Treatment Resistant Mental Illness & Me

It’s been a year since it all fell apart.

About a year ago, after a successful recovery from postpartum anxiety, depression, and OCD, the carefully cultivated set of tools — medication, meditation, self-care — just stopped working. Just. Stopped. Working. Poof.

I’m done trying to figure out what happened, whether my body chemistry changed or I’d spent too long on the same SSRI or some stressful event triggered something or other. I am done reading studies, reading the bibliographies of studies, hunting down other studies cited. Omega-3s? Augmentation with low-dose atypical antipsychotics? Turmeric?

I’ve probably tried half a dozen new-to-me pharmaceuticals in the last year. I’ve added supplements, taken them away. I’ve yoga’d every damn day. Changed my diet. Changed it again. I’ve changed my professional circumstances. I live in a house I like, with an abundant garden. I hike. I have good friends, from whom I hide, mostly, because I can’t deal with who I am these days. Panicked. Overwhelmed. Undermotivated. Unclear in thought.

It will work out. There are full days of joy. But today and many other days I am excessively irritable, unsure of myself, some days confined only to my bedroom or office because the rest of the house feels contaminated by crumbs and papers and dirty footprints.

The post I wrote a year ago, despite being in the throes of anxiety, feels hopeful. I want to be honest here: I do not feel that way, not today. I just want to scream. I just want to wave a magic wand and take away all of the external stressors and be left in a sea of calm, a sea to which I can eventually acclimate, and then come back to real life, a whole, working human. Not because that sounds nice, but because that sounds like the only way I could possibly survive.

Right now I’m just taking a single atypical antianxiety medication, at a lower dose than what I’d taken previously. I’m trying St. John’s Wort because the studies seem like it can’t hurt, plus a tincture for adrenal support, a tincture of ashwagandha, cod liver oil, and motherwort. It’s not magic. It’s marginally better than the cocktail of pharmaceuticals I was on before. To be clear, I have nothing against psychiatric drugs. I’d be fine taking a pill or four every day for the rest of my life if it enabled me to feel like myself. I’m no longer nursing A SINGLE OTHER HUMAN so I feel like the whole wide world is open to me now, but it turns out there isn’t just a switch to flip to make things all better.

Treatment resistant mental illness sucks, y’all. That’s all there is to this. I’m still here, still trucking along, still getting it done by some miracle. It’s just hard. It’s uncomfortable. It’s not fun to talk about and it’s not fun to live through and it’s not fun to Instagram.

And really, why do anything if it’s not fun to Instagram?

Apothecaryaryarying

In fifth grade, I played an apothecary. All of us in the G&T (gifted and talented, not *that* G&T) program dressed up as various roles in a Colonial village, except that of the slaughtered indigenous person or the enslaved black person or the like, of course, because it was Texas in the early 90s, and–

Anyway, I was one of two apothecaries serving the quaint Colonial Lake Cities. I rolled lots and lots of pills and leeches out of modeling clay, and I told a twenty minute story about chasing away Redcoats that I made up on the spot. It was exhilarating.

You probably know that my life has been saved by Western medicine more than once, and I’m immensely grateful. You probably also know that I’m a little obsessed with plants, particularly those found growing in their native surroundings, go figure. And if you’ve gotten this far, you certainly know that I’m pretty into making, making, and making some more. After a lot of dabbling,  I thought it was time to dip my toe in the power of plants. Like, for real.

A couple of months ago I launched an online store called Spruce Tips Apothecary, selling deodorant and hair tonic that I’d crafted myself, right down to fermenting the vinegar and decocting the marshmallow root for the hair tonic. It’s not surprising, given that I’d been shoving these things onto anyone who would stand still long enough for months. It was a learning curve, the processing and shipping in particular, which is pretty rich considering I ran a bustling e-commerce department in a previous life. So I made some mistakes, set some processes in place, and here we are. Running a business.

