It Only Took 22 years, but I Finally Slayed That Demon.

Excuse that dramatic title, but I honestly have no idea how to start this first post back from hiatus. The truth is that I had a complete bilateral salpingo/oopho/hysterectomy and it has changed my whole life, mental state, and sense of self, but that doesn’t work so well as a title… it doesn’t even work that great as this second line in an intro but here we are.

Anyway, I’m cured. Finally. I’m mentally better than I ever have been. I feel like a filter has been taken off my brain and new energy has been dumped into my body and all the clouds have parted and I’m just a regular person again with a normal range of emotions and grip on reality. I’ve been praying and wishing and meditating and performing sacred rituals for a solution for more than two thirds of my life and I finally have it, consistently, calmly, comfortably. And all it took was me finally listening to my inner voice, telling a bunch of doctors they were wrong and didn’t know what the fuck they were talking about, and doing more medical research than any liberal arts student with just a BA English should ever have completed.

These last 6 months have been a ride. To make this as short as possible: After suffering hormone/PMS-based depression/anxiety/suicidal ideation since I was 11-12-ish, (and spending 12 years in cognitive behavioral therapy and seeing no less than 6 psychiatrists including the two I was treated by while at two separate inpatient facilities only to be driven to psychosis by misdiagnoses and over-medication), I quit my meds and started focusing on my hormones in ’14 while begging my OB/GYN to just let me get a hysterectomy and “sweep the leg” on this whole thing. It took three years of me lying around my house in a holding pattern, only really able to get out of bed two weeks every month and struggling to hold down very basic part-time gigs for me to realize nothing was getting any better and my sense of stagnation was killing my soul even more than the suicidal ideation. So last summer, I found a laproscopic surgeon who took me seriously and we started prepping to – in the brilliant euphemism of my husband – “tear down the gymnasium but leave the breezeway.”

I won’t go into all the medical parts of it here, but it worked. It worked immediately. The minute my body stopped undergoing the monthly hormonal fluctuations that cause a 4-week menstrual cycle, I was consistent and optimistic and driven and joyful and balanced the way I’d been when I was a kid. It was like magic.

(Sidebar: To be completely honest here, I didn’t realize how bad I’d gotten until recently when I’ve started feeling better. Although these last three pharm-free years have been an improvement over the decade I was having medication-induced impulses, rage, psychotic breaks and manic episodes, I wasn’t really living in any sustainable way. I don’t know why I let it go on so long. I shouldn’t have waited so damn long to find a surgeon.)

The surgery happened in early November and, while I’ve been putting my body back together, I’ve also been getting to know New Me a little in that time. And you guys, New Me is fucking aaawesome, which is a relief because I had some doubts. Here’s some stuff I’ve learned about her!

