How It All Began

At the beginning of 2017 I set some goals for myself. Pushing toward these goals has really shaped the way my year has gone. I’m finding that it’s really important to always have something to strive for. Even the smallest things can make a huge impact and keep me focused on positive change instead of negative behaviors.

In previous goal-less years, I fell into the same old patterns:

-I worked at jobs that sapped my energy and drained my passion
-I made friends with people who were not good influences on me
-I was less active, eating worse, and having health issues
-I was smoking cigarettes, drinking excessively and having thoughts of suicide
-I was reckless and promiscuous

Basically, my point is that while all ya’ll been bitching about 2017, I’ve been growing exponentially. Setting goals was only the first step in a year-long journey of self-love and acceptance.

On October 27, 2016 I went for a 1 mile run. It took me over twelve minutes and I was so incredibly sore afterwards. Of those twelve minutes, I ran four and walked eight. Despite this performance that would normally discourage me, I got up the next morning and ran again.

Here’s the key to how I did it: I didn’t get up to run so that I would get fit or lose weight. I didn’t get up to run with a hidden agenda or any real reason. I went for 1 run, 1 morning in the dark of October and during that four minutes of increased heart rate, I was present. Instead of focusing on the pain in my lungs, I focused on the euphoric rush of blood to my brain. I focused on the clarity of my mind and the rush of my senses. I breathed deeply into the icy cold chill in my chest instead of letting it consume and discourage me.

Don’t get me wrong- it wasn’t all beautiful. My muscles ached, I choked for air when I slowed to a walk. My lungs, heart, and muscles were completely out of sync. My lungs were weak so I wasn’t delivering enough oxygen to my bloodstream which caused my brain to briefly starve of air. Desperate for oxygen, my circulatory systems powered down a little to give my brain more power. My muscles were unnecessary at that point. My legs grew so cold it was painful to touch them and I just couldn’t run anymore. I literally COULDN’T.

But I was so curious. During that four minutes of blissful synchronization, I felt as if I could run forever.

A little backstory may help: I was fresh (I mean, DAYS) out of an abusive relationship with a toxic alcoholic. This first run must have been aligned to happen exactly when it did, because those four minutes I felt like I was truly running away. Everything behind me and a blank slate before me, going on a run that cold morning in October was the best thing that happened to me all year. It started a journey towards my Personal Legend (Any fans ofย The Alchemistย out there?) that has led me all the way up to today and the creation of this blog. Crazy.

Over a year later, I’m sitting here analyzing what that run really means to me. It was the moment of greatest transformation for me. When I decided to get up and go for another run, I was really starting to get better from all those “illnesses” I’d been “medicated” for in my late teens and early twenties. I just didn’t know it yet.

I know that seems like a big jump to say that going for a lousy 1 mile run around a well-paved, well-lit upper middle class suburban neighborhood at a leisurely pace of 12 minutes and 13 seconds had has any dramatic effect in my life.

But if you need proof that the universe provides signs, that intuition is real and powerful, and there is a greater force in everything, take a look at where I went running…

California Wildfires
This is after it burned down this year, of course
Image-1
Here’s the map of my run from my iPhone

 

coffeybefore3
Here’s what it looked like before the fire

I did a lot this year. I set lots of goals. Let me stress how important it is that: I DIDN’T ACCOMPLISH THEM ALL. And that’s okay, because if I shoot for the moon, I’ll land among the stars. First I had to break down my own self-limited beliefs.

In the beginning of the year, I started carrying around a notebook.

Every time I think of something I want to do, an idea I have, a positive affirmation or just a place to brainstorm I turn to this journal. I’m uploading some of my favorite pages for you in hopes that it may help you learn to love your progress as it taught me.


 

2017 has been like no other year and I am just so emotional about the amount of growth I’ve done, but I’m not done yet. I have some plans for 2018. As it grows nearer, I’ll fill you all in.

I’d like to take some time to recognize those of you who have reached out to me during my journey. I’ve received numerous messages on many different platforms, but especially on Instagram. Some of you I’ve met, others I haven’t. Some of you I see every week, while others I haven’t seen in years. Thank you all for your support, your kind words, your encouragement. I am so touched by your bravery to step forward and support another human in a world where we are taught to compete. Your messages inspire me to continue my journey and share what I learn.

“Your perception of me is a reflection of you”

So for all of you out there sending kind words and love my way, you are sending kind words and love to yourself as well. I am but a mirror. The good you see in me is the good you will learn to see in yourself.

Always with love
xoxo Dee

Brain Zaps Are No Joke Ya’ll

On November 5th 2017 I decided to withdrawal cold turkey from the only antidepressant that’s every “worked” for me. I had been taking 150 mg daily of Sertraline (the generic for Zoloft for those who don’t know) for about 3 years with little to no noticeable negative side effects. Things seemed to be fine until I visited my psychiatrist earlier this year.

