A Serotonin Deficiency Is Not A Character Flaw, Repeat As Needed

This month has not been an easy one, friends.

I’ve had an ongoing battle with depression that is a direct result of a hormone based mood disorder called PMDD.

I hate typing all that out any time I do share this because it sounds so clinical when the struggle is in fact very personal. The condition itself on the other hand is a fact I’ve come to terms with. My name is Rebecca, I’m 28, I have brown hair, brown eyes, and I’ve managed my PMDD symptoms for 15 years. If you’ve been following for a minute, you’ve seen me reference it before (and I’ll likely do so again).

Depression, in the general sense that I experience it, is the term I use to describe my brain’s serotonin-deprived slog through the day-to-day. It doesn’t make my life qualitatively worse (unless you count the insomnia and the days blurring into weeks), but shades it with a coat of pessimism and disinterest.

I’ve spent my 20s consciously rejecting the cool detached nihilism adopted by many of my peers.

When my PMDD symptoms border on unmanageable, that work is undone. My anxiety spikes, my thinking bends towards the worst, and I lose my patience for socializing which in turn further isolates me. At best, I just kind of want to disappear into inconsequential celebrity gossip while scrolling my phone and call it a day. At worst, I want to disappear altogether.

Growing up, my parents (like many immigrant parents) didn’t have the language to address subjects like depression or anxiety. They were overwhelmed by the panic attacks that plagued my teenage years and unequipped to provide the unencumbered adolescent youth they thought food, shelter, and wifi alone should’ve guaranteed.

Over a decade later, I’m a grown woman that has been married to the love of her life for all of 59 days and I’m awake at 6am reflecting in wonder at the same challenge my parents faced.

How could I possibly be depressed when I am safe in a first-world country eating cubed cheddar cheese with at least three throw blankets in my line of sight and a cupboard full of snacks should this cheddar run out?

It’s easy to joke about it now I guess, but even after all these years and the progress cultural dialogue has made on the subject of mental health, I still internalized the idea that depression is not a privilege when I am so privileged.

Just shake it off.

The source of all the trouble I’ve experienced this month is I stopped taking my antidepressants in early December due to a gap in health insurance. Once my prescription was refilled, I didn’t want to become beholden to SSRIs again.

What if a zombie apocalypse occurred and Lexapro just wasn’t a thing I could pick up with my conditioner at CVS anymore? What if I have another gap in my health insurance? Would I just have to white-knuckle it again, hope for the best and start the cycle over as I’m doing now?

And I have been white-knuckling it.

I sat on my prescription for weeks because I believed if I could just tolerate living without antidepressants, I would somehow be more equipped for my own life and longevity than if I were to take them.

Last week, this fallacy bubbled up to the surface when I had a few shaky experiences that left me feeling embarrassed and juvenile, demanding I come to terms with varying degrees of my own selfishness. I was met with a self-loathing of the searing sort. You know—the kind of angst that threatens to tear a portal into the world of Stranger Things proportions, demonstrating you were from the upside down all along.

In turn, R has been challenging me to have grace towards myself this month, this year. And, as I’m discovering in new ways every day, it is a challenge. He sees how ruthlessly I drive myself and demand a place in the world, sometimes at the expense of my own health. This is the same man that had to convince me not to get on a flight to Israel that would have required me to travel in return to Las Vegas the very same week while I was packing to leave with the worst sinus infection of my life. I was determined to make it to both work trips, my health or that of other passengers be damned. (See? Selfish.) I finally ended up listening to him and canceled the trip to Israel to get some rest, later heading directly to Vegas on the legs of some much-needed recuperation.

I let him into the wild expanse of my tumult once again when I called him from the CVS parking lot last week, tears streaming down my face staining the tie-dye hoodie I had purchased the night before. The bleary mascara streaks on my pastel sleeves almost would have been comical if I hadn’t felt so exceptionally tragic. He told me to give myself a break for a second and I listened. I began taking my prescription again that night.

Three days after, I had dinner with R’s brother and sister-in-law and I was struck by how easily I laughed, sinking into an ease towards myself and my place in this small world at the dinner table. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized I had been sacrificing this simple peace at the altar of self-sufficiency.

How easily my joy returned that evening felt like running into an old friend in the most unlikely of places. One I missed.

5 Household Amazon Purchases You Won’t Regret Buying

This week I realized I don’t shop on Amazon very often.