New Me
– Literally never thinks about hurting/offing herself. Ever. The compulsion of self-harm isn’t even on her radar anymore, even when she’s really sad about something.
– Completes task lists (mental, physical, or otherwise) without the crushing dread of imminent, inevitable disappointment.
– Stays out of bed ALL DAY. Even on weekends! (Last weekend was my birthday and I woke up a 7 a.m. without an alarm clock to go take pictures of abandoned buildings and take a hike through the snow.)
–  Has gotten into new music again.
– …But also listens to Harry Belafonte sometimes. On purpose.
– Can say “You know, I’m not gonna drink/overeat/over-spend tonight” and actually stick to that.
– Has actually been sober now for more than 100 days without feeling like she’s white-knuckling it.
– Can park in a giant, crowded parking lot and enter a crowded grocery store without locking up from anxiety.
– Answers emails! Within 24 hours! Sometimes immediately!
– Doesn’t cancel 95% of her plans with friends! (Now I bail on about 5% of our plans like regular people do!)
– Gets out of the house every single day!
– Doesn’t have to be reminded to bathe!
– Moves her body daily and it makes her feel happy and not at all like she’s torturing herself with even the most minor gestures!
– Is able to take the initiative to learn new little skills instead of seeing new opportunities and feeling overwhelmed with terror about her inability to absorb new knowledge!
– Can absorb new knowledge!!
FINISHES things shortly after starting them! From little things like new books to major projects, I’ve been staying on-task and consistent and focused until completion! I can even MULTITASK. I haven’t successfully done that since junior high!
– Can somehow magically listen to music and read/write at the same time for the first time everinherwholeentirelife!
– Can plan a week’s worth of meals AND THEN FOLLOW THROUGH ON MAKING THEM. Like, at least 5 nights per week! And I’m meal-prepping lunches and breakfasts now!
~ Oh, OH! AND she’s got the energy to seek out new recipes and cook something different all the time!
~ AAAND she’s not overeating constantly anymore (because depression causes carb cravings in order to produce more serotonin #funfact) and sometimes she doesn’t even clean her plate! #DIGNITY
– Isn’t overwhelmed with dread and anxiety after two shots of espresso.
– Can have bad/sad/mad feelings and magically push them to the side without letting them cloud her mind and wreck the day.
~ Is living out dreams in small steps. (I finally started grad school last semester, and I may’ve signed up to perform at an amateur drag show in a couple days. I also answered a few model casting calls and I’m sitting for a clay sculpting class at a local university this semester, so I’m glad to be getting back into that side groove.)
~ Doesn’t involuntarily obsess about bad things/people that happened in the distant past when she doesn’t get enough sleep.
~…in fact, she doesn’t have any obsessive cycles (songs repeating, words, invasive thought/memories) when she doesn’t get enough sleep.
~ Doesn’t routinely think about abandoning her family out of guilt and shame for burdening them with her presence.
~ Reacts to life’s setbacks or disappointments with the normal amount of anger/sadness/whathaveyou.
~ Is optimistic in the mornings instead of being disappointed she didn’t die in her sleep somehow. (Y’all, it got dark for awhile.)
~ Is kind of impressed with herself that she somehow made it this far, to be honest.
And more than a little proud.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though. As the novelty of feeling brand new/not in crisis mode all the time wears off, I’m realizing how frustrated I am(/have been) that I’ve been just sitting here waiting to get better for such a tremendous chunk of my youngest years. I’ve always struggled with FOMO as I’ve watched my peers really getting into their careers or post-grad work and I’m frustrated that my personal work has stalled out for so long because of this ridiculous health saga. I’m working really hard to focus on enjoying my life now instead of “should”ing all over myself, but there is something incredibly demoralizing in working so hard and for so long only to be normal. For a majority of these last years, “getting me better” has honestly been my full-time job; it’s humbling to not have something more to show for it than an average 35 year old white lady. But then, maybe all these years of struggle and research was “The Work” and I just don’t know it yet. I’m open to that idea.

Still though, I’m better and I’m riding high on the relief and joy of being unburdened from my mental demons finally. It feels surreal.

“It’s another day, another chance. I wake up, I wanna dance/ So as long as I got my friiieends, I’m better, I’m better, I’m better.”

Adventure

What It Feels Like*

You know how, when you have an itch you can’t get to immediately – maybe it’s on your back or at the bottom of your foot under a shoe and a sock – and it gets exponentially worse with every second you can’t access it until you’re starting to feel anxious and sort of frantic until the absolute first moment you can reach it and then you GO TO TOWN scraping the everloving bejesus out of your skin in such a way that, if there was no itch, it would really, really hurt, but because there is that godforsaken itch, there’s this overwhelming, almost orgasmic feeling of relief?

Okay. The impulse to self-harm is that exact feeling, except The Itch is completely fabricated in the sufferer’s brain. The sensation of relief is identical, but usually, the brain ramps up the demands, insisting that suicide is the only real remedy for The Itch.

And that’s what suicidal ideation feels like on it’s very most basic, chemical (vs. situational) level.  Most of the time the brain will go to great lengths to support this argument, breaking out everything short of a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate aaaall the reasons that suicide is the best option. However, once a person with suicidal tendencies has gone through enough therapy to call “Bull!! Shit!!” on the mind’s thesis, the reasoning disappears while the impulse remains, regardless of how “good” or “bad” a person’s life objectively is. (Some pharmaceuticals have been known to exacerbate this impulse, which I can personally attest to… privately, where none of the companies can slap me with a slander lawsuit…)

This is why, when someone says “I feel suicidal”, trying to convince him/her how great his/her life is is not only useless, but it makes said person feel even more hopeless and guilty as to why she/he is feeling something so confusing and genuinely terrifying in the first place.