Here’s my simple about:

I’m always looking at the ground. The ground is where plants grow, and plants provide medicine, food, joy, and more. Whether mallow and lambs quarters from the backyard, shepherd’s purse from the playground, or mullein and alpine strawberries from up in the mountain, plants are all around to help. When my Choctaw forebears were moved from Mississippi to Oklahoma, the familiar sight of wild onions helped them to know their new land could be a home, regardless of circumstances.

I named the shop Spruce Tips because, well, it was the last thing I foraged! It’s one of my favorites to gather in late spring, when new growth is gaining hold. We carefully gather a few of the tender, green needles as we hike, being sure to only take a few from each tree. At home, we use them for their citrusy flavor and high vitamin C content in syrups, teas, oxymels, and preserves.

I’ve been whipping up remedies and the like at home for my family for a long time: salves for irritated skin, spritzes to help make hairbrushing easier, deodorant so we all still like each other, plus teas and infusions and all manner of poultices. I’m excited to share my finds with you and your family, too!

But it’s about more than that, too. For as long as I can remember, every walk with my grandmother has been an exercise in plant identification and use. I mentioned this to my aunt, who confirmed that my great-grandmother and two-greats grandmother had been much the same, using plants for healing, food, and more. Choctaws have named many of our months after plants: sassafras month, blackberry month, mulberry month, peach month. Other months allude to similar ideas, too, like cooking month, a time to preserve the harvest, or the months of the little famine and big famine. Sassafras month is the month for digging roots for medicine, food, and dye, while the month of fires all out is the time when folks leave their homes to travel to Green Corn celebrations.

So here is the newest extension of our rhythmic life and our desire to make. Hopefully this leads us closer to the plants,  to the farm, to the bio-integrated teaching farm, and beyond.

Visit the site, tell a friend, or ask a question. I’m really excited about the new adventure,and I hope you are, too.

Crunchy (Except When Chewy)

White Supremacy is alive and well in America, and every person of color has known this for a long, long time. Charlottesville is no surprise, unfortunately, and performative measures won’t make it go away. I recommit to doing all I can to fight anti-blackness, antisemitism, and bigotry, in every facet of my life.

And that’s what I have to say about that.

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In all of the goat milking, kraut fermenting, hippie deodorant making melee around here, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that I love making granola. Maybe not as much as Mike, but he doesn’t have a WordPress account so we’ll never know. Granola was my job, once upon a time, as I joined a great line of folks who baked for Forward Foods, making batches upon batches of Suzy’s killer granola recipe.

Granola is simple and magical. It is forgiving. It is customizable. It is, as a Murray’s alum might say, imminently snackable.

Feel free to change the fruits and nuts around or vary amounts and add or subtract spices. The one spot you really *do* need to be careful is during the bake. Keep an eye on the edges of the granola as it bakes– the line between beautifully toasted and burnt and bitter is thinner than you might expect.

Ingredients

6 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

3/4 c pepitas / pumpkin seeds

3/4 c sunflower seeds, pecans, or shredded coconut

1/2 c dried cherries

1/2 dried currants or blueberries

1/2 dried apricots (I prefer Blenheim) or dried, unsweetened mango or dried apple

1/2 c whey or water

1 c olive, grapeseed, or coconut oil

1/2 c sugar (I like sucanat, rapadura, or demerara, but plain is fine)

2 T molasses

2 T honey

Dash of tamari

1/2 t sea or kosher salt (the bigger the flake the better)

1 t vanilla extract (or use a vanilla bean with the wet ingredients)

Preheat oven to 375. Combine oats, nuts, and seeds in a large bowl. Warm whey to simmer, then turn off heat, add dried fruits, and cover for 15-20 minutes, until fruit has just barely changed texture, plumping slightly.

In the meantime, warm chosen oil over medium heat. Add sugar, honey, molasses and tamari, and whisk to combine. Once mixture heats and foams, whisk again, and add vanilla. Whisk once more. Cook on low for 5-7 minutes, taking care not to burn, stirring if needed.

Drain fruit and add to oat and nut mixture. Toss to combine. Turn off heat for oil and sugar mixture. Pour oat, nut and fruit mixture into oil and sugar mixture, folding the mixture until all oats are coated with sugar and oil mixture.

