>Two bad nights in a row. That’s unusual. Most of the time one bad night will leave me tired enough to sleep the second. Not this time.

So far:
  • no naps
  • keeping busy outside (re-potted tomato seedlings)
  • half-caff coffee, none after noon
  • keeping busy inside (laundry, a necessary evil)
  • keeping mind busy – this is the toughest element in the list.
My brain has been linking memories and concerns with connections that just don’t make sense. Round and round, circular motion, or is it a spiral? If it’s a spiral, I wish it would spiral out of my mind and let me sleep.
Social networking is coming in handy. Online friends have recommended:
  • melatonin, in small doses
  • meditation
  • notebook next to the bed for writing concerns, even poems
  • Music: when I’m obsessing over regrets from the past, remember “Let it be.”
  • Music: “Morning has Broken” to ease me out of bed whether I’ve slept or not
One major decision: Do I call the doctor? And if so, the family doctor or the psychiatric NP with the several-month long waiting list? I’m not eager to start Ambien or any other sleep aid. I fear the addiction that I developed last time Ambien was part of my routine.
Well, dear readers, I’ll take any advice you have for me. If I could just shut off the part of my brain that keeps replaying regrets and mistakes and — that’s it, just and.

>Dear Clinic; Efficient? Nope.


Actual (almost) exchange by way of the messaging system at our local Clinic That Shall Not Be Named
Dear Family Doc’s Office;
You will receive (or may have already received) a request from (insert insurance company’s mail-order pharmacy here) to transfer four prescriptions to them from the local Pharmacy Who Shall Not be Named. Please keep Pharmacy on my list for short term medication needs.
Dear Daisy;
Refills of your medications have been sent to (insert new pharmacy here) this morning. You are due for a medication/asthma check appointment in April. If you mention the “wait list” the scheduler will know what to do.
LPN a.k.a. Refill Associate
Wait list? In my vocabulary, those are four letter words. Oh, wait, they ARE four letter words. But anyway, the saga continued —

Confused, because I usually take care of this kind of med check in the summer along with my annual check-up, I made the appointment anyway. After enduring a cold silence when I mentioned that my lack of flexibility was due to my job as a teacher, we managed to find an appointment during my Spring Break. I was to fast overnight, get blood work done, and then talk with the doctor. I wasn’t convinced, though. This was out of the ordinary.

Dear Messaging System at the Clinic That Shall Not be Named;
For the past several years I’ve combined my med checks with a physical in July or August. The message that I need a fasting medication check in April caught me by surprise.
Is the appointment really necessary?
Why the change in routine?

Oh, well, why bother asking,

Hi Daisy — all the Docs agreed on medication protocols/visits for certain chronic illnesses, which is usually every 6 months — each MD does have exceptions to the rule though.
I will route this by Family Doc for you, and we’ll be back in touch with his response.

RN in Family Doc’s Offices

Ooh – I actually got an answer from an RN this time. Maybe MD is next. Have I jumped through enough hoops yet to get to the top?

Hi, Daisy – Family Doc had the following comment:
Daisy can be seen for her annual visit in July or August and meds checked then.

Sincerely, RN in Family Doc’s Offices

All of this leaves me wondering once again: is this supposed to be efficient?

Writing is therapeutic. Email? Maybe.

Blogging is therapeutic. Email can be therapeutic as well – sometimes. Within reason. Occasionally. With very little editing, just enough to protect the innocent and not-so-much, here’s an example, courtesy of Chuck’s challenging day at work.

Me: Northern Wisconsin has 16 inches of snow. Madison and Milwaukee have sunshine.

Chuck: I’m being snowed under sorting out the incompetence from the non-functional.

Me: There must be a Dilbert-style quote or post in there somewhere.

Chuck: Department motto – Our perfection has to overcome their incompetence.

Me: I still like “Engineering: We put the fun in dysfunctional.”

