. Lot. of poems about women’s beauty, and grace, and sex appeal, and (argh) fashion. None of which should be excluded! I count poise and confidence in sex appeal as brilliant traits among my dear friends, but come on. That’s far, far from all that they have to offer.

Bitch, bitch, bitch, you say. The correct course of action here is clearly: If I want a poem that doesn’t exist, I should write it. I don’t know quite how that would work out, but maybe I’ll have a go at it. If there are any talented poets reading this who want to write me something to memorize, or any students of such things who know of a poem I have been unable to find, please! Share!

In the interim, here’s what I was thinking: What if you all – that is, everyone who reads this or sees it on Twitter – commented, or tweeted to me (with, say, the hashtag #day10poem) a one-liner starting with the word ‘she’ about a woman in your life that inspires you. And I could put them all together in a great conglomeration of awesome, and we could make a community poem of sorts, that brings together a big fat list of all the things we admire in women.

What do you think? It only works if everyone plays, so it’s on you. No pressure. I think it’s worth a shot, so I’ll start – these are a bunch of different women in my life:

She never stopped learning
She meets the world each day with an open heart
She is the best listener I know
She can do the New York Times crossword puzzle in under twenty minutes (on a Sunday!)
She reads everything she can get her hands on
She is adored by her children
She has never let anything change her

Back

 

Oh you poor, sad, neglected little blog. I’m sorry I left you without saying a word. The truth is, things just got so busy, and I had to drop something – and it had to be you. (Everything else was paying the mortgage.) But I’m back now. We’ll finish our month-long project together, stretched out as it may be, and I’ll get back to doing the work of not being a human-on-the-couch.

I’ve been on Cipralex for nine months now. I could have made a new human in that time! Wait, maybe I did. (Ooh. Cheesy.) In contrast to last year, I am now (over)employed, volunteering a LOT, applying for a new education program, writing regularly, and socializing like a fiend. (Well. For me.) I have an interest in the world around me, which is a precious thing to gain and an equally shitty thing to lose – which leads me to this:

In the midst of filling my days with all of that stuff, I have nearly lost track of my internal reflections. This blog used to be the way in which I kept focus on my real progress, and I really want to maintain that.

So here’s me, trying to keep it up. I’m back, baby!

Day 9: Date Day

Day 9 is actually Take a Woman on a Date day, but since I’m flipping this all around for my particular orientation and I fall into the ‘in a relationship’ category, I’m going to be planning a date for my significant other. Since he reads this, I can’t tell you the ideas I’ve come up with, and anyway they’re terrible. It’s like I’ve never planned a date before. But I have! Loads! Okay, at least three.

Anyhow, I’m taking suggestions. No sexy parties, please, my brother reads this.

While I’m encouraging comments, what do you think about dating in a relationship? I don’t mean open relationships, though I’m happy to hear opinions on that, I mean actually making sure that you manage to get out of the house with your significant other and, as AoM says, “Ditch the whole pizza and Netflix routine and really get out and do something new and different.”

Because really, the siren song of pizza and Netflix is crazy loud.

As much as I sometimes cringe at the idea of Date Nights, I get it. You need to make sure you do stuff together. Otherwise you’ll just get old and sick of each other and not have any new stories to tell, and you’ll turn into some new-generation version of Archie Bunker. “Eeeedith! Get those hoverboard hippies off my lawn!”

So, to sum up:

Dates with significant others? And-
Date ideas for me?

I think in the spirit of this one, I’m going to end with my favourite real love song, which I stole from a friend’s wedding mix, because otherwise my favourite love song would still be the theme song from ‘Enterprise’.

Oh, okay. I’ll put them both. Stop nagging.

The very best is Shine, by Daniel Lanois. This will give you mosquito-eyes.

Oh! They added the lyrics below the video! Bonus.

And since you asked:

You guys, I hope you appreciate how long it took me to find one that the fanboys hadn’t managed to make even more cheesy.

Over to you, and tomorrow, on to Day 10: Memorize ‘If’. (Shit.)

Day, um, Five: Cultivate Your Gratitude

“Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.”
Robert Burns

Day 5: Cultivate your Gratitude

Right now, I’m grateful that I can take over a week off of something and no one shouts at me or takes away my paycheck. So – After a while of not keeping up with this, my house guests are gone and life has returned to normal. As normal as it gets, anyway.

I do feel like there should be some sort of consequence for flaking out of the Manject though, so at the end of the thirty days I will take on three extra tasks – either suggested by readers or random things I find. I’ll start a new thread for that when it’s time – Day 29, or so – for now, I want to get back to gratitude:

Part One: Make a List

It would be pretty easy to make a generic list (I’m grateful for my family, friends, partner, etc) but I’m going to try to go more specific, as the Manject says: “remember gratitude will really work its magic in your life when you start taking notice of the great layers of pleasure present in everyday things. “ So I’m not going to talk about people until step #2; instead I will focus on things which make my day-to-day life a little (or a lot) better.

