Happy Anniversary, Sanity!

pexels-photo.jpgThirteen years ago, I was locked up.

I was 24 years old in Austin, Texas. A bright, blossoming wounded made up girl-person flung far from the bleak overcast of depression or the jagged broken-record of anxiety. I was HIGH and flying ever higher. No one could stop me. I was a rainbow technicolor butterfly emerging from her chrysalis stupor. I was on fire, passionately delusional. I was all over town, dancing on tabletops. In and out of consciousnesses, enjoying nonstop religious experiences. I felt invincible and acted boldly. I was out of my mind. I was a puppet starlet drama queen going places: India, California, everywhere.

At the aptly named Flipnotics Coffeehouse on Barton Springs Road on April 16, 2005, the shit hit the fan. Long story short, I was taken away in handcuffs by the police to the psych ward, where they brought me back down to Earth with a thud and a plethora of prescriptions psychotropics, tranquilizers, chairs with straps and staff in white uniforms to do the strapping. Yet, in ten (long) days, I was released.

That was thirteen years ago.

These days, I am celebrating sanity, but more than that, I am celebrating life, freedom and yoga. I am grateful for all the people, places and lessons of those times in my tumultuous mid-twenties and since. I am welcoming everything, whatever may come, whether pleasure, success, tragedy or death.

I am celebrating my choice not to take the doctors’ orders and “just take two of these pills a day”. I am celebrating my choice to exit the box and settle well outside of it, surrounded by wildflowers, kittens, scattered toys, piles of books and notebooks, coffee trees, three volcanoes and a sparkling lake.

The Forest Cure

Why I’m Anti Antidepressants

Many years ago, I sat on the couch of a stern psychiatrist who informed me that I needed to take prescription psychotropic pills every day for the rest of my life.

That didn’t sit well with me.

But, I was 21, and facing the moment-to-moment reality of horrible depression during every waking moment of my “real” adult life.

I learned that depression is anger turned inward. Self-blame exacerbates a mentality in despair. For me, depression was like endless fields of gray. I only wanted to sleep or die. I was unable to hope and had zero desire to do anything but lie in bed. It was like being stuck in a huge, ugly glob of what’s-the-point! 

Life was drained of all color, fun, and love.

I chose to take the pills. I was told they would take a couple of weeks to kick in, and they did—like clockwork. My ability to function in the world was restored. Once I felt better, I’d stop taking the meds. Then, of course, I’d feel bad again, dragged down into the quicksand of darkness.

So, I’d start back up again with my prescription refills and they’d take longer to take effect, since my brain was building up a resistance. This carried on for about four years, until one day, all the fireworks exploded in my mind and I was catapulted from the lows of cyclical depression to the rapid fire “high-high-high” of mania.

That’s when I was committed for 10 days to the state psychiatric hospital and was prescribed lithium for life.

Teaching yoga at a fitness center the following year, I struck up a conversation with a woman after class about mental health and prescription drugs. She urged me to read up on lithium and its detrimental effects, and gave me a book on the topic. My mom and brother had both been diagnosed with bipolar prior to me, at age 40 and 14, respectively. I was 24 when my manic side emerged, although, in retrospect, it was more like popping topless out of a cake than a gradual emergence of symptoms.

There is the reality that everyone’s brain chemistry is different and influenced by genetic factors outside of our control, and yet our brain chemistry is also affected by our lifestyle and behavior choices. After a few years of taking lithium religiously, I felt ready to phase it out of my system and did so under the care of a qualified psychiatrist—a doctor not much older than me—also named Michelle. She helped me phase it out, and it’s been eight years now with no relapses.

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I get by with a little help from my fairy friends.


Abundance is not something we acquire. It is something we tune in to.

~ Wayne Dyer

The past week has been rough. I will write about it sooner or later, probably sooner.

In summary, we spent our honeymoon at the hospital. Our baby daughter Jade was sick. We were there for an entire week. By the end, I was coming apart at the seams. All is well now, and we were released on Monday evening at sunset.
We received an abundance of love and support from family and friends near and far. On Monday morning, I sent this email to my parents and selected friends:

jade is very healthy and happy. the colombian healthcare system is extremely frustrating. the situation at the hospital is extremely frustrating. i am exhausted. it has been a full week now. yes, i am meditating and practicing yoga when i can. up until recently, i was reading a lot too but now i am not in the mood.

the gammagraph is scheduled for today at noon but nothing happens on time here, much like in guatemala.
as of today, i am taking a long-overdue, much-needed, indefinite vacation… from facebook. the best way to reach me is via email or my blog, yogafreedom.com.
i am dealing with a lot of internal issues around authority, power, control, lack of control, and the like. this is definitely a huge learning experience, but i am certainly not all zen about it all the time.
my spanish communication and comprehension skills are declining in moments of stress. dr. kenny the gringo medical intern is an absolute godsend. without having him around to explain things to me in english, i do not know what i would do.
i thank each of you for your loving kindness and friendship.
love and namaste, michelle

I got several heartfelt responses that helped so much in my hour of need.