Suicidal ideation is an unhealthy hought process that desperately needs to be discussed like any other illness. Trying to convince any sick person that there’s no reason to be ill would be ridiculous in its futility and ignorance. Mental illness is no different.

 

*A public response to the emails/FB messages I’ve received about this in the last year. Thank you for asking questions, TT, DM, PS, CP, TH, NB, and JF.

Detox Level Up and Exquisite Peace

In the spirit of candidly sharing every part of this recovery thing, I’m going ahead and talking a tiiiny bit more about ladystuffs because it’s critical to the story. Plus, after telling the world I was clinically horny last winter, I figure anyone still reading my drivel is equipped to handle it. So, after about a month of ongoing crabbiness and desperately seeking ways to keep my ever-present irritability at bay, I suffered the single worst spell of PMS I’ve ever experienced, and realized that these symptoms may not’ve been related to withdrawal but were, instead, just coming to light after being obscured by the psychiatric meds and should probably be looked at separately.
Long story short: I’m not on birth control anymore and everything is genuinely great.
It was kind of terrifying, given that I’ve been on it since I was 17, but I figure I’ve already kicked a 12-year addiction to antidepressants, so cutting myself off from unnatural hormone replacement was a logical next step. Sure enough, my moods immediately stabilized, my abdomen stopped cramping nonstop, and my mind has just been at peace.

At this juncture, I’m completely au naturel.
And that seems to be the Answer as far as my mental health goes.

I’m not an idiot, though; I’m still going to be vigilant of my moods and energy ebbs and flows. Again, after the terrifying manic episodes I’ve been having in the last few years, I’m too paranoid to let even an energized cleaning spell go by without heavy consideration, and I know that many, many people quit their medicine believing that they’re “fine” only to horribly relapse. That’s the last thing I want.

But I also know that every single mental problem I’ve had in the last decade has happened while I was on antidepressants, and my massive psychotic break (almost exactly a year ago to right now, actually) happened while I was on medications for both depression AND bipolar disorder. Like I’ve said before, these medicines weren’t helping anything, and I was living a lifestyle of moving from illness to illness…which was bullshit… From where I sit now, I’m inclined to believe at least 75% of this madness was precipitated because I was so heavily medicated (the other 20% being from the birth control, and the final 5% is my own natural color.)

These days my mental state is rational and predictable on a daily basis, which wasn’t even possible during the Effexor-zombie apathy spell I was experiencing for months at the beginning of this year. I’m still working on building up physical strength, and I’m monitoring my diet with lots of protein, so my carb-binge cravings have finally subsided. I’m finding I’m a lot less exciteable than I remember being in my youth, and I tend to be a lot more laid-back than I’ve ever been. I don’t nervously blurt or ramble when I’m bored or nervous, which is a huge relief; I feel more at ease moving through social interactions these days. A lot of that I’m sure has to do with age, but being that I’ve been a hyperexciteable mess right up until a couple months ago, finding out that I’m really a lot more relaxed when I’m unmedicated is a delightful surprise.

I feel like I’ve had a complete mental makeover. The person I’ve been in the last couple months has been drastically different than the scary, insane thing I’ve been exhausted being for an eternity now. Aside from physical issues throwing kinks in my daily life, I’m finding that I’m more consistent than ever and my progress at recovery is slow and steady instead of coming in fits and spurts like usual. With this lack of constant drama, our household is flourishing; my husband feels more comfortable and relaxed and, as a result, his creativity is bursting, which spurs on my own. We’re calmer and more content; stress, anxiety, and fear don’t lie just below the surface of our interactions anymore. It’s an incredible luxury.

I will say that, now that I’m not constantly battling some mental demon, I am excruciatingly bored with this stay-at-home lifestyle I’ve set up for myself. Having the Bear at home for summer is keeping me entertained and staying creative, but the minute she goes off to school in a couple weeks, I’m diving right into a couple ventures I’ve had on the backburner for years now. Originally, I thought I’d look for work, but as I was interviewing for another non-prof office gig a couple weeks ago, I realized I’m not convinced I can swing a 9-to-5 lifestyle. Instead, I’m going to spend more time sloooowly integrating structure to my life and figuring out where New/Healed/Mostly-Sane Liz can thrive.

