Posted in Mental Health, Recovery

On Vapors, and Vapers

who vs whomLast week CBS This Morning hosted a lexicographer from the Merriam-Webster dictionary, talking about the malleability of language and the ongoing task of incorporating new words into the dictionary. Although prescriptive grammarians (unlike descriptive ones) would have you believe that our language and its rules are static, nothing could be further from the truth. (Sure, I know when I’m supposed to say “whom”—and I sometimes even do it—but these days those rules are largely at odds with actual usage.)

Speaking to new words that have been recently incorporated, the Merriam-Webster editor gave examples like “photobomb” and “binge-watch.”  By this point, “selfie” has been in the dictionary so long it’s old news. I’m fascinated by the cultural commentary afforded by new words…  The one I’m interested in today has only been in the dictionary for a couple years, and won Oxford’s “word of the year” honor in 2014:

vape definition Oxford word of the year

The Merriam-Webster definition adds to the verb definition of vape: “like someone smoking a conventional cigarette.” That definition might already be outdated. Most of today’s vapes have so little in common with cigarettes that they’re not even getting called e-cigs anymore. Early models did look like cigarettes, but these days they range from boxy models to flashy pens—virtually no resemblance to the nasty originals.

Yup, I just called cigarettes nasty. I actually thought so even for the eight-or-so years that I was obsessively smoking them. And there you have the strange face of addiction. Cigarettes are nasty—but I liked them. They were my friends, They were a treat, every time I lit up, even though I hated the lingering ashtray-odor that clung to me afterward. Continue reading “On Vapors, and Vapers”

Posted in Mental Health

Sea Legs & Side Effects

imageYesterday morning I walked through a rainstorm to the gym we just joined—a Planet Fitness decorated in garish purple-and-mustard, and plastered with heartening signs proclaiming it a “No-Judgement Zone.” I owned a StairMaster in my twenties, but my forties-self clearly needs some shaping-up because that thing was kicking my butt after six minutes. So I thought I’d try out a treadmill.

My discovery about the treadmill: it gives you an odd form of “sea legs”… When I got off it half an hour later, I felt like I was weirdly gliding across the gym. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I don’t glide. I’m not that graceful. But I felt glidey till I was halfway home.

I’m on a mission. I already said it: I need some shaping up. I’ve been big-time frowning at the bathroom scale lately, because the dang thing insists I’m heavier than I’ve ever been, pregnancies included. Continue reading “Sea Legs & Side Effects”

Posted in Recovery

What Paper Plates are For

There’s a TV ad for an antidepressant that features a paper plate on a popsicle-stick handle with a smiley face sketched on it… Various people are holding it up in front of their faces, which (behind the paper-plate-smiles) are unhappy, disengaged, or entirely expressionless.

rexulti-put-on-a-brave-face-large-2
from the Rexulti “brave face” ad…

That ad speaks not only to the experience of Depression, but also to an odd aspect of our culture. It’s somehow unacceptable to show anything other than the smiley-face, isn’t it?

In that ad, the people only tuck the paper-plate facade into pockets or purses after they have their own smiles back in place.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I also notice that all of these people keep their paper-plate smiles close at hand. One tucks the stick-handle into her pocket, another into the strings of his apron while he barbecues, others tuck them into outer pockets of handbag and briefcase. One of them fingers the plate as she walks away, not unlike a smoker patting a pocket to assure herself of the presence of her cigarette pack.

In addition to its inferred promise that it will put my own smile back, this ad tells me that no matter what’s going on, I’d better face forward with a smile of some kind.

Our false smiles (whether or not they’re sketched on paper plates) are like security blankets—we don’t dare show ourselves without them. Why is that? Why are we so conditioned not to let stress or worry show, not to answer the question “How are you?” with anything but a variation of “Fine“?

I’m wondering what we fear about letting our faces be real. Continue reading “What Paper Plates are For”

Posted in Recovery

Taking Out the Trash

housework no one notices when you do itThis week I volunteered to help out a church acquaintance with some cleaning and reorganizing of her house. She’s a single mom with numerous health problems and two active young boys, and she babysits an infant who’s now mobile enough to require baby-proofing of the house—and she was finding the project overwhelming. I won’t lie: I found the project overwhelming when I got there.

I tackled the kitchen the first day, removing bags of trash and recycling, stowing in her pantry the still-bagged groceries that took up the entire kitchen floor, running loads through the dishwasher and tackling the stacks of unwashed pans and pots.

It crossed my mind that this kind of clean-up is only truly useful if it’s accompanied by some changes-in-habit to prevent the same from happening all over again… And that thought brought me right back to my own messes—more internal in nature, but just as daunting. A tidy kitchen-cupboard is not necessarily the mark of a put-together person!

kitchen cupboard cabinet
my RV kitchen cupboards are far tidier than my mind!

I had a session with my counselors that same afternoon, told them about my day, and made the observation that even if I take out my own “mental trash” through counseling, I have to change the way I handle the trash, going forward, if I’m truly going to benefit from the clean-up.