It’s been a few years since I’ve seen a talk therapist or had a doctor that did anything besides prescribe me pills for my DSM-V diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety. I feel a bit like a christmas cookie from a cutter that lost its shape in the oven.

Anyway, I was getting ready to move out of state and I wanted to make sure I’d have enough medication to last me for a little while so I scheduled an appointment with my doctor. My doctor is a tall, thin, foreign woman, but incredibly warm in the face. I sat down in her little office and she asked me all the usual questions. “How have you been? What are you doing for work? Where are you living? How are your symptoms?” I rattled off the usual answers out of habit.

As I was getting ready to leave, a question of my own popped into my head and I blurted it out without overthinking in my usual manner. I looked up at my doctor and asked: When will I know I’m ready to come off the drugs?

The question came so quickly that I didn’t have any time to overthink how she may answer me or what reaction she would have – a coping mechanism I developed over the years so that I was never too surprised by extreme emotions or confrontation. She looked straight at me with the warmest expression and said “You’ll just know when it’s right to wean yourself off the medication.” That little bit of encouragement was enough to plant a seed in my head that would follow me around for the rest of the year.

In July I began weaning off slowly. I cut my dose by 1/3 over the period of a few weeks. After that, I cut my dose by another 1/3 for a week or so until I started getting increased anxiety attacks and decided I needed to move even slower. I went from 150 mg to 100 mg, briefly to 50 mg and then back up to 75 mg for the remainder of the summer. I started to doubt my ability to tell the difference between what my normal brain was doing and what the medication was doing to influence my brain.

By summer’s end I hit a low that brought me back to my comfortable “normal” dose of 150 mg daily. I was discouraged.

I started doing research on quitting cold turkey and what the possible side effects would be if I went that route. I found a few real live people who had documented their experiences on youtube and it reminded me that I wasn’t the first person to want to do this the “wrong” way.

The list of withdrawal side effects were long and scary-sounding.

Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome:
Anxiety
Insomnia
Vivid Dreaming
Headaches
Dizziness
Tiredness
Irritability
Flu-like Symptoms
Nausea
Electric Shock Sensations
Returning Depression
(source: mayoclinic.org)

With all of this in mind and every professional and non-professional advising me to wean slowly (assuring me it was safer) I just didn’t feel like I was getting the results I wanted. Every day when I took my medication, I wondered what would happen if I just stopped. Would I go cuckoo bananas bonkers? I survived without it for all those years. I just couldn’t imagine that coming off of it would ruin my life. Something inside me just kept telling me I ought to try it cold turkey. The worst thing that could happen is I would have to go back on them again. But how would I know if I didn’t try?

Week 1 was a little tough, but could have been worse. I experienced night sweats, waking up drenched in cold sweat every morning. My sleep was pretty broken, but tolerable. I got a gnarly cold that week – cough, congestion, sinus pressure, the whole nine yards!

Week 2 brought with it so much dizziness, vertigo, nausea, and brain zaps. Brain zaps really are no flippin’ joke. I read about them trying to get an idea of how they would feel. All the other symptoms could be imagined, but brain zaps were something I’d never felt before. They are described as electric-shock-like experiences in the brain accompanied by dizziness, tremors, vertigo and imbalance. The only way I can describe one is like getting hit right in the middle of my forehead with a metal bat and having a shock-wave ripple through my head repeatedly. They came on quickly and completely out of the blue. They usually only lasted a few minutes at a time, but completely drained me of my energy for a few hours. It was much like the energy drain accompanied by a panic attack. Nap time!

Week 3 is when things started getting better. I experienced irritability along with a lower tolerance for visual and auditory stimuli. Going into stores and being around crowds became increasingly overwhelming and sometimes frustrating. I also started getting headaches again. Even with all these symptoms, it was clear that my mood was improving. I was smiling more, crying more, laughing more and overall just feeling my emotions with love and depth that I had not experienced in years.

It’s now been 21 days since my last dose of Sertraline. Yesterday I even went for a run and didn’t get dizzy! I’m noticing new things about my mind and body that I didn’t realize before and learning to listen to my body more than anything else. My gut, my heart, my brain- it feels as if these three important parts have begun to realign to help me guide my life based on what is truly best for me.

I am so glad I finally found a doctor who told me that I was the only person who would know what was right for me. And lo and behold, here I am- moving forward, growing into my own skin, opening my eyes and heart and loving myself completely, flaws and all. I’m so happy I decided to stop medicating. It felt like all the medication did was help me run from the things I wasn’t ready to face yet. It served a purpose, but it feels phenomenal to let go of something so powerfully controlling in my life.

Always with love- xoxo Dee