A Motivation Update

I sometimes find it interesting to look back at what I have posted here and see how things have changed. In September 2016, I posted Unmotivated = Overwhelmed and shared about how life was basically kicking my butt.

Things are much different now, partly because of the progress I have made with my medication and therapy, as I posted in My Journey with Psych Meds a few days ago.  Here are the things that were overwhelming me back then with an update on where I am now:

  • Adjusting to being married again – Joe & I have been married for 2 1/2 years now and have bought a house.  I have really settled in to the relationship and feel much more comfortable being myself around him.
  • Continuing existing friendships while being married – Of my three close friends, I still have two of them and those relationships are going very well.  I seem to have lost the other one, who stopped responding to my attempts to connect a few months ago.  I was really upset about it for a long time, but now I am moving on.
  • Getting used to a new church and trying to make connections there – We are now going to a life group connected with our church that meets every other Wednesday night.  There are two other couples in the group, and we have really bonded.  We are all friends on Facebook, and we have good conversations when we are together.  Currently we are reading the book The Purpose Driven Life together and discussing it.
  • Trying to participate in group conversations at lunchtime (can handle 1 person or maybe 2, but more than that gets tricky) – I work from home now so almost all my communication is through email or Skype IM.  I rarely have to talk to anyone at work, and then it is always one-on-one.  I still find group conversations difficult and mostly stay quiet during them, although I am comfortable speaking at the life group I mentioned.
  • Parenting an autistic 14-year old boy – Michael is 16 now and just about to finish 9th grade. We spent 8 months in Family Based Mental Health Services, and it was very helpful in dealing with his depression and anxiety (along with medication that took a while to figure out).  Now he is back in the regular services and sees a mobile therapist once a week.  I feel our relationship is a lot stronger – we talk more and play games together.  He is also more sociable – going to Smash Bros tournaments and having a friend over to play video games occasionally.

All in all, life is good. We are talking about getting a dog sometime in the next few months. Joe & I are going to Boston for a few days this summer, and next year we are planning a trip for the three of us to Illinois to see both my parents and possibly some other family. We have a few unexpected home repairs to deal with, but Joe is very handy and will probably be able to take care of them himself, which is a huge blessing.

So, how are you feeling these days – motivated or overwhelmed?

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My Journey with Psych Meds

I have a love/hate relationship with psych meds. I have been on and off anti-depressants for about 16 years, since Michael was 5 months old. I had struggled with mental health issues for years without getting any help, but after Michael was born I experienced severe postpartum depression and was barely functioning. I finally told my doctor what was going on and she prescribed my first anti-depressant.

After a few years on the medication, I found it wasn’t really working the way it had been. I was on Celexa and my emotions were so muted that I don’t think I would have reacted even if the house were on fire. At that point the doctor switched me to Wellbutrin. It worked great for a couple of years, giving me some energy and making me more connected with things again. But after a while, I found it was making me too agitated and had to stop it.

I tried other things but didn’t find one that worked and I ended up not taking anything for a while. I was in therapy by this point and even though I switched therapists a couple of times, it was helpful.

I eventually went back on an anti- depressant. When I went through the separation from my ex-husband, I was really struggling so the doctor increased my dosage a couple of times. Over the next few months, things got really weird. I was exhibiting strange behaviors and out of control moods. I finally told my psychiatrist everything that was going on and she realized that I had been experiencing hypomania, brought on by the increase in the anti-depressant.

She then diagnosed me with bipolar 2 and put me on a mood stabilizer. We tried several different ones, but I kept having lots of side effects such as being groggy. Finally we tried Risperdal and it worked great. I was still dealing with depression and anxiety so I also took Prozac for that. As long as I take the Risperdal, the Prozac doesn’t trigger any hypomania.

Things were stable for quite a while, but then I gradually stopped taking the Prozac. I was feeling disconnected and having trouble engaging with life and I thought things would be better without it. But instead I was miserable. I had to increase my counseling frequency and even that wasn’t really helping. Finally I started taking the Prozac again and now I feel great. I have decided to accept the feeling of being somewhat muted in order to avoid the depression and anxiety.

Things feel pretty stable right now and I’m hopeful that they will continue to be that way. I am down to one a month counseling and see the psychiatrist every three months, which is great for my budget as well. It’s easier to focus and be productive and I’m not sidetracked by constant worrying or preoccupation with my moods. All in all, taking the meds is the best way to go for me.