Spread on a parchment lined baking sheet or two (mixture should be about 1/8 of an inch thick, no more than 1/4 inch thick). If no parchment, grease baking sheet well. Bake for 12-15 minutes, stir carefully, and turn, returning to the oven for another 5-10 minutes, until the granola is browned but not burned.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Store in a cool, dry place for 1-2 weeks, if you can, anyway.

Enjoy.

 

 

My Friend Ricky: Recipes

My friend Ricky is really smart. My friend Ricky is top 1% of smartest, most engaged people I know, which is saying something. My friend Ricky grows things and makes things and has a realllll cute cat and also makes the public healthier and smarter and better able to serve all people.

So when my friend Ricky asks for recipes after I post too damn many instagram food pics, I oblige. It’s my friend Ricky, after all.

Here’s the thing. More now that I’m working from home and with the kids more, cooking is a a rhythm and sometimes a race– a race to keep things from spoiling, to get food on the table, to get something in the oven before nap and out of the oven before charcoal sets in.

Mondays we milk goats. Mondays, then, we make cheese. It’s a simple endeavor– tossing cultures on the still warm raw goat milk, gently warming and throwing in some rennet. Forgetting all about it. Remembering. Draining. Salting. Eating. Maybe some herbs and olive oil and a little Revolution Farms garlic powder because I heard Alex say he has a new batch out, so I’d better use up last season’s.

So Monday or Tuesday we have lots of whey. That means it gets used to soak some flour for bread, or to soften some dried fruits for granola, or to soak quinoa for dinner. With the quinoa goes the leftover cup of zucchini soup from last week that no one will eat, and another lone cup of bone broth. Add more zucchini and there’s dinner.

Roast a weird squash. Cook more rice in broth and toss it in there, maybe with beans? Beans work. Get a watermelon on a whim and use your feta and backyard mint for dinner. Jar the sauerkraut that is PLENTY sour from the crock on the counter, and replace with watermelon rind and some brine for pickles.

At some point lose your shit on the children unnecessarily (whyyyyy was there paint at kid level?!) and make tea.

A few years ago our CSA was AWASH with zucchini, so I made lots of zucchini bread. But zucchini bread can be boring, even dry, and I’m not here for that. So I dreamed up a rich loaf, akin to olive oil cake, but with the verdant freshness of summer squash.

I didn’t take any pictures. I hope that’s okay. Make the bread and it will be.

A note: I bake based on ratios. Ratios of dry ingredients to wet ingredients, ratios of fat to not fat, ratios of binders and not binders. It’s weird, like that meme of that lady with equations swirling all around her, but it works, especially because I’m nearly always out of something. So I give you this recipe with that caveat. It works, if you follow the ratios, and if you sub something, note if this will cause you to sub something else to balance. It’s all about balance, you know?

 

 

 

Zucchini Olive Oil Bread

(but really it’s cake. but say bread, it sounds better for you)

 

 

3 cups Flour
1.75 cups brown sugar
1.5 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1.3 cups olive oil
2 cups zucchini, grated and drained
0.75 cups peanut butter (sub with 3 eggs instead, if you wanna)
1.5 tablespoon orange zest
0.5 cups yogurt

Okay, so let’s mix it up before we even start. You can add thyme or rosemary to the recipe. Just cook it in the olive oil a little and chop very finely. There’s enough fat and liquid that it’ll plump up. If you don’t have brown sugar, you can sub with some regular sugar and molasses. Or regular sugar and some vanilla, I guess. Or just regular sugar, it’s just bread.

First, grate the zucchini. You’ll want to start with about a pound, maybe three medium zukes. Lightly salt it, then wrap it in a kitchen towel and press the hell out of it. Hang it from somewhere for a while. An hour, maybe two. However much time you have. Press it more. Save the liquid for soup or water your plants with it. Spread the grated zucchini out on the towel to let it air dry some more. The moisture in the zucchini is your mortal enemy. Be gone, water trapped in a squash. I realize we put you there, but we’re done with you.

