I haven’t written about this before because it is such a difficult topic, but in light of recent events I think it needs to be said. I actually wrote an email to a podcast on this subject a while back because I was looking to spread the word about reaching out for help if you need it. Funny enough, I was willing to have this personal information read on a public podcast, but I wasn’t yet ready to publish it on my own blog. Things are different now. There have been a number of high visibility suicides that have left the world reeling. It is tremendously sad and we’re all left asking, “Why?” There is no satisfactory answer to that question. Depression is a formidable foe. You never really know what someone is thinking or feeling, or how much they’re struggling – sometimes until it’s too late. Here is my story as I described it in my email in May.
“At the beginning of the year I wasn’t taking care of myself. I didn’t eat right and I didn’t exercise for a long time. Finally, at the end of January, I called my doctor and told her I was depressed and admitted that I needed help. To her practice’s credit they got me an appointment that same day and I started taking Lexapro immediately. A few weeks later I felt like a new person. It hasn’t been all sunshine and roses since then, and I have some other subsequent medical issues that I’m dealing with, but I am doing so much better now. After fighting this battle and finally finding myself on the path to recovery I wanted to send this message to your listeners – if any of you are feeling depressed and thinking that you might need help, DO IT! Call your doctor ASAP. Don’t be ashamed. You don’t have to feel this way. You can be happy again. I hope this helps someone out there who is struggling like I was.”
I waited longer than I should have before asking for help. Unfortunately society teaches women that we are supposed to be invulnerable. We must be strong, silent, efficient, and most of all, uncomplaining. I thought I needed to power through the sadness and hopelessness because that’s just what everyone else does. But when I started talking to my friends and colleagues about my difficulties I discovered that almost every one of them has been in the same situation at one point or another. Nearly every woman I know has experienced depression and benefited from medical intervention. But before I started this conversation I had no idea! This is why we need to have an open dialogue about mental health – to normalize it enough that people know that there are readily available resources when they’re fighting depression. So if you are reading this and you’re feeling low and contemplating hurting yourself, please reach out to someone, anyone for help. Also, do not hesitate to call your doctor. You don’t have to feel this way. The world is better with you happy, healthy, and still alive.
I had a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday to review the results of my sleep study last month. My GP read through the report and said, “Basically you’re running a marathon every night!” This is not a surprise to me considering how much trouble I’ve had with my legs over the last couple of years, but it was a relief to have data to prove that my problems are real and not imagined. I had an astonishing 550 leg movements during the night I spent at the sleep center, and I was awakened 8 times during the night because of limb movements. Also, only 6.4% of the night was REM sleep, which is way too little. No wonder I’m tired all the time! I’ve been operating under the assumption that I’m simply lazy which is why I am always drowsy and rarely have the energy or motivation to do anything. Now I know that’s absolutely not true. Even with Ambien helping me fall asleep quickly at night, lack of restful sleep is still causing problems in every area of my life. I’m so thankful that my doctor has taken these symptoms seriously, unlike some other medical professionals I’ve seen, and is helping me map out a path forward. As a next step, she wrote me a prescription for Requip, a drug that’s used to treat not only restless legs, but Parkinson’s Disease as well. We’re not messing around with my crazy legs! Unfortunately I have to work my way up to the maximum dose so it’s going to take me over a week to get to a level that might be effective. We’ll see how that goes. I also got a referral to a neurologist so if this particular pharmaceutical doesn’t work for me I will discuss other options with him at a future appointment.
Until I am able to get some restorative sleep I am trying to honor my body’s need for more down time, but it has been difficult. I’m already a homebody so it’s not that I mind staying home more, but lacking the energy to complete my day-to-day chores means that things can start to pile up. My sink fills up with dirty dishes because I don’t always wash them in a timely manner. Cooking takes a lot of effort so I don’t always have healthy, homemade lunches to take to work. And I avoid going out shopping so I don’t always have nutritious food or other essentials in the house when I need them. It’s frustrating. Some days getting out of bed and changing out of my pajamas is about all I’m able to do. This is not beneficial to my mental health, but I am trying to cut myself some slack and let go of the guilt of resting as much as I need to. Just because I’m too tired to go to the movies or clean my house right now doesn’t mean I’ll always feel this way. I know this is a temporary state and I that I am strong enough to get through it. Life isn’t always easy, but I’m hoping that it won’t be long before I see the light at the end of this particular tunnel. Let’s hope my new prescription is just what I need.
