I love-hate you, Jackson

It’s match week. I can’t believe it’s here after months and months of waiting. It’s like the longest wait for Christmas ever – except instead of presents you get told where you’re going to live. 

 The timing has been good, though. Well, as good as it’s going to be. The majority of this week I’ve been facing a few of my frustrations with this city that I call home and somehow love so much.

Obviously the very best part about this place are the people. My very best friends and my incredible family – unwaveringly supportive even though we may leave. My fantastic church family who I trust with my life and my ever growing and maturing faith. My neighborhood is great and Jackson has nothing short of a large personality (Uptown Funk). Also the food is just. the. best. 

 But for heavens sake in the past 2 days I’ve nearly broken my car on three new, giant, puddle-disguised pot holes. The clay here causes the roads to sink and crack like you wouldn’t believe. That’s fine. It’s a problem in the whole area. The bigger problem is when city mismanagement and lack of funds prevent timely repair. The entire infrastructure of this city is internally flawed causing frustration with people like myself who really do love this place. I could quote Chane.com a thousand times: “City of Potholes, Mississippi,” “I only like Jackson as a friend,” “Welcome to Boil Water Alert Mississippi.” The last one speaks for itself. Water is important. 

 Anyway when it comes down to it I could live with these things. Even dealing with the petty theft and burglary that unfortunately frequents even the good Jackson neighborhoods. My biggest concern – and the one that usually causes Jacksonites to move to suburbs – is the school options. Basically if you live in Jackson you have 2 options: send your kid to highly flawed public schools lacking diversity or highly expensive private schools lacking diversity. I personally am not a fan of either of those options. It may be from my experience growing up in Marietta, Georgia, but I value so much the exposure I had to different religions, races, languages, and socioeconomic status. It shaped me into who I am and a large part of me doesn’t want to rob my future children of those experiences. I am SO excited though about a new private school in Jackson that really has it right. If we stay or move back I would want my kid here in a heartbeat. Redeemer School (link to video), stemmed from Redeemer Presbyterian Church – probably the closest picture of the Church in the city. A diverse congregation representing God’s beautiful Body of believers coming together because of their love for Him. 

 So what about the suburbs? No big deal – move farther out, pay less taxes, don’t worry about crime, good public schools. Meh.


Madison: Ah, Madison. I have such strange feelings about you. This is where I lived for 3 years after moving from Georgia. I finished highschool there (great public schools), I met my husband there, my parents and sister still live there. Madison is fondly and/or mockingly referred to as Brick City. All of the new buildings are prestine brick because of orders from the mayor. No apartments are allowed. Apparently unique restaurants aren’t either (or at least must be highly discouraged).  Mostly everyone is at least upper middle class. Josh and I speak frequently about the Madison Bubble. It’s a perfect world with no crime and lots of moms who play tennis and drink wine. They’re similar to the small wealthy population in Jackson except these people would NEVER go to Jackson. Land of crime and hooligans!!! *Eye roll* Talk about depriving a kid of diversity. The best part is a lot of these people send their kids to the Jackson private schools. Hilarious. But…the new starter homes and property taxes are so darn cheap…. Tempting. 

Ridgeland: Honestly this is probably where we’d end up. It’s a perfect blend of Jackson and Madison. Great neighborhoods and some not as great neighborhoods, decent schools, enough real world crime to keep you grounded and aware of your surroundings in some spots. Great restaurants and shopping. Just not as much personality as Jackson.

Flowood: The city of chain restaurants and department stores. Family friendly and fully “blah.” I need a little spice in my life! Also, I fully rage out on Lakeland Drive. Have I mentioned the horrendous driving in the Jackson metro? Plus I’d be in the minority for sure since I’m not a super conservative MSU fan. Staaankin’ Rankin. 

Pearl: To quote Josh’s highschool football coach, Pearl is “the world’s largest trailer park.” While not completely true, rednecks are plentiful. The outlet mall and Mississippi Braves stadium are not enough draw.

Byram: I’d rather live in Pearl.

Brandon: I honestly don’t know much about Brandon except that “We ain’t Pearl Dammit!” 

 No matter what, I have no doubt that Josh and I will at least consider moving back here after his residency. We’ll let future Brett and future Josh handle the decision of where to raise our family (HIMYM – anyone?). 

I sure do love-hate you, Jackson.


Dysthymia Defeated


I can’t begin to explain how I missed it. Why didn’t I catch this sooner? How did I make it through 6 years of college, studying physiology and pathophysiology and pharmacology, and miss THIS?

All I can determine is that I just wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to fully see it, admit it, fix it.

I distinctly remember being very sad during the 7th grade. My mom will attribute it to my challenging classes or my response to 9/11.  I’m certain both of those things contributed to my mood, but I know now that it was a much deeper issue than my circumstances. I dropped out of my most difficult honors class, I rededicated my life to Christ, I “dated.” Nothing really helped, but I hid it okay.