Have you ever tried psych meds? What has your experience been?

Adventures in Gaming

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Our Miniatures

A few months ago, my son Michael came to me with an idea – he wanted to learn how to play Dungeons & Dragons. Luckily, there is a weekly game held at a game store very close to our house, and I heard they were open to new players. So I took Michael over and the Dungeon Master (DM) helped him make a character (a dwarf cleric) and then walked him through the game play. He loved it!

After a couple of times, the DM convinced me to give it a try myself. I decided to be an elf wizard and it was actually a lot of fun. So I asked Joe if he was interested and he checked out the various races and classes on the website and decided to be a half-orc fighter.

Since then, we have been going every other Wednesday night to play D&D as a family. (We go to a life group connected to our church on the opposite weeks.)

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Bag of Dice

We recently started a new campaign with new characters and are really enjoying the adventure. We even had a dinosaur race last night!

We have gotten some dice, a player’s handbook, and even some miniature figurines to represent us in the game. I am also really enjoying learning how to create characters and cast spells. The trickiest part for me is remembering what to add to each of the different dice rolls. But the group we play with is very patient so it’s okay.

I am looking forward to continuing to play with this group in the future and seeing what adventures we encounter. I have also started watching a couple of ongoing games on YouTube and Twitch, which is a lot of fun and also helps me learn the rules. We still enjoy playing board and card games as a family and with friends, but the extra strategy and social interaction required in D&D adds a whole new level to the experience of game playing!

New York City Bus Trip

On Saturday, Joe & I took a bus trip from our church to New York City.  Since Sunday was our one year anniversary, we figured this would serve as a nice quick getaway to celebrate.

Our main event of the day was the Southern Welcome Tour in Central Park.  The bus dropped us off at Bryant Park, so we decided to walk the 19 blocks to where the tour would begin.  We had two very friendly and knowledgeable tour guides who took us around to several important park landmarks between 59th and 65th Streets.  They also gave a lot of history on how the park came to be.  The picture at the top of this post is of the Gapstow Bridge, which was part of our tour.  It is popular for weddings, and we did in fact see a bridal couple getting pictures taken there.

After the tour, we spent a bit of time climbing on the rock outcroppings and enjoying the views in the park.  Then we made our way back down to the theater district. (I told Joe that next time we should plan to see a show – I think that would be a lot of fun!)  It was 1 o’clock by this point so we went to get lunch.

homecarminesnew3We ate at Carmine’s, which is an Italian restaurant that was recommended by Joe’s sister.  Fun fact: Joe’s dad’s name is Carmine.  The food was amazing, although there was way too much of it for us to possibly eat.  They serve their dishes family style, with what they say is enough for 2-3 people.  I am convinced we could have fed 5-6 from the huge platter they brought us!  We had rigatoni with meatballs, and it was really wonderful.

After lunch, we decided just to wander around and do some shopping.  We went in a few stores, but ended up spending most of our time people watching.  There was an event that day in Bryant Park, so that was all cordoned off and we couldn’t hang out there, but we found some other places to sit and take everything in.

All in all, it was a very nice day.  We could have planned at least one more specific thing to do to fill more of the time, but it turned out okay anyway.  We also spent some time catching Pokemon, so that was fun too.  (My son doesn’t have a smartphone so he has a game on my phone and I try to catch some on weekends that he is away with his dad.)

For those of you who have been to NYC, what are your favorite places to visit?  We will probably go back again, so we are always looking for ideas.

Top Reads from August

In my previous book review post, I talked about my favorite reads from July.  So here now are my top fiction titles from August:

Last One Home by Debbie Macomber – This is a new novel from the author of the popular Blossom Street and Cedar Cove series.  Cassie Carter is back in the state of Washington, with her daughter, after leaving an abusive marriage.  Her parents are both gone now, but it looks like she might have a chance to reconnect with her two sisters, Karen and Nichole.  Engaging novel about starting over and second chances.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld – A well done remake of Pride and Prejudice by the author of Prep and American Wife, this novel is part of a series of Jane Austen tributes by various contemporary authors.  In this incarnation of the beloved classic, the Bennets are a (at least up til now) well-off family in Cincinnati, Ohio, and both Bingley and Darcy are doctors currently working and living there.  It has gotten mixed reviews on Amazon, but I enjoyed it.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald – A debut novel by a Swedish author, this was given to me by a friend when I was in the hospital back in March. I had started reading it then but gotten distracted and didn’t come back to it for a few months.  Once I did get back into it, I was hooked.  It’s the story of Sara Lindqvist, who has come from Sweden to Broken Wheel, Iowa, to visit a pen pal and fellow book lover.  When she arrives, the older woman has passed away, but Sara is invited to stay in her house for a while anyway.  To pass the time, she decides to use her late friend’s massive book collection to start a bookstore in the small town.  I really came to appreciate this lovely book about books and the people who love them.

To See the Moon Again by Jamie Langston Turner – Turner is one of my absolute favorite writers; even when I pare down my book collection, I never get rid of hers because I know I will want to read them again.  There is just something about the way she writes that mesmerizes me, although I find it hard to explain.  This novel is the story of Julia and Carmen, an aunt and her niece, and how they connect when Carmen comes to visit and stays for a few months.  The characters are richly drawn and their stories are complex and wonderful.  I highly recommend this and all of her books.

 

 

 

 

On Autism Acceptance

Even though I have been “aware” of autism since 2004, when my son was diagnosed, and even though I myself was diagnosed with Asperger’s in 2012, the idea of autism acceptance is still fairly new to me.

I have spent my whole life feeling like there was something wrong with me and wishing I could be fixed somehow so that I could fit in with other people without so much difficulty.  I have desperately wanted to understand all the little (and big) things that most people seem to just know without thinking about it.  And once I had learned some of those things – through extensive reading and close observation – I still struggled with applying them to my own life.

After I was diagnosed with Asperger’s, I spent time educating my boss on what it meant and advocating for things that would allow me to be more successful in doing my job while maintaining my sanity at the same time.  (Thankfully, she has been extremely understanding and accommodating.)

But underneath it all, even with all the awareness and advocacy, there is still a part of me that is always self-conscious and sometimes even ashamed of who I am.

So now I am learning what it means to accept myself for who I am and how to teach my son to do the same.  It’s a slow process but I am thankful for the many people I am meeting on Twitter and through blogs and websites to learn from.

Hopefully I will look back on this post someday and say that was the old me and that the new me is proud of who she is.

Top Reads from July

I have posted recently about some young adult titles as well as some detective novels that I have read, but by far my largest genre of books read is regular fiction.  I am not going to try to cover all the books I have read in the last couple of months; instead, I am just going to mention the top books from each month.

Here are my top reads from July:

Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova – Genova is a neuroscientist as well as an author and has written novels centering on Alzheimer’s, autism, and traumatic brain injury.  This story features main character Joe O’Brien, who is diagnosed with Huntington’s disease.  It follows him and his family as he progresses through the illness, especially focusing on the decision his four kids must make as to whether to get tested for the gene.  I have enjoyed all of her books, including this one, and would definitely recommend it.

Year of the Snake by Melissa Luznicky Garrett – This is a light romantic read from an author I have followed from her first book until now.  She writes both adult and young adult books and is a great storyteller.  In this novel, Amelia Harkins is a writer at a turning point in her career and, as it turns out, in her love life as well.  A great read from a solid writer!

Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon – I had thought the Mitford series was over, so was pleasantly surprised to come across this installment.  It covers the time leading up to Dooley and Lace’s wedding, as Dooley is also establishing his veterinary practice.  The story had a lot of the familiar characters from the series, along with a couple of new additions, and reading it felt like coming home.

The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig – This is the final book in the Pink Carnation series and provided a very satisfying ending to both the contemporary and historical stories.  This series focuses on graduate student Eloise Kelly, who has come from America to England to research the English spies of the Napoleonic era.  Each book flips back and forth between Eloise in the present day and the story her research is uncovering at that time.  Throughout the series, we have met a number of different spies, all with flower-related code names, and, in this final book, we see the pairing of the Moonflower (Jack Reid) and the Pink Carnation (Jane Wooliston).  This was a lot of fun, as all of the books have been, and I highly recommend the entire series.

In my next book review, I will share my top reads from August.  In the meantime, leave me a comment with your top suggestion(s) for me.

Thanks for stopping by!