Remember the other day when I wrote that life is too short for nonessentials? Well, recently something has fallen off my priority list that I usually look forward every year – Boeing on the Move. In the past I’ve used this fitness challenge to increase my daily activity, get more chores done around the house, and compete with my co-workers for the highest number of steps. It has always energized me, but this year I decided it wasn’t worth the effort for a number of reasons. First of all, the online interface now has a completely new platform which is not user friendly. In fact, it was so complicated that I could barely figure out how to register for 2018 challenge. Then I discovered that we weren’t going to be mailed our annual free pedometer to track our steps. Not that I’ve ever been a huge fan of those cheap little plastic things, but they were strictly mechanical and I was allowed to wear one in the classified area where I work. The thing that annoys me the most about Boeing on the Move this year is that there is an assumption that all of the participants can use their smart phone, smart watch, or Fitbit to track their daily activity. Unfortunately I can’t because all of those items are forbidden in classified areas. It’s practically a miracle that my 2017 pedometer is still in my possession (I tend to lose them) and still functional, but with all of the other new restrictions on the challenge I am just not motivated to go through the annoyance of wearing it again this year. Anything that requires extra effort just feels like too much trouble right now. Life is stressful enough without worrying about something silly like Boeing on the Move. Granted, earning points towards gift cards is really tempting, but I am putting my mental health above monetary rewards this time around. (Instead I’ve been finding several ways to save money every month. Explanatory post to follow!) Maybe next year I’ll feel differently. Plus, I’ve already gotten back into some semblance of a regular exercise routine with boot camp classes and occasional running (needs to be more than just occasional running, but that’s another story) without an official fitness challenge. This means I’m already halfway to reaping all of the benefits of Boeing on the Move. Now if I can increase my activity while I’m at work and once I get home in the evenings I will be fulfilling basically all of my personal goals for Boeing on the Move. And my chores will all get done in a timely manner too. A priceless reward! I’ll let you know how it goes!
Here’s another inane sunscreen experiment to break up the heavier content in my last four posts! Kinda like one of the Hulu commercial breaks while I’m watching episodes of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” I wanted to have this post ready for National Sunscreen Day on 5/27, but I wasn’t able to pull it together in time. Better late than never!
I was torn on whether to publish this post under the header of “sunscreen experiment” or “retail therapy” since I purchased this sunscreen along with a number of other beauty products from the e.l.f. website on 3/25. I really just wanted to buy one item (Hydrating Under Eye Primer), but in order to qualify for free shipping I threw some other things into my cart that seemed promising. I’m sorry to say that most of the products I purchased aren’t working out as well as I’d hoped, but luckily the order wasn’t a complete loss. The e.l.f. Active Stay Out & Play SPF 50 is one of the items I bought on a whim and now I’m so glad I did. It’s similar to a much more expensive product I used a while back (Bare Minerals Mineral Shield Daily Prep Lotion SPF 50, which I think has been discontinued), but with surprisingly superior qualities. This SPF 50 has a liquid texture and feels powdery after it is applied. I was surprised to discover that it also has a light tint and it somehow works perfectly with my fair skin tone. That is not usually the case with tinted products considering how pale I am. I covered my face and neck with this lovely sunscreen last Friday and it got me through a full day at Disneyland with my friend and her daughter. And isn’t Disneyland the real test of any sunscreen? It’s really fantastic. So glad I gave it a chance!
“In the past I don’t think I have expressed my opinions as freely as I should have. Before now I have felt intimidated by opinionated people and rarely did I oppose them for that reason. Everyone should be able to say what they think, but in a way that does not degrade any particular person for their beliefs.”