Here we go. I am grateful for:

1 – My dog, who forces me out of the house every day no matter the weather and reminds me that rain and snow are not things that will kill me (in the course of a walk, anyway).

2 – Whoever invented Sigg water bottles. Frickin’ brilliant.

3 – Burlesque dance. It makes the world a better place with it’s irrelevant silliness.

4 – The little fireplace in my house. Mmmm, fireplace.

5 – Whoever invented espresso, which is the only way I can drink coffee. (Why is that? Anyone? Anyone? Buhler?)

6 – A buddy-community online of writers to whom I can ask questions like “Would you flinch if I used aluminum silicate?”

7 – How great rooms look in my house when I have painted over the puce-green put there by the former occupants with RED.

8 – My backyard. I have a backyard! How lucky am I?

9 – My boyfriend’s job, which allows me to go to the doctor and dentist and gym.

10 – My bike. It’s shiny and red and goes super fast!

Task 2 is to thank individual people. I’m going to do that by letter (Handwritten! In my crappy five-year-old printing!) so I’m not going to spoil it by putting them down here.

Task 3, I’m adding myself. Tina Fey wrote this book, and I just finished reading it again. In it, she suggests that all women should make a list of things they love about their bodies. So here we go – eating money – I’m going to put this on the bloody blog.  Yup. Right now.

*** Sorry for the oddness of the list. I wrote this in Word a few days ago, and it’s being pissy, and I can’t be half-assed to fix it.

  1. My hair. I have bleached the living shit out of this stuff, sometimes quite literally: when I was sixteen I put javex in my shampoo. You know. Just to see. It’s was so dirty and dry when I was travelling once that when I tried to put it back in a ponytail, it broke off. Not a few strands. A big hunk of it. My head looked lopsided for a month. But you know, it still grows, and I’m proud of it. Way to go, hair. I’ll keep trying to kill you; you keep thwarting me at every turn.
  2. My hands. My fingers are short and stubby and weirdly knobbly, and my fingernails look…erm…like someone bites them… But when I was little and complained to my grandmother she said, very seriously, that I had “The hands of someone who can work,” and that I should be proud of them. And I am.
  3. My freakish strength. I should not be as strong as I am; I know this. I’m grateful for whatever genetic blessing is happening here.
  4. My toes. Each toe, in descending order from the Biggest Of Toes, is a little smaller than the one beside it. I’m glad. They look all tidy, and fit well in shoes.
  5. My shoulders, which are wide and strong, like my Grandmother’s – the other one – were. Shoulder pads? We don’t need no stinkin’ shoulder pads! (However, the nineties would have suuuuuucked if I’d been old enough to feel any sort of fashion obligation. Wait, I’ve never been that old…)
  6. My knees. In order from right to left, my knees are covered in:

    a. Rollerblading scars from when I tried to learn on a hill called ‘Mountain Highway’. In retrospect, I should have known.
    b. A scar from where I broke my leg, falling off a cliff while playing glow-in-the-dark capture the flag on a women’s camping weekend
    c. The scar from stepping off my dad’s motorcycle and falling onto the exhaust pipe (Yes! I am graceful)
    d. Little dotted white scars from being stung by a sea anemone while diving in the Phillipines
    e. A scar from getting twisted up in a hammock and falling on my ass when a monkey jumped at me in Costa Rica.

And they’re still there, all knee-shaped and everything? Aren’t they amazing? Some of my favorite memories are lodged in the scars on my knees.

7. My eyes. They’re somewhere between the shade of blue of everyone in my family, but still uniquely mine.

8. My butt, because it doesn’t know any dance moves, but still likes to shimmy.

9. My legs, because they have never failed to carry me anywhere I want to go, regardless of how steep the incline – no small feat, in BC.

10. My flexibility, which falls under the same category as my strength, in that I have no idea why it is this way. I do some yoga here and there, but I think I’ll attribute this to my mother – so Mom – thanks for the bendiness. J

That’s gratitude for ya. I’d highly recommend the lists, as they make us think, and the letters, which have made me REALLY aware of what I’ve been given by the people in my life.

 

Day 6: Update your Resume

As far as writing new posts go, this is a fairly easy one as I have recently had to create a C.V. for a program application. I recently picked up a Groupon for these guys and had a resume update done professionally. I’ve also sent it off for review to a lovely friend of mine who does this sort of self-marketing thing for a living, so between all of this and my new mentor (yay!) I’m feeling pretty well set up.

All that said, my resume was sorely – five years, at least – out of date. I think resume formats change with each new software and each new version of that software that comes available, so the AoM blog makes a good point in the use of keeping it updated. This way I’ll have one ready to go when a new job or program comes up, and I want to apply – no messing around with having to do all that fiddly formatting that drives me insane.

