Saturday, August 8, 2009

A new opportunity, a new challenge

Dear readers,

This week has presented me with a change in a once essential routine in my life: though I remain cautious, I'm also feeling optimistic about what might come next.

Since 2005, I've been on medication for obsessive compulsive tendencies. Though it may have been lifelong, my OCD began showing itself more obviously back in 2002, after my sister had a nervous breakdown, was hospitalized and then diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It was a nervewracking experience for me: at the time I had recently moved to DC, was living on my own and knew very few people, while she and my family were here in NY.

I entered therapy then and a lot of the talk was about feelings of insecurity about my identity and my future, and my family. Then in 2004, a college acquaintance of mine, Leah Deni, contracted a fatal staph infection, and despite weeks of prayer by me and many of her friends, she died within a few months.

Leah's death began a new worry for me about germs and the prospect of dying young. I worried about not accomplishing everything I wanted to, and became increasingly paranoid about food surfaces, handwashing, stove burners, unlocked doors, germs from poor people (at the time I was doing social work), and contracting STDs and AIDS.

In 2005, I finally accepted that medication could help me cope better, and I began taking Paxil. Over the years, it helped me let go of my worry, and surrender the need to be sure about things, to move forward by trusting my decisions and hoping for the best.

This worked for years, despite tough times economically and socially.

However, this year since getting my current part-time job and graduating from NYU, I began to find myself in a depression. I'm 30 years old, working part-time, living at home, and still often split over which of my passions is the one to go after. I know reporting is my biggest interest, for example, but I still can't figure out whether the arts or local reporting is a better fit.

This summer, I entered a dire obsessive thought process often thinking, "God, I want to kill myself," when leaving work. These thoughts kept on repeating, as often happens with OCD. So my psychiatrist switched me to a medication called Zoloft, a similar anti-anxiety drug but one with more anti-depressant force. Zoloft helped at first, but when I recently got a virus, I found all it did was make my heart beat faster while I remained tired and out of sorts.

And so last week when I got my antibiotic and meds for my infection, I got an odd piece of advice from my psychiatrist: stop taking the psych meds altogether for now. In his words, "Go back to NOTHING."

This is the first week since 2005 that I haven't taken a single psychiatric medication to maintain myself, and overall, I feel damn proud and happy. While I was ashamed at first of taking psychiatric medication, that eventually just became a wonder on my part as to if and when I might be able to no longer need them. The only answer that ever made sense to me came from my friend Katie who said it would probably be when things were "stable" enough in my life. That's certainly not the case now externally, but maybe it is the case for me internally.

So, I have an appointment with my psychiatrist this Thursday, and I'm planning to ask to remain off medication. This week has made me believe I'm ready to give it a try.

I ask for your prayers for that meeting. And meanwhile I give thanks to God, because this week has given me a new sense of inner confidence.

For some of us, psychiatric medication may always be a necessity, and there is no shame in that. However, if I am able to live my life without it, I am all the more grateful.

I'll let you know what happens, and in the meantime, I wish you all the best.

God bless,

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Back to me

Dear readers,

For a while now, this blog's been on hold for a few reasons. 1.I didn't feel I had anything to add about Christian thought. Lately my mind's been on a lot of other things.
I was planning to move to San Francisco for an internship with a television station called LinkTV, but I cancelled it after I budgeted and realized I wouldn't have enough money to support myself and there were too many variables for me to take the risk in a city where I hardly knew anyone.
Then there's prescriptions. Last month I grew increasingly depressed at my part-time job with Telenoticias USA. It's a desk job with a Spanish PR company, and though my boss is nice, I'm alone, there's little work, and I feel meaningless when there. It led me into a nasty depression, and my psychiatrist switched me to Zoloft, a pill which helps with anxiety but also is an anti-depressant.
With that, my continuing job search and my move back home to save cash, I haven't been thinking much about God. But I think I made an error in conceiving this blog as only being thoughts about him: lately I have been struggling for faith in myself and my future, and that struggle is as relevant as the search for God, as well as linked to it.
I have become increasingly cynical and hopeless about my future, and ambivalent about the best road to take when it comes to my career choices. Although I know journalism is still my favorite subject, I can no longer figure out whether it's entertainment journalism or social issues journalism that I should go after.
In the meantime, I have hardly gone to church at all. I've tried a new Episcopal church in the city called Calvary Episcopal which has drawn me in, but their services exhaust me, with long 20-minute sermons, long chanting and singing sessions, and an emphasis on personal devotion that's been draining. There, it seems that I found almost TOO much Jesus, where in other churches I'd been struggling to find enough.
I'm thinking about going back there this evening, and in the meantime, I have been considering moving into a Christian intentional community called Radical Living, in order to be closer to my faith and to live in community. Living with my parents in the suburbs is isolating and stressful for me, even though the scenery here in Westchester is lush compared to the Brooklyn streets.
I'm longing these days to feel close to God again, but lately when I feel most at peace, I find myself most at odds with my current environment. I find my parents' bickering painful, and my sister's on-the-go sass stresses me out.
The struggle for me is to remain hopeful as things stand, and to remember how blessed I truly am. Slowing down and accepting things as they are takes work, but that is exactly where God, my Lord and Savior, comes in. I do not need to do this work alone, and I ask not to have to. The book of Matthew reads, "Come to me all who are weary," and tonight I will come to Him and hope to begin to be renewed.
As the weeks go on, I will treat this as much as a journal of my struggles towards hope and faith as a place for thoughts on God. I welcome your feedback and would love to share your journey as well. Take care, and God bless.