It’s a timely analogy, because I’ve been writing an A.A. “Fourth Step,” which is essentially an inventory of all the garbage I’ve created in my life. A lot of folks “go out” on the Fourth Step.  We call it the “A.A. Waltz:” Steps ONE-two-three & OUT-the-door! It’s a tough thing to look at your own faults honestly and objectively…

The Step begins fairly easily, by listing people against whom you have resentments, and enumerating what you resent and how it has affected you. Oh yeah, we can all happily write about how other people have messed us up, right? The tough part comes with the oft-dreaded “fourth column,” where it’s time to look at your own part in each of those messes. What have I done to contribute to each situation, what wrongs have I committed, how have I harmed other people? It’s heavy. No, it’s excruciating. This is the stuff I don’t want to think about myself, let alone admit to someone else.

cleanBut that’s exactly what comes next. Step Five: We admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. The whole list. Even (especially!) the stuff we least want to cop to. Continue reading “Taking Out the Trash”

Posted in Mental Health

How to Save Hundreds on Prescriptions (I don’t care if I sound like a bad TV ad… everyone should know about this!)

prescription pills RxWe’re kind of conditioned to believe that something “too good” can’t actually be true…  So when I happen on something TRUE that’s awesome…  Well, I just have to share it!

I know I’m not alone in relying on some prescriptions that are critical to my health (mental and otherwise), and I know I’m not alone in having some really expensive drugs in that line-up, and I know I’m not alone in having insufficient insurance to ease that burden… So I know I won’t be alone in my excitement at finding an actual, viable, lower-cost payment alternative! (And before I go further: no, I’m not getting paid by anyone to share this. I just couldn’t believe that I didn’t know about it till now, and I feel like everyone should!)

Jon and I just got new health insurance, and (glitch glitch) even though we met all the deadlines for coverage to start January 1, it mysteriously didn’t kick in until February 1. That was a nasty surprise when I was standing at the pharmacy on Jan 20 for a refill of my most important insanity-fixer, and a price tag of $665 (for the generic)! Now, we’re good with our budget—but that wasn’t IN the budget.  I ended up going ten days without my meds (Jon watching intently for any sign that I might be going off the deep end) and showed up again, first thing on February 1, to find that even with insurance, we’d still owe $250. Ouch. More manageable for sure, but that’s still a real dent in our monthly budget, and that’s just one of my too-many meds.

crazy2
…and THAT’s why Jon likes to keep my meds filled!

So I retreated to consider options. I could fill the scrip and we’d adjust our budget; or I could ask for a partial fill to tide me over till I see my psych-doc next week, and ask if there’s an alternative that might be as effective but less expensive; or I could just wait another 7 days without the meds and then ask… Jon made the decision for me: he wasn’t going to have me go any longer without meds. Before heading back to the pharmacy, though, we thought we’d look for any online coupons that might apply… and Jon stumbled onto BlinkHealth.com.

I’m betting your reaction will match ours: this thing has got to be in the “too-good-to-be-true” category. Download the app, find your medication, pay (a LOT less) for it through the app, then show your phone at your pharmacy and walk away with your meds. The prescription we’d been discussing was listed at $91. Yeah, right. How the heck could that work?—sounds like a scam!

But… I did my research. And felt my excitement rising as I came across news articles (not ads!) about Blink Health on the New York Times, CBS, Huffington Post, CNBC… This thing looked like it might actually be for real. Continue reading “How to Save Hundreds on Prescriptions (I don’t care if I sound like a bad TV ad… everyone should know about this!)”

Posted in Recovery, writing

Exorcism by Ink

I’ve exorcised a number of demons through the use of ink. No surprise for a writer. But this week exorcism-by-ink took a different twist.

A couple years ago I foolishly married a person who turned out to be a liar and a cheat (and also already-married!) and unfortunately I had already let him scrawl his name across my arm with a  tattoo gun before I figured all that out. That’s right, I let him sign me. (I’m sure there’s a whole psychology-chapter in that.) The annulment erased his name from my ID and social security card, but didn’t erase it from my arm.

imageSo… I just got some new ink. His signature has been obliterated by a lava flow, which pretty perfectly mirrors how I feel about this.

That signature was a demon-claw still snagged in my skin. Today I feel…  unsnagged.  I loosed the demon’s hold with an application of ink.

And now… I’m turning to the more difficult application of ink, writing a “Step Four” I’ve been putting off, which should be the final step of loosing that particular demon’s hold. The fact that I’ve been putting it off is proof that I haven’t finished the exorcism yet.

Posted in Mental Health, Recovery, writing

Changing My Story

T-Rex tape
What does it take to change your story? SMART goals, and maybe T-rex tape.

Sometimes the really simple stuff is the hardest to get my hard head around… How is it, for example, that I can have a goal and know what it is and face no real impediments—yet it doesn’t materialize? When there’s not some external obstacle, why don’t I get that goal accomplished?

Well, it all comes down to ME, doesn’t it? But knowing that doesn’t magically move my goals to the “achieved” column—I still need to take action or make changes.

I was in a group therapy session last night where we were talking about changes. In this Season of Resolutions, it’s an apt topic. I tend to avoid “resolutions” with almost superstitious fervor, and even the list I made the other day was composed quickly and carelessly, comprised of things I’d already intended to be doing…

What’s on the horizon for 2017? I’m going to learn fly-fishing and rapelling, courtesy of my husband. I’m going to read a lot (as always). I’m going to keep writing, now that I’ve started again. I’m going to do some scuba diving in Idaho lakes. I’m going to enjoy hundreds of miles more on the motorcycle. I’m going to pray, and live Sober. I’m going to get new tattoos. I’m going to grin a lot.

Those hardly count as resolutions, do they? Resolutions are supposed to be game-changers, not stuff I already planned and am sure of crossing off.  I don’t “do” resolutions… And yet, here I am thinking of the fresh calendar, the fresh journal I just started, the fresh opportunity to say, “THIS year I”…)

It IS seductive, thinking of a fresh start at things. Continue reading “Changing My Story”