Honestly, for the first time since I was a kid, I feel like forward movement and living a full, unique, healthy existence is something I’m actually accomplishing. It doesn’t look impressive on paper, but this thoroughly-therapied, at-peace-and-slowly-plodding-forward-at-my-own-pace version of my Self is my favorite of my acheivements so far.

Detox Weeks 3-4: The Great, the Bad, and the Relatively Ugly

All of this should be prefaced by restating that, as the Effexor’s hold on my psyche slowly increased during the years I was on it, it literally sucked my will to experience life dry, which means that a lot of things fell by the wayside. This is a gigantic part of the reason I’m quitting it in the first place (as I mentioned in-depth earlier), so it stands to reason that it’s the months of apathy and resulting piles of mental/physical “euckh” I’m actually dealing with the most now aside from the SSRI withdrawal syndrome (which, again, is a @#$%ing real %$#!ing thing…)
Things are developing, which is good. Here’s the lowdown:

The GREAT!!
My will to thrive has returned in full, which is exciting. My mind isn’t racing and I’m not feeling manic or ridiculously overzealous about hurling myself forward, but I’m actually excited about stuff like getting my house in order and catching up/regaining a normal fucking day-to-day life that includes being productive and enjoying things! I’m doing spring-clean-y stuff and selling/donating/purging outdated clothes/housewares and slowly getting shit going again. I even went out and touched-up a “street art” piece I’d been meaning to do for literally 9 months now (I bought the paint that long ago. Ridiculous.) I can’t really describe how it feels to be excited about desiring to do the mundane, but it is among the things that I am most grateful for at the moment. THIS is why I knew, in my heart, that quitting these godforsaken medications was what I needed. Score yet another for intuition.

The Ongoing Bad
The thing about recovery in any form is that one always expects it to be a steady, gradual course, but it never, ever is; this includes recovering physically, unfortunately. It wasn’t recommended by anybody, but I weaned myself off the drugs relatively quickly, because the more I read about it, the more I found that people were describing the hideous withdrawal symptoms all along, no matter how quickly they decreased their dosage and, frankly, I’d rather be severely miserable for a month than generally miserable for six. I’m a rip-the-damned-bandaid-off-already kind of gal. (In a barely-related story: I also genuinely like spoilers. Bring ’em on. I hate suspense.) So I basically took the hard route and committed to just being tortured and incapacitated for a short amount of time. Unfortunately, after being “clean” of the Effexor/Cymbalta for a couple weeks, my plans hit a snag last weekend when my husband was out of town and I was still in physical misery; HOWEVER, I also found myself literally being woken up every 4-6 minutes with the most horrifying, vivid dreams I’ve ever experienced. Not only were they hyper-realistic in that they moved seamlessly into my real-life situation, but I was experiencing physical sensations to boot. It was insufferable and I finally caved and took a fraction of a dose of the SNRI to stop the withdrawal symptoms. They worked like a charm, and I was immediately able to sleep with no problems, but I’m terrified I reset my whole system and have prolonged the detox process. Dammit.

