Monday, October 25, 2010

Leaving Prozac Nation

I've never been one for adventure sports and it's fair to say I'm more a lover than fighter.
Pushing my boundaries would involve extreme crochet, or drinking really hot tea,  rather than catapulting myself off the side of a mountain with nothing but a paper clip and  a hair net to secure my survival.

But I took an uncharacteristic leap of faith about a month ago, when I decided to come off my anti-depressants.
Depression is something I've been slowly coming to terms with, particularly over the last year when, with the support of medication, I've had enough mental strength to recognize it's place in my life.
I don't produce enough serotonin, so I sometimes need to take a pill to replace that, but there's no such thing as a free ride.  My depression lifted, but I was getting side-effects like tummy problems and excessive tiredness.

I've been going to the gym, like the doctor said (to release some happy hormones into my blood) and on a personal level my life is good so it seemed like as good a time as any to stop taking my meds.

The big gear shift for me has been to accept depression as part of who I am and to stop struggling with it.
But it took me 25 years of wasting energy wrestling with it, not to mention a few courses of prozac to make it Go Away for a while, for me to gain the experience and maturity to lose my fear of Depression.

That's not to say I'm going to spend my life weeping under the duvet.

It's just that now I recognise the signs, I know when to get professional help and I know there are people who  are there for me.

It hasn't been as difficult as I feared.
There has been a shaky few weeks where anxiety has prodded me into believing that the laundry must always absolutely and without exception  be up to date, and that hand marks on the walls would lead to an inevitable descent into Armageddon.  But  the only bad things about that are that I've had to go easy on the caffeine and that I have a really shiny house.

I've also finally learned something that any 3-year-old  could tell you...that you need to surround yourself with supportive friends.
I've been doing that in spades lately (you know who you are), and between that and busting my motherly butt at the torture chamber gym, the shadow of Depression has remained in the background.

So I'm still midair, with my eyes tightly shut, hopeful of a soft landing.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

40 is The New Black

I turned 40 last week, and have somberly honoured the occasion with some deep reflection about the direction of my life and my place in the universe.
I have arrived at some life-altering conclusions that are so profound that I have Deepak Chopra and the Dalai Lama quaking in their sandles.
I envisage a book deal, a Hollywood movie and the launch of a range of perfume, such is the significance of my idea.  (I may call the perfume hint of menopause or eau de oestrogen ... it's a work in progress).

OK, I've done none of that.  But I have been partying like it's 1999.

I have also decided that the term middle-aged is  superfluous to needs.

I can make qualified, executive decisions like these now that I am 40, without fear of argument or ridicule.

I have observed that people become a little scared of you when you lurch into your forties.
I think they expect you to be cranky, in an eccentric, mad-old-lady sort of way, and fear that you may set your twenty eight cats on them for suggesting that the 80's retro look is as hideous now as it was first time around, or for questioning your opinion that global warming is a direct result of jedward's over- reliance on hairspray.
Or basically for disagreeing you on any random matter.

It's great.

A few days ago, on a radio report, I heard a 56 year old man being described as middle-aged.
Despite being a little perplexed as to how they know he's not going to check out until he's 112, I was quite pleased at this description.
Working on this perfectly sound logic, and factoring in my decision  that I'm not ever going to die anyway, I will never need to apply the term middle-aged to myself.
So I have removed that term from my mental dictionary.

I am having the longest (and best) birthday in my unreliable memory.
My 10 year old daughter got the party started by giving me a fairy snow globe (I really like snow globes...another eccentricity I don't have to feel embarrassed about in my dotage) about a week early because she couldn't contain her excitement any longer.
She's really into the whole 40 thing, but I've noticed that she's started making me cups of tea and patting the back of my hand a lot.

Then my lovely husband took me for a rare weekend away to the Bettystown Court Hotel, where the staff, the accommodation and the food were top class.
I had two full, uninterrupted night's sleep which hasn't happened since our last trip away together three years ago (you can get your fiddles out and weep now).  
To feel that relaxed and rested was weird, but the kind of weird I could get used to.

