Wherever You Go, There You Are

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Lately I’ve been thinking about Hawaii an awful lot.

Last November, our family scrimped and saved for months to take a sentimental trip to Kailua-Kona on the Big Island.  My mother-in-law died last spring, and we brought her ashes with us, for she loved living in Hawaii for many years.  My husband Craig knew she would have approved of his scattering her ashes in such a meaningful location.  We also thought our two little girls would benefit from an informal family ceremony in their grandmother’s honor.

So yes, this trip was a big deal for us to take –  we definitely knew how lucky we were to visit such an exotic place.  We stayed at Al’s Kona Coffee  Farm, a rental unit with a kitchen so we could make the majority of our meals and save money.  My husband knew the Kona area well from visiting his Mom when she lived there, and he planned our activities to be mostly free or low-cost.

We had scheduled the trip twice before, but Craig had to reschedule due to my hospitalizations for bipolar depression relapses.  Al was very understanding of my medical situation, and not only was he flexible in our rescheduling; he gave us a good deal.

Look at how spectacular Al’s Kona Coffee Farm is!

Al's

Lone tree - Halualoa copy

A month before our trip, my bipolar depression had finally lifted due to my trying an “old-school” medication.  I started taking the MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor) named  tranylcypromine or Parnate.  My pdoc added it to the lithium I was already taking, and within two days – kaboom.  My evil, hated, soul-sucking depression was gone.

I located two studies online conducted in the 1970’s that found MAOI’s combined with lithium had a greater effect together to lift bipolar depression than when used separately.  I also read a document that described MAOI’s as the “last-resort” medication for bipolar depression.  When I spotted that, I said “WTF?”   Why no psychiatrist had ever suggested the MAOI class to me before, since I was super-medication-resistant, remains a mystery to me.  There are food and beverage restrictions with MAOI’s, but they aren’t the end of the world, and the restrictions are totally worth it if the depression goes away.

Anyway, three days before we took off on our flight, my depression returned.  Words cannot express the level of disappointment and fear that descended upon me.  I’ll cut to the chase right now and let you know that three weeks later, after we returned from Hawaii, my doctor added Seroquel to the lithium and Parnate.  The depression went away and it has stayed away ever since.

But the entire time I was in Hawaii, my depression was unrelenting.  I contacted my psychiatrist and we upped my Parnate dosage, but it made me feel too wired and didn’t alleviate the depression, so I returned to the prior dosage.  While I was able to appreciate my little girls’ joy as they boogie boarded, and I took in the natural beauty of the Big Island as much as I could, I still felt like a zombie.

I’m attempting to fake being happy in the picture posted above.  Underneath the smile is utter hopelessness.  Despite the beaches with warm aquamarine water, the incredibly tasty Kona coffee, the fresh poke fish, the chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, the dolphins, and the sunsets, I felt beyond horrible.

The lesson I learned was that it didn’t matter if I was in Paradise if I didn’t have the right meds.  Some of you know that’s way easier said than done!

We could have cancelled our trip yet a third time, but  since we were so close to our departure date I didn’t have the heart to cancel.  Plus I was praying for a miracle to happen.  At least Craig and the girls had a great time.  He didn’t hold it against me that I was a less-than-ideal travel companion, and I am very grateful for that.

Someday I hope we get a “do-over”.

When Craig took his mother’s ashes out to a stunning reef on the bay by the Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, I was unable to join him.  I sat in the sand, motionless for the most part, unable to even read a book.  I am hoping that some day we’ll have the good fortune to return to that area and I can pay my respects properly.

While there I’d pick a few plumeria flowers, which are flowers that my mother-in-law adored.  I’d walk out on the reef and toss the blossoms in the water in honor of the woman who gave me the best husband I could ask for.   Then I’d walk down to the beach and swim a little, because when we went to Hawaii last year I was so down, I couldn’t even swim in the ocean.