Chuck: Now we’re applying soothing unction to the dysfunction.
Then we both got busy and went back to work.
On another topic: blogging has been therapeutic, too. A coworker asked how I keep up with everything. She was referring to the fact that I helped out in high school English for a few days, submitted a blog post and wrote a new profile for our national office’s PR department, while still somehow managing to do my own job and do it well, too. I stopped in my tracks. This is such a huge dramatic change. It’s a change back to normal, whatever that is.
One year ago, I was blogging my way through the worst depression of my life. This illness had me knocked out, incapable of working, and barely functioning. Thanks to many professionals and family and friends, I’m now back in the land of the working and the happy and the energetic. Wow, I thought, maybe this is what healthy feels like.
Then a dangerous thought crossed my mind. Would a collection of my posts be of interest to other people suffering the same way I did? Knowing I wasn’t alone was such a comforting feeling. Battling the depression demon was long and difficult, but possible. The long and winding road (uphill both ways, of course) can lead to health and success.
Well, readers, with a little revision to protect myself and others, could the Compostermom Chronicles become a journal of healing? Share your thoughts, readers, and I’ll start giving it some thought myself.

>Back in the Saddle Again

>It took a little more than I expected. Going back after break wasn’t as smooth as I thought it might be. Then I remembered.

I didn’t teach a full year last year. Coming back after break is a new skill – or one I need to remember from two years ago. I ran into unexpected responses as 2012 Back to School began.
My sleep routine was completely mixed up. I had trouble getting to sleep at night, staying asleep at night, and getting up in the morning. I tried a variety of solutions with a variety of results.
One night of Ambien. One night should be okay. My dependence on the drug developed after several months’ use, but one night – well, it wasn’t okay. I slept well that night, but the following night felt like withdrawal all over again. Deep sigh. I guess I can’t chance taking this again.
After a sleepless night filled with symptoms of withdrawal, I thought I’d be exhausted enough to collapse into dreamland. Not so. Around midnight I gave in and took six mg of melatonin. It helped me get to sleep; getting up in the morning was still difficult.
Melatonin may be my temporary solution. By taking it every night, on Friday I felt awake and energized. If this week’s sleep goes better, I can start walking to work again. The walk in itself will help me sleep at night, and the fresh air will help wake me in the morning. Look out, walking shoes, here I come!
Sleep is precious. After the past year’s experiences, I’ll never take sleep for granted again. Monday, here I come: hopefully with a full night’s deposit in the sleep bank.

>Dear World; you’re kidding, right?

>Dear Clinic That Shall Not be Named;

If the best advice you can offer is, “Talk to a person next time,” your system might be broken. Just sayin’.
Dear Pharmacy with Recorded Messages;
If the best advice you can offer is, “Talk to a person next time,” your system might be broken. Yeah. Uh-huh.
Dear Forrest;
Those boxes of designer chocolates often have a map inside the top cover. Look for it.
Dear Clinic That Shall Not be Named;
Your online messaging system has major glaring weaknesses. After its failure, I suffered through listening to a recorded message while on hold – a recorded message telling me how I could “take control of my own health care” by using the online messaging system. Ahem.
Dear Pharmacy Tech;
If your recorded message tells me I have no refills left, why would I call to see if my refill is ready?
Dear Clinic:
Do you really, honestly, truly have no way of recording a concern? No way to prevent this kind of mistake from recurring?
Dear Chuck;
Can we please order take-out for supper tonight? I have no brainpower or energy left.

>What a difference – a year makes


One year ago, it was the end of a year and the beginning of a long winter’s nap. Rest. Healing period. I took a leave of absence from my teaching job after the winter break to rest and seek treatment for the worst depression of my life. Now — well, I’ve come a long, long way.
In 2011:
I learned that it was possible to love my work, but hate my job.
I used my writing skill to procure grant money, buying books for struggling readers. No one at school seemed to care.
My physical and mental health were at the lowest I’ve ever experienced.
I struggled to get through Christmas, a holiday I usually love.
“My” Green Bay Packers had one more season game left. To make the playoffs as a wild card team, they had to beat their arch rivals (and division champions) Da Bears. They beat them – and more.
I was preparing to visit doctors, counselors, and the pharmacy often. Very often.
As 2012 begins:
I can say I love my work. I found a position that utilizes my teaching strengths and my interests in technology.
I use my writing skill for blogging, and I have a workable rough draft of a non-fiction book.
I also use my writing skill to communicate with parents of my students. This skill was useful last September when I recruited families to attend a field trip that had been poorly attended in the past. My coworkers were thrilled.

