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!
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.