5/19/99 webpage post
I was reading my very first webpage post from 5/19/99 the other day and I was struck by the above excerpt. It’s remarkably wise for my immature and inexperienced twenty year-old self. I’m pretty sure I talked a big talk, but didn’t live up to it in real life. Even so, my thinking was on the right track at a young age. Unfortunately I met my ex-husband a couple of years later and over the course of our eleven year relationship I was groomed to keep any displeasure to myself. I’ve written about emotional abuse in my marriage before and this was another aspect of it. Anytime I expressed unhappiness I was somehow persuaded into thinking that everything was my fault and that I should fix the problem on my own (whether or not I caused it) and keep quiet about it. It was a real step backwards in my personal development. Eventually I came to the miraculous realization I that I didn’t need to live that way! I rescued myself from that toxic relationship and a lifetime of misery with someone who didn’t respect me.
Now that I’m older and finally free to be whoever I want I am relearning the same lessons that I did back in college. Not long ago there was an incident at work where I was compelled to shut down hate speech. Working closely with a lot of people I am fully aware that we all have differing opinions, and we are entitled to them, but there are lines that I am not willing to tolerate being crossed in my presence. So when I heard a co-worker expressing anti-Muslin sentiments there was no way I could let it go. In no uncertain terms I informed him that his conversation was not appropriate for work. I didn’t try to correct his views (although I consider them repulsive – I respect all religions while not being religious myself), but made sure that he knew that he should not be discussing them at our place of employment. I’m pretty sure he thought I was joking because he ignored me and kept talking. So I raised my voice and forcefully said, “I’m not kidding, that is not an appropriate topic of conversation at work.” (As a side note, internally I feared I was being bitchy. Thanks to society women are conditioned to be pleasant all the time or risk being considered bitches, but that didn’t stop me from standing my ground when he didn’t shut up.) So what was the response after my second admonition? “I thought this was a free country.” Seriously? This made me even angrier than the initial religion bashing. Some people don’t understand that free speech means that in the United States you can’t be arrested or executed for your opinions, but it does not mean you are completely free from the consequences of what you choose to say. Hate speech can absolutely get you fired. My blood was boiling at this point, but I had a job to do so I got back to it. Later that day I described the incident to a manager because I think all employees have an obligation to stop this despicable sort of discrimination. Fortunately management took my report seriously and the situation was quickly dealt with. Still, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. It blows my mind that people walk around with so much hate. Our world would be a much more harmonious place without it.
Written on 5/20:
Self-care comes in many forms, both mental and physical. Tonight I sat down and wrote a long webpage post rather than doing numerous other chores that were waiting for me before the end of the weekend. And in the end, hitting publish was better for my soul than having all the little aspects of my life fully in place for Monday morning. It’s gotten very quiet in Seal Beach as midnight approaches and I know I should have gotten into bed a long time ago, but here I am with my laptop still on my lap. It brings me comfort in a way that nothing else can. Finding the words to document my thoughts and feelings is so cathartic, and it just doesn’t happen that often. The constant stresses of life often prevent me from being in the proper head space to write more than a couple of decent sentences at a time. just about every night I sit down in my final hour or so before going to sleep and hope that the words will flow into an eloquent paragraph that I can share with the world. But more often than not I find myself staring at the WordPress interface and not even knowing where to start. My brain and heart are so full, but I lack the skill or the motivation to transcribe anything meaningful. Unless there’s a new sunscreen to review – then I’m in my element! It seems so shallow to expound upon the virtues (or lack of them) of a cream or lotion that protects my annoyingly delicate skin from the ravages of the sun, but that subject has inspired so many posts. On the other hand, when it comes to my innermost workings I regularly can’t get past the blinking cursor in a blank box. That doesn’t stop me from trying though! There are probably some writing exercises that could help me with that, but I feel like I already have enough going on in my life. Currently I am endeavoring to remove all unnecessary stressors from my routine. I am giving myself permission to allow anything that doesn’t absolutely have to get done to fall by the wayside. Life is too short for nonessentials, and happiness is more important than having all my chores done. I’m nearly 40 and finally figuring out my life!
Added on 5/26:
P.S. This is remarkably eloquent considering my Ambien was kicking in when I wrote it!
“So this is the foundation for my internet diary – searching for the truth and seeing what else comes along on the way.”