I know that many people in our world could never afford a trip like the one I describe.  Recently I watched the documentary “Happy” that profiles different cultures with authentically happy people.  None of the “stars” of this film were wealthy, most of them lived on small incomes and some were what our society would consider extremely poor.  All of these people truly appreciated their day-to-day lives.  We could all learn from these individuals.  I may never get a chance to return to Hawaii, so I want to appreciate my “here & now” better.  (I don’t know about you, but it’s much easier for me to do this in the spring when it’s warm instead of freezing!)

I wish each of you the trip of a lifetime, wherever your dream place may be.  And I wish even more that your love and appreciation for your here and now grows significantly over time.  It would be awesome if each of us, especially those of us suffering with mood disorders, could not only appreciate the present, but experience some simple happiness every day.

I am sooo not there yet, but I’ll let you know when I’m making some headway.

Coffee time copyHilo Girls copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A heartfelt thanks & a writer’s retrospective

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For once, I’m not going to write a 1500 word-long post.  (I always tell myself that I’ll lower my word count when I sit down to write, but then I wind up writing super-long posts regardless.  I’m going to try a little harder today.  You’ll see!)

I want to thank each of you reading this post for giving your attention to my words, for your “likes”, and for your comments that I drink up like a top-shelf margarita.  (How I miss those…)

I digress.

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Over the past week I’ve received warm ‘n fuzzy compliments about my blog that have made me feel particularly grateful for having followers.  The fact that these comments have been submitted by mega-talented writers is the chocolate ganache icing on the chocolate cupcake! 😉

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Growing up, I felt like a mediocre person.  In the fourth grade I was tested and identified as “gifted and talented”, which sounded impressive, but once I was in the program I felt I was at the bottom of the G&T barrel.

When I applied to the University of California and a few other colleges, I had no idea what I wanted to do.  My SAT scores and grades were mid-level, and I worried that I wouldn’t get accepted into any decent school.  Luckily I made it into U.C. Santa Cruz, and I majored in English and American Literature.  Back then, I knew in my heart I was a writer, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to study the great writers with some exceptional professors throughout my four years of school.

When I was twenty-six, I sold my first magazine article “Shades of Gray” about depression, women and exercise to the  defunct magazine Fit.  As a subscriber, I loved its down-to-earth approach to fitness.  At that time, I worked as an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer/class instructor at a gym.  My shift was from 5:00 a.m. to noon, leaving my afternoons as the perfect window of time to write, although I was tired from getting up early and working a very physical job.

The Fit magazine publisher paid me $600 for my article, and I was so proud that I copied my paycheck and I tacked it on to the wall.  Writing that piece was a great experience in many ways.  I was highly motivated to track down different experts for interviews, such as Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison and Dr. Martha Manning, and secure quotes from them.

I became confident enough to query other publications with my article ideas, and I published pieces in a variety of local and regional magazines and newspapers.  Eventually I began working full-time for a non-profit educational organization with the State Parks, and I frequently wrote for their award-winning newsletter.

Five or six jobs, a marriage, two children, and a postpartum bipolar diagnosis later, here I am, still writing.  I won’t give up.

As the book I’m writing is very specialized, I get dejected about finding an audience for it, but my gut tells me to keep on.  (Oh my God…my brain is so weird – the Brady Bunch song “Keep On Movin” just started playing in my head just now!  If you want a blast from the past visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUyTZlJnRns)  Don’t hate me for that!

Blogging helps revitalize my brain and it inspires me with its unique give-and-take with readers.  Writing my book is different, of course.  As you can imagine (and as some of you book authors know firsthand) it can be a much lonelier endeavor than blogging.  For me, these two activities balance each other out nicely.  Every day I sit in front of the MacBook Pro, I am super-thankful I have the time and wherewithal to write.

Thanks once again, dear readers, for you inspire me. I wish each of you satisfying writing sessions, great coffee, 

and gratifying feedback!!!ImageImageImageha ha ha!