From that point on being “down” was just part of who I was. I just thought that I was a real bummer of a person to be so sad all of the time for no good reason. Just a moody teenager. I tried to be excited about things or find joy in my friendships, family, and singing. Sometimes I even got distracted enough that I thought “hey, this must be how everyone else feels.”

If I got stressed enough, I could really get in a terrible funk. I remember this the most in college. I could go a whole week and be perfectly satisfied to never leave my bed, because why would I want to? Why would I want to join this pointless world I’m forced to be a part of every day? To be forced to put on a smile for everyone?  I would come home completely worn out from acting pleasant all day. Josh always saw the real me, though. I didn’t feel like I had to fake anything in front of him. Poor thing.

“Maybe I have depression?” Sometimes I would entertain the thought, almost desperate to diagnose myself. To have a reason that I feel this way all of the time. I would read my chapters about depression intently, checking off diagnostic criteria as I went along. Trouble finding pleasure in activities – check. Excessive sleep – check. Depressed mood – check. Fatigue – double check. Well there we go, right? Then I would get to the duration section. Have these feelings most every day during a 2 week period. Sometimes? I usually went through what my husband and I ended up calling “down times.” But here was where it all crashed. “The symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.” No. No they didn’t. I could push aside how I felt to focus in school, do well, hang out with friends, lead in extracurricular organizations. Once I saw patients in the hospital admitted with depression I definitely ruled it out for myself. No, that’s really depression. I must just have a depressive, sad, miserable, lame personality. I must just not appreciate my life enough or commit to Jesus enough. If I did I would have joy, right?

Too bad I somehow missed that another word for “depressive personality” is dysthymia.

Finally, in the fall of 2013, after 12 years of being a miserable version of myself, I guess I was ready.

“Brett, read this.” Josh was in his 3rd year of medical school. We didn’t discover it in a text book, either. Just good ole Wikipedia.

“Dysthymia is a serious state of chronic depression, which persists for at least two years (1 year for children and adolescents); it is less acute and severe than major depressive disorder. As dysthymia is a chronic disorder, sufferers may experience symptoms for many years before it is diagnosed, if diagnosis occurs at all. As a result, they may believe that depression is a part of their character, so they may not even discuss their symptoms with doctors, family members, or friends.”

I immediately broke down. It’s real. It’s treatable? I can escape this? There’s a reason.

I made an appointment with a family physician the next week. After years of attempting to diagnose myself I already knew that I wanted to try Wellbutrin. As a pharmacist, my doctors visits usually end with – “So what do you want to try?” I also saw a therapist for a few months.

And just like that – it was gone. I increased my dose after a month to the recommended dose. After a few more weeks I felt like a new person. I could see through the fog. I could get out of bed in the morning, and if I didn’t it was just because I was tired, not because I was dreading my existence. I could make it through the day without feeling half asleep. I can’t even put into words what this felt like. It was like I was redefining myself, getting to know who I actually am without the depression. I told my community group and my family. My parents were supportive but understandably unsure if I really needed medication. I mean, I’ve just always been a moody kid but never actually seemed depressed? But they could tell the difference, too.

Once the depression lifted I noticed some anxiety. Before if I got anxious I would go straight into a “down period,” but now I just stayed anxious for a while. Knowing that anxiety and dysthymia often co-existed, I tried Lexapro and then switched to Viibryd. I stayed on the Viibryd for less than a year, but it helped a lot as I finished my residency.

It’s been over a year since I started Wellbutrin and I still can’t believe how different my life is now. I feel like a full person with reasonable responses to stressful situations and exciting ones. I asked Josh recently how he stayed with the “old” me for nearly 9 years. He said “because your good was always great.” I’ve never felt more loved.

If you think you struggle with depression or anxiety, do something about it. Go see a physician or a therapist. Talk to someone you know who has gone through this. Mental health is just as important as physical health and it will make all the difference in the world. As much as I’d love to have those 12 years back, I’m so grateful to Josh and my friends who have helped me so much along the way.







Uptown Funk

Philip Gould/Corbis
Philip Gould/Corbis

“Harlem, Hollywood, Jackson, Mississippi.”

Out of the mouth of Bruno Mars (Mark Ronson – I know, I know) so it’s gotta be true. Love me some Bruno.

He’s got a point, though, and it’s one thing I do love about Jackson. I’ll be more precise and say “North Jackson” because this is where I’ve lived and come to love the past 4 years. One T-shirt by Chane sums it up nicely: “Jackson doesn’t suck anymore.” Until I lived here I’d only heard bad things about “that dangerous, racist city” from sheltered Madisonites or people who have never been to Mississippi a day in their lives. So I’ve made my own opinions.

Yes, Jackson has a difficult history that has definitely made its mark, but, like the rest of the South, it has started to rise again. Not in its old ideals or policies. Not in hatred. It is rising in art, diverse culture, academic achievement, great music, and just the best food. Fondren and Belhaven are two neighborhoods in North Jackson that have more and more people falling in love with this area. Both places have a strong medical community with the 4 large Jackson hospitals nearby.