Cream the peanut butter and sugar (or eggs and sugar if your using). Drizzle the olive oil in slowly while the mixer runs. Add the yogurt and orange zest and herbs, if using, and mix until just combined.

Combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl. Mix well, lest someone bite down on a clump of baking soda and ruin your rep. Add slowly, maybe a half cup at a time, to the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.

The recipe as written makes an incredibly dense, rich bread. If you’d like it a little springier, add up to one cup of additional flour.

Pour into a greased loaf pan (though the grease is a little gratuitous) and bake at 350F for 40 minutes. Test– it may need more time, maybe up to an hour. Apparently I didn’t write that part down.

Serve with a little yogurt, or tea, or coffee.

PS: When I went looking for my recipe, I searched Google Drive for “zucchini bread” and with my calculations, I found the letter of recommendation I wrote for my friend Elise’s co-op apartment purchase, because Elise has always made the best zucchini bread (from the More with Less cookbook) and I thought they ought to know what a cool neighbor they were getting.

elise zucchini bread

 

 

The Fiery Ordeal

iv-horton-161649.jpg
IV Horton

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

1 Peter 4:12

A friend and I texted back and forth about the various horrific things happening in our country: about immigration detention centers owned by private prison companies, unaccompanied minors traveling across entire countries to relative safety to meet broken policy and hateful rhetoric, about emboldened white supremacists, and the level of discourse in local politics, a direct result of our chief executive’s influence.

I’m not necessarily mad at Trump, I wrote. This is Trump. This is who he is. I’m really, truly upset with the people who put him in office. Why would they do this to their fellow Americans? To all the people of this world?

“They have no reason to be surprised,” she wrote. “This is exactly who he told us he was.”

It’s not just him, of course, though he is the glaring example. Greed and egotism have run rampant for God knows how long (literally), and he is but the latest example. People die of hunger every day. People live without homes. People are enslaved by other people. None of this is new. None of this exists only in the past. It cannot be a surprise. Indeed, ICE is off the leash, as it were, but deportations and ghastly detention centers and human rights violations in our own country are not new.

So what are we doing?

But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.

1 Peter 4:13-14

I hear verses like this tossed out to the suffering like stale bread. Blessed are you, O Starving One! Bear the suffering, or reach down to those boot straps, and pull yourself on up! And indeed, when we are uncomfortable, the idea that our suffering is not in vain soothes. But what I might ask is whether this discomfort at our political situation could be used as a barometer. Let’s say your life was at an 8 before this election. You know, you’d watch the news and, excepting some drone coverage or the mention of Darfur or Syria or a filibuster, your blood pressure remained the same. Now you can’t handle it. You’ve cried. You’ve gnashed. You’ve taken NPR off your radio presets. (Do other people still have those? Our car is from 1998.)

Or maybe you face losing health coverage. Maybe your job is at stake due to budget cuts– or hell, because retail is taking a hit since everyone is so dang depressed and uncertain. I mean, I hope you’re uncomfortable. This isn’t normal. This isn’t okay.

In fact, discomfort is the very LEAST we can and should be feeling. It doesn’t help, of course, to plant yourself on the couch with a pint of ice cream and cry over the state of the nation (thing I have done), but you CAN share in the suffering of others, and in doing so, lighten the load.

First, look at your time. Are you spending enough of it helping others? There is a LOT to do, and the burden is being borne by the few. Use your time to ensure that the powerful– the lawmakers, the moneymakers– are standing up for what is right. Have you researched your investments? Talked to your alma mater, your employer, your city, about divesting from institutions who perpetuate this state of suffering, like private prisons? If you have time to google “Handmaid’s Tale spoilers” (also a thing I have done) you can do the aforementioned, I promise.

All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.

Acts 2:44-47

Take a look at your money. Are you comfortable? Lots of others aren’t. And money doesn’t grow on trees, man. Give it away. Read Acts 2, and give.the.shit.away. I mean, I’m not here to tell you how much or to whom. I don’t know what you need. I don’t know what your obligations are. I just know that there is enough in this world– enough food, enough water, enough shelter– for us all. Spread it out. Enable others to spread it out. Look at your community, and see who does the good work. Help them.

