In which I renew my commitment to the full experiment…

I realize the focus of my writing has widened beyond just the 99 day Facebook experiment. It now includes the journey of healing I’m beginning with my anxiety and depression. More on that in a minute.

I am two-thirds of the way through the experiment. If you were to look at my profile page on FB, the only posts that I have made were the two that I shared with close friends back when I went to the ER for my heart. All of the other activity is from me being tagged in photos or status updates by other users. To an outsider, it would appear as if I haven’t logged on in weeks… in reality, I have been silently reading the activity of my closest friends for every day of the past few weeks. In my mind, I have justified it because I have not been posting anything for myself, but if I am honest I realize that I have been cheating on the experiment. Facebook has continued to be a time-waster for me. It is interesting, though – I no longer think in status updates. At the beginning of the 99 days, I would have a thought cross my mind and immediately be tempted to type it out for my friends to see, but that urge has completely faded. In contrast, I’ve seen a couple of people’s activity over the past week or so that have caused me to think, “Wow, that person must be really lonely or have nothing to do, because she has posted 4-5 times per day every day this week.” Then I realize, that was me just a few short weeks ago. What in the world?? Why was I so desperate to be noticed? And now, as I fall back into my old habits of reading the site daily – what am I so worried that I’ll miss? I have read absolutely nothing that I couldn’t have learned from other sources. So today, I once again commit myself to staying away from the site.  I will reclaim the bits of time that I have spent peering into the carefully crafted windows of others’ lives.

I have been taking a daily anti-depressant for three weeks. I do feel that my mood is lightening. I don’t feel quite as sad, lonely, and hopeless as I have in times past. My medication dosage may need to be tweaked here and there, but I feel like we are on the right path.

Within the next week or so, I will be seeing my electrophysiologist to discuss the results of the thirty day event recorder that I wore to detect any lingering heart abnormalities. It will be interesting to see if it caught anything of note. Personally, I’m almost more excited to eat at the Caribbean restaurant near the doctor’s office than to find out my results. Maybe that is because this cardiac journey has been a very slow one and I’m used to living in uncertainty… but those arepas, plantains, and black beans sound so good!

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Day One on Zoloft

Starting today, I am taking an anti-depressant. I will ease up to a full dose over the next week and see my doctor in two weeks. At that point, we will reevaluate and decide if any adjustments are necessary.

People have told me I am brave to have been so forthcoming with my recent issues. I realize that there have been chemical abnormalities in my brain that cause me to feel weird. I know that I have a strong family history of serious mood disorders and that I am breaking the cycle of living in the dark pit.

I feel weak. I feel shame. I feel sorrow for causing pain to myself and my family.

I know that is the depression talking. The stigma of mental health issues. The voice of well-meaning but ignorant church people that say all I have to do is pray harder and have more faith so God will pull me up from the darkness and into the Joy.

One of my favorite authors, Glennon Doyle Melton, has encouraged me today. As she describes in this video, I’m choosing to Do the Next Right Thing, which for me right now is taking an extra pill every day. This is a defining moment for me and for my family, and I’m learning what it is to have Enough.

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Philippians 4:12-13, NIV

Trading in my telescope for a magnifying glass…

Time for an update:

I am taking my health quite seriously. A small, credit card-sized heart monitor has joined my daily fashion for a month, and any irregularities are transmitted via land line phone to my heart specialist. The guess is that I may need another surgery for arrhythmia, but we will know much more when/if the monitor catches anything. I have been feeling OK physically and my other cardiologist says he is optimistic. I’ve just begun walking in the mornings after my oldest gets on the school bus. My hope is that the exercise will strengthen my weakened heart muscle as well as boost my mood. Speaking of…

I have an appointment with my general practice doctor tomorrow. The meeting is specifically to discuss my depression and anxiety and attempt to form a plan for recovery. I have been wary of adding medications to my routine, as I jumped from two pills per day last year to now nine (all additions as a result of the discovery of my heart issues). But I have been learning that it is normal for heart patients to experience depression, and that it makes even more sense that I would struggle with it since I was prone to mood disorders before my problems arose last October.

As for the Facebook experiment, well, I am failing. Sorta. The parameters that I set for myself initially allowed contact with friends via Facebook Messenger, but I have found myself also reading my News Feed in the past few days. What jumped out at me was, “Wow, there is a LOT of crap here that I don’t care about or want to know at all.” Since I was already on the site, I edited my Friends List by unfollowing most people. The majority I chose to follow were friends that have made the effort to contact me over the past few weeks, friends that I would consider close, and friends whose posts inspire me or always make me laugh. In other words, I am choosing to invite positive, meaningful relationships into my daily life (when I officially return to FB, of course). I did not unfriend anyone. They will still be able to see my posts if or when I return to posting my own content, and I can look them up specifically if I want to get caught up with their lives. I also weeded out about half of the businesses that I had liked.

I have also decided to take a break from job hunting. The search has been fruitless for months, and I think it is a major contributor to my growing depression. Instead, I have been taking that energy and pouring it into the development of a realistic family budget, the drastic pruning of our expenses, and the discovery of new ways for us to save on necessary purchases. We withdrew a chunk of money from retirement and paid off a large amount of credit card debt. The rest has been transferred to cards with zero interest. In our efforts to save monthly, I was ready to cancel our Hulu Plus subscription… until someone told me about how to earn a free month of the subscription with Bing Rewards. I rid us of that expense, which makes our cord cutting feel like it is even more freeing. I found the app, Price Cruncher, which allows for grocery price comparison. One (long!) Saturday of shopping at seven different grocery stores was eye-opening, and shopping the weekly ads has become a new habit. I’ve also been baking more bread, hanging our laundry out to dry, and making homemade versions of peanut butter, Nutella, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, and shampoo. Our chickens should be ready to start laying eggs within a month or two, and that should give us a source of small income. Of course, we will also have an abundance of eggs for ourselves, so I have been collecting egg recipes to use for our hen berry harvest.

All of this shows me how important it was for me to walk away from social media for a while, at the precise time at which I did. My focus was waaaay too broad for my own good. I was spending excessive amounts of time trying to take in as many details of the online world as possible, while living in denial and ignoring my own needs. But in the last several weeks, I’ve walked away from the telescope and picked up a magnifying glass. I have chosen to focus on the small little corner of the real world in which I live. That world is messy and broken and ugly and breathtakingly beautiful. So now, I hug my loved ones and get my work gloves on, because there is some hard work to be done.