The Relatively Ugly
Another fun thing I didn’t know about Effexor is that it is precisely what has been contributing to my weight gain in the last couple years (aside from the Fat Miley project, in which I openly embraced putting on a few for the sake of art. #WorthIt) Not only does it make cravings uncontrollable (and will punish your psyche severely if you try to abstain), but it makes the weight harder to work off. And as it worked on my apathy, I sort of stopped giving a crap because, really? Being a little fat is a ton of fun once you stop giving a shit what society says about it. Seriously. Everything’s a little cushier and more comfortable; you stop giving a shit about whether or not your tailored stuff is gonna fit because you know it isn’t and you embrace clothes that are more flowy and easygoing anyway. It’s kind of like walking around in a fatsuit, which is just a bunch of pillows wrapped around your bones. Fluffy!
I mean, I knew I was getting on the unhealthier side, and I sure did miss wearing most of the stuff in my closet, but I’ve lost baby weight before and I wasn’t too worried about being able to lose it again; I just didn’t have any real drive to do it… or anything for that matter. Being 50 lbs overweight was a bit of a fun adventure/life experience. I have no regrets on that front.
HOWEVER, now that I’m trying to get my body back in gear, it is embarrassingly hard. Even when I was humongous and pregnant, I still was active enough to get back on the horse once the baby was outside my body. Aside from the general pain and dizziness from the withdrawal, I’m trying to push through and get a little cardio for endorphins’ sake.
I went for a walk today. I went 2 miles. It took me 40 MINUTES.
Apparently, sitting around in apathy has hit the “reset” button on my personal stamina. I literally have never been in this bad of physical shape before.
It is a daunting task to think of getting out of this hole.
I genuinely am not worried about losing the weight so much as I am my ability to get my strength back in what feels like a completely foreign body. The weight will work itself out, but dear LORD, do I feel physically useless.

To be honest, in this apathy spree of mine, I’ve sort of just not given a shit about how I look at all. Putting my concern on my quality of life and my mental state has definitely been more important, and, honestly, taking a break from the societally-induced vanity we’re all expected to adhere to has been kind of nice. I love playing with makeup, but I’ve only done so about once a month for the last quarter-and-change. I’ve been living mostly in maxi dresses/skirts and cinching my waist to give myself a shape, but not really paying much attention to appearance on a daily basis. Between that and not getting much physical activity, I feel completely disconnected to my body; I’ve been living mostly in my fuzzy brain.
As much as I’ve always hated women who primp for hours, I don’t think setting up a routine to at least put on mascara or do a vibrant lip for myself every morning after I meditate is a bad thing right now, even if I don’t plan on seeing anybody during the day. I need to start acknowledging this body if I’m going to heal it, too, I think.

It seems like I’m writing my own How to Heal Thyself manual. I like where this rough draft is going.

Detox Week One: The Learning Curve

PLEASE NOTE: What I’m talking about isn’t just something I’m fabricating for funsies; I learned this week that the medical community has recognized Effexor withdrawal syndrome (or “SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome“, technically) as A FREAKING ILLNESS IN AND OF ITSELF. WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL!? I have thoughts on how unbelievable this is and why this is something I wish I’d known about years ago, but I don’t wanna talk about that at the moment because I can’t afford to get angry about that right now.

It is 4 a.m. and I desperately need to do something to occupy my mind because it’s getting out of hand. I figured writing is my best bet, and I’ve been meaning to track my progress little by little anyway.

I’ve found so much information about others’ accounts with Effexor withdrawal (the amount of info from people like me is staggering, and I’m quickly realizing that this is a very, very dangerous substance I’ve been on) that I want to add what I’m learning into the conversation. Being that so many people have found my accounts of mental illness struggles on this blog through Google and have expressed gratitude for my sharing, I thought I’d make this yet another a searchable resource for anyone who needed it. Being able to read others’ accounts and input has been absolutely invaluable to me in the last couple weeks; I like the idea of paying it forward. So here we are talking more about the Crazy and my seemingly endless recovery from it.

This post may be disjointed, rambly, poorly-written, and repetitive, as I’ve been increasingly foggy and confused with my words recently. I’ll do the best I can. I will probably come back and edit to add reference links to the sources I found in my nonstop research, but I make no guarantees.

Originally (and quite unexpectedly), I discovered that taking supplements by the handful (Flaxseed oil, fish oil, B complex, especially) and a Claritin D every morning was tackling the physical symptoms I’d started experiencing from stopping the Effexor and moving instead to a smaller dose of Cymbalta (the “brain zaps” or “brain shudders”; the muscle fatigue; the nausea) so efficiently I was shocked. I couldn’t believe Claritin D was so effective at knocking out the godawful nausea and I was actually pretty amazed at how well the whole “detox” thing was going after the first few days. After the night sweats went away on their own, I thought I was through the thick of it in a miraculously short amount of time compared to what everyone else had been reporting. I was having a little problem with vertigo spells and my equilibrium was consistently off juuust enough to warrant my acquiring a cane to get around with, but I wasn’t crashing into things or losing balance entirely. I felt good enough by Thursday to go ahead with plans to drive out of state for an old, dear friend’s wedding Saturday afternoon.