AoM has a few really good points to make about why you should update your resume, and several more good links included on how to make it effective. I especially vote for the note on eliminating spelling and grammar mistakes. (I would certainly throw out a resume that crossed my desk for the wrong ‘your’ v. ‘you’re’.)

One point that I would add: These days, I think it’s a good idea to also be updating your info on websites like Linkedin. I’m not sure how much power they have, but if you’re using the website, then you owe it to yourself to go ahead and use it properly!

Tomorrow is Day 7: Reconnect with Old Friends – particularly easy since I happen to have a couple kicking around!

Day 5: Regarding Gratitude – Bookmark

Hey all,

Today (really, yesterday) is ‘cultivating gratitude’ day. Since I have friends visiting from out of town and I really, really want to give this post the time and attention it deserves, I’m going to bookmark this post to be completed at a later date. (I’ve decided I can do this, since I’m really just policing myself, here.)

So, more to come.

Day 1: Defining my Core Values

Day the First, y’all. Defining my Core Values, or: Why I Cannot Get Away With Saying ‘Y’all’.

So it’s Day One: Define Your Core Values day. The Day One section talks a little bit about men feeling shiftless, having less drive and ambition than the men of generations gone by. There could be a bunch of reasons for this, but I’m inclined to think it’s because all men were born with the innate need to kill a mastodon, and thus wander around feeling unfulfilled at all times. Personally – do I feel shiftless? Sometimes. Certainly when depressed, I feel all . . . weird and floaty about life. (Weird and floaty is an accurate descriptor, and I do not care to explain it.)

What does defining core values do for us? In a general sense, and according to the 30 Days blog, it can give us purpose, make life simpler, prevent us from making bad choices and give us confidence. In particular, to me, I think that if you don’t have a basic set of defining values then you’re going to hit a lot of places where you can act…badly, for lack of a better term, and in a way you might regret.Nobody likes that; we all have plenty of reasons to lie awake at night without adding anything of our own creation.

An important thing I think I should add is that this list is so, so very personal. I don’t need you to follow my code, and that’s the tricky part – remembering that your own way is not the best way. It’s just the one that works for you. And you will sound like an ass if you start preaching from a pulpit of moral certitude. Also, I will shout at you.

Now, onto my instructions!

1. Sit somewhere comfy and relax. Not a problem. House of book nerds = at least three chairs in house designated for reading and writing. I chose the giant yellow puffy chair, if anyone cares.

2. Have the proper tools. I had a notebook, a pen and a light-duty nail gun. Always be prepared.

3. Ask: What is truly important to me? This was the hardest part to me. They say: “Think about those moments in your life when you felt completely whole and fulfilled…” -Heh? Wha-? I can’t remember breakfast. So, yeah, challenging. I first came up with the usual, like: “Oh, I feel so serene in my yoga classes,” but you know what? No, I don’t. I wonder if my underwear is sticking out of my weird capri-things that all women are contractually obligated to wear. I’m annoyed that my hair is always touching my face. The only time yoga is peaceful is during the meditation, and that’s because I’m pretty much asleep. As it turned out, my peaceful, fulfilled, happy moments were around campfires in the quiet, flying up the coast, and being in the zone when writing. (There are more, but I’m bored of this now.)

4. Write down whatever comes to you. I don’t do well with open-ended tasks, so I set a fifteen minute timer, which seemed like a perfectly reasonable amount of time in which to contemplate the vastness that is My Core Values. I randomly wrote things down as they came to me, as instructed. This is a surprisingly fun thing to do. I wrote about a page worth of random value-like-words, scribbled half of them out, and pared them down to eight or so. Those eight then had to vie to be one of the five survivors. SURVIVOR: CORE VALUES. Now with more bugs! And nail guns!

The winners are:

Security and Adaptability had a fight to the bitter end, but eventually I decided that I would only ever be secure if I was adaptable. So I feel like that’s a two-for-one’er. After this, I had to number them one through five. I don’t feel like coaxing my poor ol’ mac through another round of photo uploading (seriously. It’s a lot of work.) so here they are:

1. Freedom
2. Creativity
3. Competence
4. Integrity
5. Security

I don’t know if I feel like a better person for having done this. I certainly don’t feel worse. What I did realize is that I don’t spend a lot of time (or any, really) sitting and thinking about the way I live my life, and what kind of person I want to be. I mean, outside of therapy, where I am forced to do so and examine my choices. What I like about Day One is that it has made me revisit what’s important to me. I’m gonna stick the list to my refrigerator, or something else I love unconditionally (Get the dog!) so that I’ll remember to check it out if I’m having a bad day. Maybe it will turn out that I’m just feeling trapped, or I haven’t written anything in a long time, or I need to go out and fix something on the truck. (That’s a tricky one, as it only makes me feel competent if the truck still runs when I’m done.)

Bring on Day Two: Shine Your Shoes. There will be excellent musical accompaniment to that post; I can feel it.