When I looked at my order history to make a round-up for this post, I found little to work with beyond air filters and a some unremarkable make-up brushes. These days, I am trying to be more conscious about shopping locally and yet one area that I find it inevitable to shop on Amazon for is the household goods department due to the convenience, the endless reviews, and the accessibility.

Below are 5 household items I don’t regret buying.

iTouchless Stainless Steel 13.2 Gallon Trash Can

Time for one of my favorite stories from when R and I began dating: We were on our best behavior and trying to impress one another the first six months of our relationship. The one time I visited the house he had with roommates in Tallahassee during this time, he went on a multi-day cleaning spree.

Sometime during the weekend I spent at his house, he noticed I avoided throwing things away because it meant I had to touch trash can covered with grime that only a bachelor pad could know. The one thing he didn’t get to before I visited was buying a new one! He never forgot that I noticed. And I enjoyed teasing him about it because I saw how hard he had worked to clean up the place.

He recently bought a stainless steel trash can for our home to replace our old one because I found our former one (not the nightmare referenced above but a different one) ugly. He’s a romancer, alright. And bless him for living with someone who has A Lot Of Opinions about trash cans.

Nutri Fit Digital Food Scale with Removable Bowl

If you remember from my note about weightlifting here, I’m getting back to healthy portions in the area of both wine AND food. Turns out a bag of restaurant chips from Trader Joe’s is meant to be shared. Who knew. This battery-operated scale is easy to use, has no-frills (except the free vegetable peeler it comes with, I guess?), and does the job.

Industrial Pipe Clothing Garment Rack

I love our home but between the winter wardrobe I’m not willing to part with despite living in Florida, closet space comes at a premium. R suggested we get a clothing rack for the bedroom and I resisted for a while thinking it would look messy or discourage me from putting clothes away. The exact opposite has been true. I can access my clothes without any trouble and my day-to-day wardrobe has actually rotated onto the garment rack while the closets hold the wardrobes for travel, seasonal change, and special occasions. The rack also provides an industrial feel to our space which we weren’t looking for but I’ll take it.

Zinus Joseph Modern Studio 18-Inch Platforma Bed Frame

Continuing the industrial theme, we searched for a bed frame that would be affordable while permitting Riyah, our 45-pound husky, to fit comfortably underneath. We love this 18-inch platform bed frame from Zinus and it’s solved Riyah’s insistance to sleep in the bed with us because she has her own kingdom underneath. We’ve had it for 6 months without squeaks, stubbed toes, or complaints. We’ve resigned to the growing pile of dog toys underneath.

Ring Doorbell with HD Video and Motion-Activated Alerts

Finally, I think we’re the last people on our street to get a Ring doorbell since we’ve resisted the ascension to a surveillance state as much as possible. THAT SAID, we live in Downtown Orlando. Although our community is pretty safe, it’s still a metropolitan area and our street can be dark. We bought a Ring doorbell six months ago and within a week of it being installed, I lost my wallet at a local brewery just a mile away. The next day, someone that worked in the same plaza returned my wallet! Although we weren’t home, we were able to speak with them through Ring and they left it in the mailbox. What a world.

What Meghan and Harry Teach Us About The Royal And The Common

As you and the rest of the world know by now, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry broke the international news cycle by announcing a retreat from their senior royal status.

One of my least favorite phenomenons in the world is when a global event happens and everyone suddenly assigns themselves an expert on the subject. There have been so many bad takes surrounding this announcement from critics and supporters alike that I’m going to sit the discourse out entirely. I do not know enough about the monarchy because I keep falling asleep during season one of The Crown and anyway, my interest in the Duke and Duchess of Sussex is more as a romantic than a royal watcher.

Meghan and Harry Wedding

Over the last week, I’ve read a few compelling articles on the subject of Meghan and Harry’s decision. Although their experience is entirely singular, they’ve thrusted the world into the consideration of familial loyalty, duty, and how race compounds these components against the backdrop of a royal monarchy.

Afua Hirsch’s op-ed in the New York Times, Black Britons Know Why Meghan Markle Wants Out discussed Harry and Meghan’s decision as unsurprising to those acquainted with the double-standards Black Britons face in public society.

“In Britain’s rigid class society, there is still a deep correlation between privilege and race. The relatively few people of color — and even fewer if you count only those who have African heritage — who rise to prominent success and prosperity in Britain are often told we should be “grateful” or told to leave if we don’t like it here.”