But, seeing as though I am now a cranky old lady, I have two complaints to make.

Firstly, upon arrival there was a bottle of champagne on ice waiting for us.
There's nothing too heinous about that, but as we already had a few glasses of wine we were feeling a bit sleepy so we elected not to drink it immediately.
Think about this for a horrible moment.
Reminders that we are too old to rip open a bottle of booze and neck it down it before we can say "that was grand, now where's the bar?" are not appreciated.
In future, a champagne fairy should be discreetly hiding with the fizz and crystal until I am capable of drinking it.

Fairies feature heavily in this post, and my second complaint involves them too.
Bob's Dad and I went for a long walk along the beach after our breakfast, and found to my incredulous delight that the room had been cleaned in our absence by someone other than me.
Clearly, the cleaning fairies had been, but being the capricious lot they are, they vanished without a trace and foiled my cunning plan to zip them into my suitcase and take them home with me.
I am not pleased.

Last night I was taken out by three of my dearest pals and once again was plied with bubbles and showered with bling, and next weekend a group of autie parents will descend upon the unsuspecting Carlito's in Dunleer to celebrate myself and Taz exceeding the 40mph speed limit.

It's a tough gig, and I'm beginning to wonder if you can get the bends from having fizzy blood.

It'd be a hell of a way to check out, and would make a wonderfully dramatic finale to my Hollywood blockbuster.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sleep Matters

There are very few of us on Planet Autism who have escaped "Sleep Issues".

Those two little words could innocently trip off the tongue and be regarded as a minor annoyance to Those Not In The Know.

"Sleep Issues" sounds somehow benign and official , like something that could be efficiently handled with an application form and a rubber stamp.

We make wry jokes about needing intravenous caffeine infusions while our kids continue, unbelievably,  to ping off the walls after a full two hours sleep.
But there's nothing funny about having no recollection of driving your daughter to school, or about not sleeping in the same bed as your husband because you're up at 4am lip-synching to the Teletubbies.

Bob's sleeping patterns have "settled down" (meaning we haven't watched Fireman Sam by starlight for a few weeks) since school re-started, but he needs to lie beside me to go asleep.  As well as loving my company, he is calmed by deep pressure bear-hugs and brisk back massages.
Needless to say I often fall asleep beside him, devouring my precious time with Bob's Dad.  It's not unknown for days to slip by in which we don't have a single conversation.

You can see how the best of relationships could quickly crumble when it's inhabited by two snarling, sleep-deprived strangers.
It gets harder to makes jokes about it the longer it continues.

Now, before you helicopter a crack team of emergency marriage guidance counsellors to Co.Monaghan, Bob's Dad and I have learned to deal with this years ago.
I do the nights (when they happen) and, assuming Himself isn't working (he works three 12 hr shifts per week so there's a fair to middling chance that he'll be home), I get a free pass to stay in bed all day long.
Plus going out for coffee  as often as we can while the Little Dears are at school gives us a chance to have grown-up conversations (about important stuff like the economy and jedward).  They're simple things, but make a world of difference.

Here's the mad bit.
For the past month or so, as I've said,  Bob has been sleeping fine.
On the other hand, I've been hitting the hay at 10pm and going into a coma until the alarm goes off at 7.30am.  Then I have to drag myself into the land of the living, where I crawl around doing the bare minimum, counting the hours until I can dive into bed again.
I spend most of my day trying not to inhale half of my townland with one of my giant yawns.

I don't know if it's my increasingly un-tender age, the fact that I rarely drink anymore (and therefore have deeper sleep), or if I've gone into some type of brain spasm over the sudden abundance of sleep.
Maybe I'm part hedgehog and am responding to some primordial urge to hibernate.
It doesn't really matter.
It's really nice to give in to what my body is telling me it needs, and it's extra sweet that it's not craving wine or chocolate.
Just lots (and lots) of sleep.

Many autie parents have found that Melatonin helps their insomniac juniors to sleep, while others use weighted blankets to comfort stressed kids.
But lots of us just muddle through, and catch some blessed zzz's when they are flung our way.