5/19/99 webpage post
I’ve been thinking about self-care a lot lately and how it comes in many forms. I’ve written so much about beauty products in 2018 due to my retail therapy obsession (or rather my mental health coping technique), and the biggest benefit of those impulsive purchases is that they helped me pamper my skin when I needed comfort the most. My beauty routine has proven to be a very restorative ritual and I still employ it as my daily outward form of self-care. (And with all of the Buzzfeed articles I keep reading about promising new products I don’t expect to run out of retail therapy subjects anytime soon.) The other day I started a called “Blogging is my self-care” (to be shared soon) because of how much writing helps me feel whole. Not that I’m a particularly prolific writer, but I have been maintaining my online presence in one form or another for the last 19 years (my first post was May 19, 1999!) and the feeling of publishing a well-written post (at least by my own reckoning) fills me with a sense of pride. But on the outside I think it’s pretty obvious from a lot of my posts this year that taking care of my skin is also an important part of my self-care. It’s mostly motivated my vanity, specifically trying to keep the acne and wrinkles and sun damage at bay, but also the simple routine of doing something beneficial for my body brings me peace. Maintaining some semblance of youth as I approach my 40th birthday is a nice bonus too.
If you live in Los Angeles you’ll understand how important it is to moisturize regularly in our arid, desert climate. If I skip any of my face or body moisturizers for more than two days my skin gets very uncomfortable. Due to that fact I wanted to write a quick post about my newfound appreciation of a sunscreen that I’ve had in my medicine cabinet for years, but have sadly underutilized. But after spending time in very dry locales I appreciate my Olay Complete All Day Sensitive Skin Moisturizer with Broad Spectrum SPF 30 so much more. I’ll admit that it’s not good under makeup because it’s thicker and stickier than my everyday products, but it’s great for weekend sun protection. Two days in Las Vegas last month and my face was so dry that it hurt. Thankfully I was smart enough to pack this Olay sunscreen in my bag and it made all the difference. So even though I sometimes despair at how many different SPF products I have in my bathroom, I’m so glad that this one is still with me. And my skin is happy too!
P.S. My first ever blog post is also where I wrote about “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.” It premiered in May 1999 just like my blog!
Last Friday I did a sleep study at a clinic. My doctor ordered the sleep study after I told her about my extreme daytime exhaustion, even after sleeping 8-9 hours at night. And that was with the help of prescription sleeping pills that I got in January when I was feeling so wretched. The pills were an absolute lifesaver because they helped me fall asleep easily, but I was still inexplicably tired the next morning. Also, there was another, much harder to describe symptom that I had to take to three doctors before I felt like I was getting any recognition at all. Basically, for more than two years I’ve been experiencing muscle spasms that start as soon as I get drowsy and cause involuntary movements in my legs. Naturally the periodic twitching and jolting (about every 10 seconds) made getting to sleep nearly impossible, probably prevented me from getting much restful sleep, and made me want to crawl out of my skin. But even after describing this sensation to the best of my ability, all of the doctors I saw seemed to be at a loss. They offered little insight into my symptoms or thoughts regarding a diagnosis or treatment. I was slowly going crazy. One doctor did mention the possibility of Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD), something in the family Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), but presenting differently and more severely. Unfortunately after some routine blood work this doctor sent me a letter (yes, a physical letter – not an email or even a phone call in this day and age) to tell me that all of my levels were normal and I should be fine. Thanks for nothing. Fortunately the next doctor I saw referred me to the sleep study clinic (for my exhaustion, not my crazy legs, but I wasn’t going to complain) where I was hopeful that answers might be more forthcoming.