Look at your stuff. Good Lord, I have too much stuff. I need to give it away. I need to stop getting it. I need to walk through the aisles of Target and wonder whether I *really* need another bundle of cheap sweatshop t-shirts or if I should take the $20 and buy Adelante a much-needed case of diapers.

As I’m writing this, I feel apologies and mitigations creep up, “I know this is too much…”, “I mean, you do you…”, “Just do what you feel you can do…” But honestly, we’re past that. Do more than you think you can do. Do. More.

Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.  And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.  To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 5:8-11

Amen.

I have not written.

Well, I’ve written a lot of emails. Not enough, I know– you’re thinking, “but she never answered mine!” and for that I’m very sorry.

Instead of writing I’ve been working. Working at work. Working for Winnie’s school, a little nature education non-profit that just bought its very own building. Working for mothers, training doulas and home visitors in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Working with church, being part of an interfaith response to the immigration crisis, planning education forums, and being trained in the rights of immigrants. Folding and unfolding chairs and tables, filling water pitchers, so that people have a place to sit as they plan out who will care for their children, take over their car payments, consent to field trips and medical attention on their behalf should they be detained or deported.

And at home, of course, with these growing humans. Georgie has all of these words. WORDS. “CHAIR! BONK! LEG! TRIP! FALL! FLOOR! HIT! OUCH! CRY” she’ll yell with a smile. Like, did you get that guys?! I CAN NARRATE!  Winnie loves rhyming and singing and playing her dad’s trombone. She is so aware of so much that goes on around her that I sometimes find it hard to believe that she is three going on four, but oh, is she three going on four. She has lived exactly as many days as she has lived, and extracted just every bit of life from those days that she could.

I cry and giggle at every one of her dance classes. And Georgie in overalls! The way she calls rocks “rockets” and yells SEE! LOOK! PUPPY! SEE! DOG! every.single.time she sees a dog.

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I am perseverating on theology these days, in the shower, between emails, between questions at the shop. Sacraments as action rather than symbols, grace as liberation of the oppressed. I’m trying to draw the line of connection between the bread in my hands and my atemporal connection to the whole Communion of Saints, and how that can eradicate poverty, violence, disease. Reading this.  And this.

Oh, and I went to a spin class (never, ever again) and I’m teaching a class on pairing cheese with German and Austrian wine tonight, lest you think my life is lived entirely in the space of work and thought. It surely is not.

 

 

Hunger, Thirst, Serve, Walk

I don’t even know.

Good lord, what a mess.

What an absolute, gut-mangling mess.

And what now? Twee pictures of our adventures, of sweet smiling faces, rosy-cheeked and wide eyed? Recipes and reflections? I feel like covering this blog in old, grey oatmeal leftovers and burying it beneath bulk mail circulars and old phonebooks.

It is Advent. Sometimes described as a season of hope, peace, and love, but OH the expectant waiting. Oh, the hunger, the thirst for justice, for goodness, for what is right and meet. It’s not mindfulness. It’s not sitting here in the now, being only present. It is yearning, deep and painful and essential want for what is to come, for what has been promised.

I believe– far beyond my own capabilities, driven by the grace of faith– that the oppressed should and shall be liberated. I believe that I must do all that I can–and when I reach my own limit of “can” pray that I shall be enabled to do some more– to facilitate that liberation. I believe that no human is illegal. I believe that to imprison our brothers and sisters in poverty and debt while turning a blind eye toward the funnels of power and wealth to the few is a sin, a grave sin. I believe that I am part of the problem and must be part of the solution. I believe in grace. I believe in miracles. I do not believe that we ought sit and wait for miraculous grace, but that such grace is manifested through our actions.

From the Book of Common Prayer, emphasis mine:

“Grant us strength and courage to love and SERVE you, with gladness and singleness of heart.”

“[…]that we may delight in your will, and WALK in your ways, to the glory of your Name.”

Serve.

Walk.

Chop wood, carry water, divest, protect, serve, and walk.