I’d noticed a few little things going on mentally that I’d accepted as expected parts of the withdrawal, like this ringing in my ears and flashes out of the corners of my eyes, but I started to notice that my brain was constantly playing a song nonstop and my thoughts were jumping around a bunch. I started having signs of insomnia and, a few times on Friday and Saturday, I caught myself feeling like I couldn’t stop talking even though I wasn’t saying anything important, which reminded me too much of mania for my comfort. Sure enough, a quick search showed that one of the things reported when stopping this demon drug is a sudden manic episode from people who were never prone to mania before being on Effexor.
FAAAAACK.
Thank God I know how to spot this sort of thing early so I can be vigilant and not make any rash/terrible decisions in the throes of unchecked Crazy. Also, I still have a prescription for Lamictal (a mood stabilizer for bipolar disorder) that was recently reduced just last week; I’ve decided to postpone reducing that until this Effexor drama is done, just to help me rein in my sanity on the manic/depressive spectrum.

However, as the weekend has progressed, my balance has gotten worse and I’ve been continually getting confused midway through a sentence or thought. To my dismay, I had to leave wedding festivities an hour early because I felt this feeling of “not right” creeping in and I was zoning out and being unable to focus in general. I thought I’d be best regrouping and spending a quiet evening with the college friends who are letting me crash with them over the weekend, but, as the evening wore on, my symptoms just kept getting worse. I’ve spent the entire last 6 hours trying to focus on my breathing; drinking gallons of water and then getting up to pee it out; reading more about these manic episodes and if I’m in any actual danger of going off the deep end if I’m on just a regular dose of Lamictal; going on Instagram to see what other people were posting about Effexor withdrawal (the selfies are haunting from others detoxing, btw) trying to meditate; trying to be mindful of my thoughts so they don’t dominate my emotions and send me into a tailspin; taking melatonin to help me try to sleep to no avail; taking ibuprofen for the body aches to no avail. Etcetera.

I finally realized my thoughts were just adding to this physiological cacophony and starting to affect my real feelings with frustration and hypothetical future results, so I thought I’d try to lay them out in text form, as per my usual coping mechanism.

Needless to say, writing this entry has been the most at rest my mind has been all night. Thank God for that as well. Rereading what I’ve written here, I feel like I sound level-headed and vigilant, but I do plan on staying in touch with Greg and my doctor as far as making any sort of decisions go. It’s terrifying when you can’t trust your brain to tell you the truth.

I’m gonna get up and start the long trek home as early as I can so I can figure out what to do from here. If I am, indeed, going to be dealing with the psychological crap now after the physical things have mostly passed the way it looks, I’m probably going to need to hunker down for awhile, so I don’t get all impulse-y or outwardly hyperemotional around other people as I’m wont to do when my brain is going nonstop. I hate the idea of removing myself from the world even more, but I also know how chaotic I tend to be in the lives of others when I’m in a manic state, and I don’t ever want to have to deal with the remorse of that again. Not ever.

It’s 5:30 now and my eyelids are finally getting heavy. My brain is fighting to stay focused on writing so it hasn’t been buzzing as much, but I’ve had a song that I hate and haven’t heard recently playing nonstop in my head the whole time I’ve been writing. I have had incurable dry mouth so long this evening that now my ears and throat hurt. I feel like I’m going to be sick, but I’m also hungry… preferably for meat… I’m probably low on Vitamin D. My body aches and my head feels fuzzy. I keep going back and realizing that I’ve written run-on sentences that change styles/tenses/syntaxes a number of times without realizing it; I’ve left clauses completely unfinished and just sort of hanging out without resolution all over the place. I’ve now spent an hour and 45 minutes writing and editing this short entry that would ordinarily have taken me 30 minutes at the most. My eyes are increasingly sensitive to light and I still keep seeing little flashes to the sides when I move my eyes around; although the strong “zap” sensations that usually happen are gone. My muscles are sore like I’ve been standing or hiking all day. When I close my eyes, I see squiggly lines in the dark. I keep hearing very, very faint, high-pitched pings every so often.