Fondren prides itself as Jackson’s hip art district. To quote Chane again, “Fondren isn’t just for crack and hookers anymore.” Sure isn’t! There are historical restaurants like Brent’s Drugs and Walker’s and new, unique ones like Babalu and Saltine. Super great bars like Fondren Public and The Apothecary. Fondren after 5 is a monthly favorite, bringing out the entire eclectic neighborhood, young and old. There is a band on every corner and artists everywhere.

Belhaven also has a strong art community with a lot of college students from Belhaven University and Millsaps College, young families, and medical professionals. The neighborhood has movie nights and the annual festival Bright Lights Belhaven Nights. Baptist Medical Center has helped to bring even more attention to the area with The Belhaven, which houses doctor’s offices, restaurants, and new townhomes surrounding the parking garage.

I’m not going to go into them but other great areas are Eastover and LeFleur East! All with a revitalizing feel thanks to Whole Foods, Highland Village, and The District.

Yay! Things I love about Jackson! Stay tuned though, because I know I need to write down some issues I have with Jackson. Reasons I go back and forth about wanting to stay here.

I’ll save that for another night. A rainy night, maybe? That sounds appropriate.

2015 – Couldn’t Avoid it Forever

Deans & Smiths New Years 2015
Deans & Smiths New Years 2015

I’ve often considered beginning a blog, so why not on New Year’s Day?

My thoughts, opinions, concerns, have been so jumbled lately that I cannot keep them in my head to stew much longer. Hopefully this outlet will help me sort through how I feel about 2015.

New Years Eve for many people is a time to reflect on the previous year. Where you’ve gone, what you’ve accomplished, how you’ve grown. I am usually focused on what I know I can anticipate within the next 365 days. Last night I knew I would either drink or cry – ultimately I did a little bit of both (one hidden in a bathroom – the crying not the drinking…I’m not that sad). It’s going to be a difficult year, there’s no doubt about that. Change is always difficult. It can be good, great even, but still difficult.

So I guess I’ll start with what I know about 2015.

1. Match Day

March 20. It scares me, excites me, and upsets me simultaneously. I’ve told Josh from day 1, including the day he proposed, that I would follow him wherever he goes – wherever life takes him. Up until this point that has not been very difficult. We went to Oxford together. We came back to Jackson together. We searched for apartments and town homes together, found church homes together. No matter what as long as we have been together I’ve felt safe and never alone. I know that this will continue no matter what. As long as I have my husband (and my cats. and my bed.) I can create a home. I’ve done it before and I can do it again. The difference this time is that this is the first place that Josh and I have established a life as independent adults. We’ve chosen our friends (carefully). We’ve grown unbelievably close to them, their families, their kids. Nothing can ever stand in the way of those relationships…except maybe distance. Distance has a way of wedging itself into even the strongest friendships. I know. I’ve experienced it many times. And admittedly I’m not the best at communication to begin with even if you’re in the room with me, let alone hundreds of miles away.

Times have changed, though, and make staying in touch easier (texting, Skype, Facebook). I had none of those things when I left my first home and moved to Mississippi. Despite how much I still love the friends I grew up with, those relationships dwindled quickly. When I moved back to Jackson I did not do a great job of keeping up with college friends, for a multitude of reasons. Josh has always made me feel better about this. I will treasure forever relationships I’ve made in my life, but sometimes people are intentionally in your life for a season. And it’s a sweet, sweet time. And you make memories and are left with impressions that will always stay with you. I love that. And hey, thanks to Facebook, I can still keep up with their lives from a distance beyond a Christmas card once a year. But ultimately from my experience the friendships that really mean the most are the ones right now, walking through life next to you, experiencing things with you first hand. That gets lost through a computer screen or over a phone.

And that’s what scares me.

I’m not scared of moving to a new place (been there. done that.). That part can be fun and exciting. This time it will be filled with even more excitement as we look to buy our first house in this mysterious place. Searching for a church home is a sweet time for Josh and me. I love walking through that with him. New restaurants? Yes, please.

2. Babies

So many babies. Exciting! First kid, third kid, second kid. I never thought I would be so attached to friends’ kids. My kids, obviously. My sister’s kids, duh. My friends kids? I guess it never crossed my mind. But I love these babies so much! I love being a part of their lives – and watching them learn to crawl, walk, talk, and learn my name. I think that’s a huge reason that some of our friendships are even sweeter now. I don’t think Im ready to integrate this part with the Match Day part yet. Another time.

3. Hubs will have a job

I never thought of myself being the “working one.” Ya I’ll work. Ya I have a good job. But the only one working? I don’t like it. Nope. No I don’t. I’m unbelievablely proud of Josh for finishing med school this year – and extra excited to not be soley responsible for being able to pay our bills :D.

4. End of the Bo Era

Hallelujah. Maybe. Our QB situation may be even worse. Possible? Probably. Hopefully he will at least be consistently good or bad. Or mediocre. And not a psychopath (looking at you Chad Kelly).

5. It will be a great year

No matter what I’m confident that God will direct our steps, whether it’s down the road into a new house or miles away to a new city.