Both my physical and mental health have improved significantly. No, they’ve improved greatly. I’m not out of the woods yet, I haven’t reached full strength emotionally and physically, but I’m doing very, very well overall.
Christmas was as it should be – a time to gather with family and friends to enjoy the traditions that make the holiday special.
My Green Bay Packers clinched the division title weeks ago, a first round bye and home field advantage last week, and head into the playoffs with an impressive win-loss record. Did you notice that absence of quotation marks around the word my? Check it out here.
Doctors and other medical professionals? I value those who helped treat me through the toughest and darkest hours last year. I’m in their offices much less often now, and that’s a good feeling.
What a difference a year makes – in so many ways. I still have flashbacks, usually in the form of nightmares or insomnia. I still tire easily, or at least more easily that I feel I should. However, this happens much less often now than it did just twelve months ago. But thanks to family, friends, and medical professionals, the marathon that is recovery continues.
I won’t even bother to go into the political climate in the past year – yet. It’ll show up in another post or posts.

>When nothing is going right…the Worry Monster

>Heard on Twitter – “When nothing in life is going right, go left.”

I lean pretty far to the left as it is, so I find other ways to cope. The hardest part of coping with life in general is facing the Worry Monster.
The Worry Monster invades my thoughts when something unpredictable or uncontrollable is coming up, something I need to face but can’t really change. The Worry Monster enters through the side door, suggesting I worry about something coming up – a routine medical procedure, perhaps. As I’m consciously deciding not to worry about it, the Monster will suggest something else that deserves worry. By the time the Monster leaves, laughing its evil laugh, I’ve probably worried about a number of upcoming dates or vague future events.
I fight the Worry Monster by staying active. Politically, the Worry Monster thinks I should worry about all that’s going on in Madison. In place of worry, I choose concern. I write letters and emails. I blog. I volunteer with Organizing for America (OFA) by entering data after phone banks and canvass days. I make an occasional donation, but my main contribution is time.
I fought the Worry Monster before the frost came by working in the garden. Simple and mindless tasks such as weeding and watering provided think time. Think time isn’t worry; it’s work-things-through time. As long as I remembered the mosquito repellent, I could stay in the garden for hours, weeding, watering, and processing thoughts. The garden really does nourish the soul.
Now, when the garden lies sleeping the winter away under a blanket of leaves, I play in the kitchen. Cooking is work; baking is play. It’s productive, fun, and a great creative outlet. I’ve considered attempting sourdough bread; maybe it’s time to get serious and create a sourdough starter. Maybe – after the holiday cookies are done.
So take that, Worry Monster. If not much is going right in life, I just turn to the left and get busy.

>Signs of Recovery

>It might be a good sign that:

  • I’m looked on at work as “the one with a sense of humor.”
  • Being busy feels good.
  • Walking to work is enjoyable, and I miss it when I have to drive.
  • I’m smiling more often – and I notice.
  • I find myself providing moral support for others – but not neglecting my own needs.
“Signs of what?” you might ask. Well, readers, if you’re new to Compost Happens, you might not know that one year ago I was falling into the worst and deepest depression of my life. Looking back is both encouraging and frightening.
I’m frightened by the possibility that this may happen again. It’s not the first depression of my life, but it was by far the worst. I don’t want to experience this level of suffering ever, ever again.
I’m grateful for the good medical care available, even though I’m disappointed in the less-than-optimum treatment options. I feel lucky to have friends and family who gathered and rallied around me, refusing to let me slide any more deeply into the pit of despair. They set up a figurative rope ladder, tied me to it, and held fast.
I’m encouraged by my recovery. In this marathon, I feel like I’ve set up a good pace and I’m keeping to it. Setbacks still happen, but they’re minor in comparison. I’m encouraged by the list above. As the list of Good Signs of Recovery gets longer and longer, I’ll share with you, readers. Those who have suffered similar illness know there is a light at the end of this tunnel. Depression is treatable, and people do recover. I’m living that recovery right now.