So last Friday, in a very crude hostel-like room, my body was loaded up with sensors and I was told to go to sleep so that the necessary data about my slumber, or lack of it, could be compiled. I don’t think I’ve ever been more uncomfortable than I was lying on my back (not my preferred sleeping position) on the barely adequate mattress in that facility. I had wires coming off my scalp, my face, my chest, and my legs. The woman I spoke with when I made the appointment painted a much rosier picture of the sleep study than what I experienced upon arrival. I wanted to be a good patient, but even taking my usual Ambien wasn’t enough to overcome the anxiety of being in a strange place and needing to sleep on command for the purpose of science. The insomnia was strong that night. But for better or for worse, staying awake longer than usual gave my legs an opportunity to perform their little dance and provide proof to my doctor that some part of my body isn’t functioning as it should. At first I was nervous that my symptoms wouldn’t present themselves while I was at the clinic, but that fear turned out to be unfounded. That was the only bright spot of the night. I was miserable for more than an hour after lights out due to the leg spasms and even the sleep technician came in to check on me because I was moving around so much – and not all of those movements were intentional. I finally did fall asleep after much tossing and turning, but it was only for a few hours before the technician was knocking on my door at 5:45 AM to get me ready to leave. Hopefully that short amount of sleep was enough to help my doctor draw some conclusions regarding a plan of action. Heck, even the technician told me that he observed that I have a pretty serious case of PLMD. Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but at least I’m going back to my doctor with some new information. I have an appointment to see her early next month to review the sleep study results, but I am almost certain that my next stop will be a neurologist’s office. In fact I’m so certain that I might try to make an appointment even before going back to my GP. Here’s hoping that it won’t be too much longer before I find a solution!
P.S. I did a quick search of my webpage to see if I’ve written about this topic before, but it seems that I haven’t. I find that hard to believe since I’ve been suffering with this medical condition for over two years now. We all have our inward and outward struggles, but we don’t always share them with the world. I’m going to try and be more transparent with from now on.
You’ve probably noticed that a lot of my purchases this year have been beauty products. This is what happens when you listen to an over-the-top self-care podcast, don’t budget your disposable income well enough, and are still searching for the “perfect” products (which might not actually exist). It’s a dangerous and expensive combination, especially when you’re not feeling great about yourself and retail therapy is a major source of comfort. And on a lighter note, if you’ve ever visited my blog before you are familiar with my ongoing search for the perfect sunscreen. At this point I have accepted that this could be a lifelong mission. So here’s my 19th sunscreen review that no one cares about but me!
It’s about time that I took the plunge into Korean skincare. As a general rule we don’t embrace paleness here in the United States, but other parts of the globe actually do! Thus the need for adequate daily sun protection – something that isn’t the easiest to find in our “you look better with a tan” culture. I should have made the switch to Korean brands years ago! I think the first time I learned about MISSHA Sun Milk was from a Buzzfeed article. (This is becoming a trend. I should stay away from Buzzfeed if I want to save money, but then I’d also miss out on some great products. It’s a mixed bag.) Then I heard a favorable review of it on the Forever35 podcast where I’ve gotten so many good recommendations. After doing a little research on my own I ordered a bottle of MISSHA All Around Safe Block Essence Sun Milk (SPF 50) on Amazon. This is the moisturizing variety (there are also matte and waterproof versions) which I definitely need because my skin is generally very dry due to the arid Los Angeles climate. So what’s the verdict? I love this stuff! It’s just fantastic. It’s my new daily moisturizer and sunscreen that I wear under my makeup. And the SPF 50 is a big step up from the Olay SPF 15 lotion I’ve been using for so many years. I can’t say it’s the best primer, but I’m making it work with some new moisturizing concealer as well (Benefit Cosmetics Boi-ing Hydrating Concealer). The combination of the concealer and the Sun Milk keeps my makeup from settling into the lines around my eyes – a plus for a woman who is almost forty years old. Bottom line: I finally found a winner. I am very happy I purchased this sunscreen and I have a feeling I’ll be using it for years to come.
After finishing yesterday’s post I finally found what I was looking for last night. Turns out I did indeed write a review of Star Wars Episode II after my initial viewing in May 2002, but I’ll spare you that tripe. However, as a comparison, here’s the portion of that post where 23 year-old me described our quest to see Episode II shortly after it happened. I may have gotten some of the details wrong in my retelling yesterday!
“As soon as my dad and I got to Las Vegas I started calling movie theaters to see which one had a digital projector. Since ‘Attack of the Clones’ was filmed entirely in digital format we wanted to see the movie the way George Lucas intended it to be viewed. The Orleans casino turned out to be the place to see digital Star Wars in Las Vegas. It was absolutely amazing. The difference between digital and film is akin to the difference between DVD and video. The clarity (i.e., the lack of lines and spots on the screen) made every detail of an expression or a costume noticeable. If a director really wants to draw a viewer into a movie then digital is the way to go. That, and having a great story to tell (i.e., Star Wars).”
5/23/02 webpage post