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The Return of Planner Friday – End of April Edition

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Whew.  I know I can’t be the only person grateful to see the ass-end of April on its way out the door.  This month was grueling.  I’m pretty sure last week was actually three weeks long.

In fact it was such a rough month I barely kept up with my planner stuff; and I had a week where just to try and entertain myself I tried a new planner, or rather a Bullet Journal.  I enjoyed playing with it but I don’t think I’m quite ready to give up on my fun weekly themes yet, so back to the Plum Paper I went.

Here’s hoping the coming month is much kinder to all of us.

april 4-10 cb

april 11-17 cb

april 18-24 cb

(The Zootopia theme was one of my favorites so far this year. I had a blast putting it together and I loved how bright and colorful it was.  I even managed to find a clone of the movie’s title font.)

april 25-30 cb

I tried a couple of new things this week, notably the daily Baymax mood tracking sticker.  I drew the little Baymax myself.  I think I prefer a sidebar for my self-care stuff.  I also had a lot of fun drawing the Will-o-the-Wisps scattered over the pages, and I love the “Shoot for your own hand” sticker, which I also made.


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In Which Sara Bareilles Tries to Kill Me (or Possibly Save My Life)

2016-04-27 06.03.57

I think I’m in mourning.

First, disclosure:

Long about mid-January, I went off my meds.  This isn’t something I’ve spoken about, because I wasn’t sure how people would react – a deciding factor in the decision was money, but I didn’t want people offering to pay for them because the real motivation was something much harder to articulate.  In the first few weeks I didn’t feel like I had the clarity to defend my decision without sounding like, well, a crazy person.

Because while I am a huge proponent of psych meds when they are a) needed and b) helpful, and you could certainly argue that I still need them and I wouldn’t be able to disagree, it’s “helpful” that is up for debate in my current state.

I’ve been on and off antidepressants since I was 19, but it wasn’t until 2012 that I was diagnosed with Type II Bipolar Disorder. In the time since then I’ve tried, if my count is right, 23 different combinations of meds and dosages – that’s right, I’ve changed the medications keeping my brain chemistry “balanced” an average of five times per year in the last four years.  I don’t know what the average is, but for me that’s an awful lot of adjusting, waiting, watching for side effects, evaluating, tinkering, adjusting, waiting…and almost no living.

Last fall when I stopped taking Ambien (I had been on it since 2007 – that’s right, I took it every day for eight years) what my intuition was really screaming at me was “STOP ALL OF IT. PLEASE JUST STOP. THIS IS NOT HELPING YOU. PLEASE STOP.” But I was too afraid to stop.  I felt like I had already tried so many non-drug things and nothing had given me a moment’s relief, if I stopped the drugs I would certainly end up in crisis or dead.  It took being so broke I couldn’t swing the three-month refill appointment with my shrink to force me to make the call, and I made it.

Luckily the meds I was still on are known for a fairly easy withdrawal.  The issues with cold-turkeying any med are both physical and emotional – even without the miserable side effects like I experienced with Ambien, the emotional fallout could be devastating.  The most common reaction is a violent catapult into depression or mania.  Quitting any long-term med without professional supervision is just a terrible idea. Trust me on that one.

Quitting Ambien was awful.  Just straight up awful. Yet I still miss it – because what I wanted wasn’t sleep as much as it was silence.  During the day, Wellbutrin and Lithium (or Seroquel, or Brintellix, or Lexapro, or Zoloft, Lamictal, Gabapentin, and on, and on) dulled my symptoms (or in the case of Cymbalta, gave me episodes of blind rage), but at night when it was just me and the darkness, I needed Ambien to shut me down so I didn’t have to think.  But eventually I was taking it during the day, knocking myself out every eight hours on the clock so I never had to be awake.

Needless to say that’s an off-label usage.

Quitting the rest, well…it’s a strange contradiction.  I don’t feel worse, as in, not more depressed or more unstable – but I feel more.  You might think this is a good thing – the drugs were absolutely blunting my ability to feel happiness, I can tell you that right now with absolute certainty.  The lithium in particular was meant to stabilize me – to make the shift from hypomania to depression less of a violent slide…but what it did was bring the average down.  Instead of being at, say, a level 7 for a few days and then a 3 for two weeks, I felt like a 4 all the time, just shy of fully functional and never really good, ever.  Sometimes okay.  But over time okay became the new awesome, because my average kept sinking lower and lower.

And while the idea of regaining a capacity for joy sounds amazing, so far I haven’t had a taste of it.  So far it’s been pain.  Just pain.  I feel raw and exposed and bleeding-sensitive over my entire being.  I’m nothing but freshly grown skin over 3rd degree burns, bandages ripped off, stumbling around shrieking every time something touches me.

Except it’s not actually that dramatic.  What I’m doing is crying.  Crying and crying and crying.

I’m not talking about the kind of depression-crying that tells you you need meds – where you find yourself sitting in bed weeping for no reason for the tenth time that week and realize shit, something about this is deeply wrong.  This is different.  This is almost always in response to stimuli, especially music, or anything involving animals that look sad or sick.  But memories trip the switch as well.

I would have expected my childhood to be the number one trigger, but oddly, what I’m seeing over and over are my late 20s, early 30s.  Times I felt something like happiness, or potential, or hope.  The months leading up to Queen of Shadows‘ publication.  The months I was part of a coven.  Planning my self-wedding.  These brief candles of time when anything could happen, when I felt expansive and arms-wide to the world and like only good things were possible…I am, in fact, crying as I type this, thinking of the gradual lowering of expectations that has typified my 30s.  The slow, millimeter by millimeter loss of that optimism and realization that no, life was not awesome, people were terrible, and the Universe or God or whatever owed me nothing and, in the void that followed every prayer, probably didn’t even exist.