>Oh, the Gatekeepers!

>Gatekeepers, also known as receptionists and schedulers, that is.

First, there was the gatekeeper at the ENT who thought she could decide who got to see the doc and who didn’t.
Then there was the gatekeeper who couldn’t correct a scheduling error and therefore put me back on a waiting list after six months of waiting already.
I could also mention the gatekeeper who tried to talk me out of even asking for a new doctor for Amigo. She sounded quite surprised when New Doc said yes, of course, he’d take Amigo as a new patient.
This time, the schedulers are not talking to the schedulers and the left gatekeeper doesn’t know what the right gatekeeper is doing.
I had a November appointment set up to review meds and check on my progress in recovering from the deepest and longest depression of my life. Recovery is going well: slow but steady, a marathon rather than a sprint.
Then I had to schedule a pre-op physical before the removal and replacement of my cataracts. Given that opportunity to touch base and review my health in general, Family Doc said I could cancel the November appointment. “That’s the day after Thanksgiving. Go shopping,” he teased. “The mob scene? No thanks. I’ll be shopping online,” I laughed.
So…the nurse came in, gave me my annual flu shot, and the logged onto the computer and pulled up the schedule. Lo and behold, my November appointment wasn’t even listed. We were both confused, but shrugged our shoulders and decided it was all for the best.
Two days later I got a letter in the mail from the Clinic That Shall Not Be Named. “Dear Daisy; we need to reschedule the following appointment(s):” followed by the information of the already cancelled November date. Huh??
This time, at least, the failure to communicate doesn’t interfere with my health care. It does, however, lower my level of trust in the Clinic That Shall Not Be Named. I still trust the medical professionals who’ve treated me; I’m just losing trust in the system in which they work. Oh, and the gatekeepers who guard the palace doors.

>One year ago…

>I was tired and weak from anemia (summer health troubles), but looking forward to the new school year. I did not walk to our opening meeting; I knew there was no possibility of keeping up with my quick-striding coworkers.

Then I was walking with crutches, attempting to identify and heal the ankle pain that turned out to be gout. Every try teaching science on crutches? It doesn’t go well.
I was dealing with a student who would become the focal point of my blood, sweat, and tears. Let’s not go into details. Somewhere in the back of my mind I expect to hear he’s hurt someone, student or teacher, but I keep that part of my mind tightly closed. Well, I try.
Eventually, the stresses added up and multiplied, grew exponentially, expanded into infinity. My health took a major dive, and I finally, finally applied for a medical leave of absence.
And now? What a difference a year makes!
I’m still not full strength, but I can walk to work – less than a mile, but slightly more than half. The walk feels good.
Multi-vitamins and many, many iron-rich meals made a difference. No more anemia!
I’m starting a new job with the support of coworkers, an assigned mentor, and a principal who stops in frequently and supports me whenever there is a tough question. We had a field trip this week that (thanks to my talent in persuasive writing) brought in a sizable group of people.
Coworkers know about my hearing loss and do not consider it a problem. It’s simply a fact.
I’m tired, but a good tired.
I’m still tired. Every night.
Bad dreams still wake me — often.
I have a bottle of Ambien, but I really, really don’t want to get into taking that nightly. Not again.
My workplace is full of cooperative and supportive people. We all want the best for each other. Still, I keep an awful lot of information under wraps. Only my principal knows about last year’s leave of absence. Once burned, twice cautious; it’s hard to trust again.
Deep breath. Much of this is out of my control. That’s okay. Repeat. That’s okay.
A year makes a big difference. Let go of the rest. I can do this.