I have followed Megan’s journey in the the House of Windsor only passively, but Hirsch’s article does a dutiful job outlining the racist scrutiny that has hounded Meghan in the British press, evoking the same mocking ghouls that chased Harry’s mother to her untimely death. In Heavenly Bodies, Hilary Mantel discusses the singular experience the women inducted into the monarchy must fold or steel against. Femininity is not to be individually possessed but occupied by The Crown, and subdued in any respect that it falls beyond this occupation.

Kate Middleton and Will

“Antoinette as a royal consort was a gliding, smiling disaster, much like Diana in another time and another country. But Kate Middleton, as she was, appeared to have been designed by a committee and built by craftsmen, with a perfect plastic smile and the spindles of her limbs hand-turned and gloss-varnished.”

Kate Middleton

“Kate seems to have been selected for her role of princess because she was irreproachable: as painfully thin as anyone could wish, without quirks, without oddities, without the risk of the emergence of character. She appears precision-made, machine-made, so different from Diana whose human awkwardness and emotional incontinence showed in her every gesture. Diana was capable of transforming herself from galumphing schoolgirl to ice queen, from wraith to Amazon. Kate seems capable of going from perfect bride to perfect mother, with no messy deviation.”

On the subject of Diana’s death,

“Her death still makes me shudder because although I know it was an accident, it wasn’t just an accident. It was fate showing her hand, fate with her twisted grin.

Diana visited the most feminine of cities to meet her end as a woman: to move on, from the City of Light to the place beyond black.

“She went into the underpass to be reborn, but reborn this time without a physical body: the airy subject of a hundred thousand photographs, a flicker at the corner of the eye, a sigh on the breeze.”

I was haunted by Mantel’s observations, particularly in how accurately she describes how a royal must abandon their personhood to fulfill the myopic identity regarded worthy of the Crown, or face hell otherwise. This same conflict is illuminated by Alyssa Rosenberg’s in a Washington Post op-ed, The Dark Side of Harry and Meghan’s Fairy-tale Escape.

“The House of Windsor is spectacularly privileged, but its members are also under tremendous pressure. Those of us on the outside might sigh over the decor and imagine what we might do with 20 million pounds a year (about $26 million). But I’m not sure most of us could name the actual salary we’d like to be paid for surrendering our personalities, performing an endless array of ceremonial but crushingly dull appearances, and doing it all while submitting to pantyhose (the female royals) and exhaustingly personal media criticism (both genders, but it’s worse for the women) every day.”

“A surface reading might present Harry’s desire to break away from the parts of royal life he finds stultifying as a victory his mother could have been proud of. But, as Tina Brown noted in The Diana Chronicles, Diana’s definition of victory was not always reliable. “She thought this deafening public scream would solve the matter once and for all,” Brown wrote of Diana’s decision to collaborate with Morton on a tell-all book. “It was her pattern, the belief that a single volcanic act could fix everything.”

I don’t know what to say all of this except that something in the feral side of my being understands the seductive nature of this idea that if we would only expose the wincing gnarled animal of our pain out into the streets then surely, we’d find some compassion in the masses, some modicum of comfort. Women like Diana and Meghan who have faced scrutiny and criticism the likes of which I will never know have learned otherwise.

I hope that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are able to find peace, as I hope that any other person might—royal or not. As I consider how common their experience of family dysfunction and disappointment is to the human experience, I am reminded of Rosenberg’s noteworthy conclusion:

The thing about riding off into the sunset is that, depending on the terms of your departure, it means leaving your once-beloved brother, father and grandmother behind. The folly would be in forgetting what kind of story this is, and refusing to see that another word for “drama” is “pain.”

Iconic: Princess Diana holidayed with Al Fayed's son Dodi on the boat, previously known as...

Making Resolutions That Don’t Suck

Yana Potter art

Happy new year, pals.

I wish I’d written this on the first. I was about to say the world feels so shiny then but on second thought, this is only in my imagination considering that I spent the day recovering from a cruel hangover on our sofa couch in the living room with R and two of our friends that crashed at after staying up until 3am playing video games with a soundtrack from the 90’s-early 2000’s featuring hits from faves like Fabolous and The Cardigans.

Not how I expected to spend the first few hours of 2020 but, you know—I wouldn’t change it.