I am sharing a few of them here. May these words of comfort be of benefit to anyone suffering from frustration, anger, sadness, and confusion.

My aunt Margaret, a nurse who works with terminally ill patients and their families in Sacramento, California, reminded me

I have a line I say in my practice, “We know our caregivers can wear out before the patients.”  Take care of yourself. We love you too!

My legendary writing teacher and creative coach, Jeffrey Davis, wrote:

Zen means in part showing up with clarity and fierceness for what is right, true, and real.
It doesn’t mean “just letting authority and institutions do whatever they want.”My father died in a hospital last July in part because of the hospital’s incompetency, needles, & over-testing.Be fierce, clear, and true.Sending you blessings of sthira, sukkham, and the power of Vac – right speech.

My buddy Mitch, a fellow parent and school teacher says:

We are sorry that you were going to so much chaos right now… Like I mentioned before, I cannot imagine going through that parenting stuff in a Latin American country. Like I’ve always said about those countries, you either learn patience or leave…lol!
Regarding the issues of authority and lack of control… I totally understand!  One of the biggest parenting lessons that I am still learning is realizing that we are not in near as much control as we think we are.  This is very hard for us as Americans because we have created an environment that deceives us into thinking that we are.  A lesson that God continues to show me is that it is ok to not be in control…there is a freedom and a power in the ‘surrender’.  I have to be forced to that posture, however, because it is either that or my sanity (which is already shaky to begin with!:^))
My dear friend and college roommate, Holly:

You probably don’t need to hear this from me, but you are a strong and capable mommy. You will make it through this. Moment by moment, day by day. The thing that’s hardest about being a parent is the lack of control and the lack of knowing what to do. I’ve never been a zen person AT ALL, but somehow, even without inner peace, I’ve survived as a mom. I think once I accepted that I just was NOT going to be calm about being a mom, I stopped trying to force myself to be calm, and then, weirdly enough, I got calmer.

My amiga and colleague, Evelyn, mother of three boys:

Well this will be one of many things as a mama you don’t have control over and will be super frustrating. The best gift in the world is our beautiful children and the lessons we get being responsible for them but having no control over all the outside influences and environment that effect them and in turn us!!

My lovely friend and fellow new mother, Wendy, who teaches with her awesome hubby Mike in Bangladesh:

I am so proud of you.  You are such a good mom and you are really doing a wonderful job of expressing your frustrations- but also reflecting on how it is affecting you and how you can improve your reaction/mood for future issues.  You are and always have been an inspiration to me.  Just know that we are all out here thinking of you- we are frustrated with you, smiling with you, laughing with you and shaking our heads with you when the shenanigans at the hospital come your way.

Finally, my beautiful fairy friend, Katie, wrote and brightened my day:

oh michelle,

i can’t even imagine how stressed and “blAAaaaaAAAAaaa#%&$” you feel.  i will try to give you some other things to think about for a minute…
here are some funny things:
i am at my bro’s house right now and his dog is sleeping and i think she is having a dream because she keeps like growling and barking in her sleep.
one of my best friends who is my age peed the bed the other night.  she was sober.
one of my friends from college decided to try yoga so she went to a free class that was advertised in her town.  turned out it was chair yoga and she was the only person under 70 there.  she isn’t sure about yoga now.  i told her not to give up.
here is my current status:
i am on my brother’s couch and that is all i know RIGHT NOW!  i am wearing an old shirt of my dad’s and i have like three fresh mosquito bites that itch.  the mosquitos are crazy here these days!
here is my wish for you:

get upset if you need to.  maybe even yell!  in english!  at a spanish speaker!  (i don’t know why but sometimes that feels good.)

kiss jade and bladi and know that there is light at the end of this super lame tunnel!   i miss you and love you and think of you and your family every day.  here is a little quote that my dad would write at the end of letters to me.  it’s from the movie “babe.”


If I had words to make a day for you,
I’d sing you a morning golden and new
I would make this day last for all time
Give you a night deep in moonshine

pig kill be inspired pork board