But mostly I find myself longing for those times, wondering…just wondering.  There’s no anger, no sense of betrayal or “why me,” just sadness.  Loss.  It’s a private sadness, one I try extra hard not to show because it’s messy and agonizingly intimate, but am trying to give it its own space without getting too much in its way.

I’m actually grieving.  I don’t know if I’ve ever really been able to do that before.  And I could go back to the doctor (assuming I could scrape together the money) and get back on meds, but I won’t.

I refuse.

Maybe eventually.  I’m not denying the real possibility that I need to go back on at least an antidepressant.  But not yet.  Not until I see where this is going.  Because I have this insane (possibly literally) conviction that if I miss this opportunity, all that optimism really will be dead – buried beneath serotonin reuptake inhibitors and mood stabilizers forever, along with any hope of getting them back in some new form that middle-aged me might just be able to love.

I had no way to articulate any of this for weeks – I was in one of the most embarrassing states a writer can find herself in, being lost for words – until I started doing this “30 songs” challenge thing over on Facebook that I’d done a while back and was bored enough to try again.  Browsing YouTube for videos for the particular challenges I happened upon a new Sara Bareilles song written for her new Broadway musical based on the movie Waitress (an old, melancholy favorite of mine).  I think I sobbed from the first line to the end and for about an hour after that, because it suddenly clicked:

I am in mourning for a girl, a me that used to be mine.

And there’s no way out but through it.

Disclaimer: This post is not meant to be medical or mental health advice.  It’s just my experience. If you are experiencing depression PLEASE GET HELP.  You are not condemned to suffer; there is help out there for you.  No two people react to medication or any other therapy in exactly the same way. The human brain is weird.  Just look at Tumblr.


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Planner Friday – End of March Edition

Well, now that I finally landed a new day job, things are a bit hectic – between that and the nasty sinus infection that’s had me grounded for over two weeks now I’m kind of behind on everything.  Case in point, this week’s planner pages; the end of the month is always weird looking anyway because of how Plum Paper splits up the week if the 30th/31st lands in the middle.  This week I only managed to get a pic of the left-hand side and totally forgot about the rest of the week.  Oh well – as you can see I never even got the TV stickers in, and the latter half of the week was basically naked except for cute piggies, so.

Here’s how the month of March looked in my planner.

piggy left eom

Note the scribbled-in placeholders for all the stuff that never made it onto the page.

pnw full eom

watercolor full eom

vine doodle full eom

shadowstorm full eom

Hopefully next week I’ll be a little more on-the-ball.  Have a great first day of April.


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Planner Friday –

planner friday postb

I’ve been sick as at least one kind of dog, possibly two, so I haven’t had the wherewithal to do much on the planner front besides stick things to other things.

I did however really like how this week turned out – it’s an example of how planning like this can be emotionally beneficial.  It’s easy to forget you have any sort of long-term goals when your short-term life kind of looks like the same brick wall you’ve bashed your face into a hundred times already.  But this week’s theme was a nice reminder that there is someplace I want to be, and by damn, someday I’ll get there, even if my planning acumen has yet to extend to something that big and dramatic.

full trees

The “daily expenses” stickers are kind of an experiment, but I don’t think they’ll last.  As much as I need to keep better tabs on my money I don’t think that’s the right.

Several of the images are photos I took on my trip to the West Coast several years ago.  I also drew the little Ostara bunny sticker (techincally Ostara was on the 20th this year but I’m doing well to remember what month things are in, so I usually stick with the generic 21st for solstices and equinoxes).

left trees

2016-03-19 17

Washi tape is by Recollections @ Michaels (I believe it was the Modern Boho collection) – I sliced it in 1/4ths to make the long strips.

Font is Woodgod.


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Planner Friday – Drawing (on) a Blank

planner friday postb

 

vine full 310

So, this week I saw someone on Instagram who’d declared it a “sticker free week” and just wrote and doodled everything.  I didn’t feel much like screwing with the Cameo and couldn’t think of a color scheme or anything to inspire me with my already-made stickers, so I thought, great idea!  No stickers at all this week!

Next thing I knew I was bleeding.  I was doing something ill-advised with a pair of precision scissors while I was pondering the planner, and somehow managed to stab myself.  So, I had to revise my plan a little, and used some blank scraps of sticker paper to cover up the areas I’d intended to draw on just to cover up the blood.

I never did quite finish all the doodling I figured I’d do, but still, the week turned out prettily.  Sometimes a little extra white space is a refreshing change.

vine right

I ended up using a few non-decorative stickers – I didn’t feel like drawing out all those TV logos.  But I did draw the cupcakes!  There were a lot of birthdays this week.

vine left

I had planned to do a pretty quote of some kind on the sidebar, so I kept the mood tracker to just a few circles, but it’s still a big empty space.  Still, the week’s not over yet. If I manage to do anything else with it I’ll post pics on Instagram.

Incidentally I post images of planner stuff throughout the week on Instagram, but also of the shrines I’m working on – there are some awesome pieces happening over here at Tiny Relics.  I give out coupon codes and stuff as well, not to mention the usual cat pictures and strange selfies in bad lighting, so if you’re into that sort of thing c’mon over and follow me on Instagram.


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