We spent the following afternoon binging The Circle, a new reality show from Netflix. It’s essentially a social experiment straight out of a Black Mirror special and I fully expected to hate it but the production does a good job of humanizing the contestants and the experience they’re in. Overall, it’s a fun ride and we enjoyed it so much we were all shattered to find out we couldn’t keep watching after FOUR hours because new episodes are released in successive batches through the rest of the month. Ugh, quelle horreur.

This was our queue to peel ourselves off our respective couches and get our lives together.

I gave myself a pass until the third until I shook off the holiday vegetation. Since then, I’ve begun striving for my best self, that is if my best self is a compassionate queen that understands self-improvement is a lifelong journey that should be approached with grace, understanding, and consideration towards both achievements and limits.

And I’m really trying to grasp this limits thing.

I’m the type that will say “yes” to it all and later wonder why I’m over-committed, under-rested and cranky as all can be. While I was laying in bed the other night, I tried to sit with my own body and accept those limitations as a testament to own humanity instead of something to be resented.

All that said, I resolved to my resolutions that don’t suck this year. And by that, I mean don’t suck the life and joy out of my state of mind or well-being.

Resolution one: Be in the moment and not in a pithy coffee-mug saying kind of way but in a real sense of gratitude that allows moments to be whatever they may.

Recently, I looked over two years of photos I have saved on my hard drive. Memories from various bday parties, holidays, or weekends spent exploring with R. A common theme that stood out was how beautiful each of these moments stood on their own because they were spent among the people I love.

Yet so many of these times, I remember being stressed about being late, what to wear, wait – did I get a card, or whatever other tizzy of concern my mind conjured up. These worries seem so trivial in retrospect and I grieve they’ve ever kept me from just enjoying the privilege of being with my people.

In 2020, we’re saying no to worry and yes to the mystery of each moment.

Resolution two: Adopt a security mindset.

I didn’t expect to find a career as a consultant, writer, creative hybrid. It found me. And for all intents and purposes, it works. I’m fulfilled by the projects I have going and the right opportunities keep finding me as I plug away at my craft.

And yet (there it is again) when I’m between projects, I forget the thousands of times things have panned out the way they’re supposed to or how miraculously doors have opened at exactly the moment they’re supposed to.

Are you familiar with the enneagram test? It’s a personality test with a typology of nine interconnected personality types. I have a hard time putting a ton of weight into personality tests or their inconsequential cousins, er—astrology and Hogwarts House quizzes. But for the purpose of this discussion, I am a textbook Type 3 in the Enneagram model.

Type 3’s driving motivation factor is, “if I’m successful, I am worthy.” This is problematic. Clearly. The goal-posts are ever moving and no level of achievement or gold stars are enough. This might imply why my earning potential and productivity is an ongoing source of anxiety. It’s, quite frankly, an exhausting existence exasperated by our culture’s demand for performative perfection. You know that analogy, paddle like a duck while keeping things serene and cool above the water? That’s me, baby.

In 2020, I’d like to reorient my idea of security from one of performative perfection and achievement to an unmoved confidence in my place in the world, whether I produce another item of note or not. When I was going to bed last night, R slept next to me as some sleepy piano playlist played on the speaker next to our bed and I knew I needed nothing beyond that moment to feel secure in myself or my life.

I’d like to live in the reality of this knowledge with hands ever-open to the circumstances that shift around me.

Resolution three: Don’t give up.

There’s another lie I’ve been confronted with recently and it’s the idea that false starts are wasted. I’ve let myself believe that any prior intention towards healthy eating that has been abandoned too soon or fitness plan left unfinished were pointless. It’s just occurring to me now as a 28-year-old woman that these strings of attempts were strides of progress in and of themselves.

On the third, I decided to begin weightlifting again like I used to when I was a member of a CrossFit gym in NYC. The last time I picked up a barbell was 2015. Five years later, I remembered how to do a snatch, Romanian deadlift and other moves with much less weight than I used to, sure, but I took pride in the progress my body carried unforgotten.

The point is where I’ve been and how every inch I’ve made towards a more holistic existence may have been forgotten by me, but my body and my spirit remembered. The point is the journey and whether you will returning to the trail you’ve been assigned.

Whatever your resolutions are this year, hold fast to them as long as you can and give grace to yourself once you bend towards your own humanity again. Take comfort in knowing none of your efforts are wasted. And anyway, you can begin again.