All of these are among the many, many heavily-documented symptoms of the syndrome that occurs from QUITTING Effexor.

I just wanted to make sure I’d blatantly stated that again, because it is by far the most disturbing thing I’ve discovered in a while.

This is buuuullshit.

I Quit

There’s more to life than this. I’m trying something radical, and I’m doing it under doctor’s supervision, and I’m pretty terrified, but I’ve had enough.

I’ve been on antidepressants for more than ten effing years now. In that time, I’ve developed anxiety, fatigue, PGAD, musculoskeletal aches and pains (like fibromyalgia) and bipolar disorder. Before I started antidepressants, I had none of those things – only the severe depression. In the decade I’ve been cycling through to try to find the “right medication”, I’ve been constantly sick with some random ailment, I’ve piled weight on and lost tons (without really changing anything in a couple cases), and, once, I developed an endocrinological disorder that had me in and out of the ER and seeing a specialist who gave me an endoscopy and found nothing. (This was remedied when I stopped taking the psych meds I’d recently been put on. Miraculous.) Every other year or so, my body adapts to the drugs so entirely that they stop working and I either have to be pumped full of more or changed up altogether, which is nothing short of torture for a few days while my entire psychological/physical system detoxes from the addiction of one and moves to another.

I’m sick of it. I’m fucking done.

I know that sounds terrifying and dangerous, but I’ve been talking to my doctors about this and it’s something I feel confident I should at least try with close supervision. I NEVER had manic episodes or anxiety until I started trying out different antidepressants (and, for a while, Adderall/Vyvanse that one of the quacks I saw gave me to “jump start me out of bed”. Christ…) and I truthfully don’t even know what my natural existence would even feel like anymore. After a decade’s worth of therapy, learning tools for managing my ridiculously intense emotions/conflicting exterior dynamics, and healing from all the stuff that was making me depressed in the first place when all my Crazy started, who knows how my natural mental state would actually maintain?

We intend to find out.

I’ve been researching the hell out of this (I was ESPECIALLY bothered when I joined a forum for people quitting Effexor – which is worse than heroin withdrawal – and saw SO many people listing the same EXACT side effects as I’ve had, INCLUDING the PGAD.), and the first couple weeks are going to be rough. Like stay-in-bed-twitching-and-aching rough. But, frankly, I’ve done that before, and as long as I know it’ll pass, I’ll be okay. After that, we’re just going to monitor my behaviors and moods vigilantly and I’ll probably lay low for a bit while I adjust, but I intend to continue getting a ton of supplements and sunshine and exercise when I can. My doctor has moved me over to Cymbalta to wean off of instead of trying it with the Effexor because they’re comparable, but the former will take care of the fibromyalgic-type pains I’ve had for a couple years now. In the meantime, I’m going to be going heavy on B-complexes and Omegas 3, 6, and 9.

I’m fucking done with years of endless side effects and adjustments and jumping from one addictive substance to another without ever feeling “right”. I’m sick of constantly having some new physical demon to battle and experiencing behaviors I never ever had before even though I’m supposed to be on medicines that will “fix” everything. I’m tired of being handed new diagnoses for things I never actually exhibited before I was taking this stuff. And, most recently, I’m sick of feeling nothing and wasting my time and my life being apathetic and useless.

I’m ready to find a new way of life because this shit isn’t working. Here’s to getting back to basics.

The Stranger vs. The Bear

I took the Bear out for doughnuts and milk to talk to her a little about what’s been going on. I’ve told her before about my anxiety issues and having a sickness in my brain, but I’ve kept it very vague. This time I thought I’d trust her with a little more information, because what I’ve learned is that the worst possible thing to do to an observant child is to deny that there’s anything wrong.

I started by asking if she remembered me talking about my brain being sick and how I’d likened it to her grandaddy’s diabetes. She said she did. I explained that it wasn’t something other people can catch, as long as I treat it and get medical help for it (which is true, given the/my psychiatric beliefs in transferral), and I was working hard to get better so she and Daddy don’t get sick brain too. She asked what it was like to have sick brain and I explained that sometimes it makes me act in ways that are weird and not like my normal self.

Then she said: Like when you get grumpy sometimes, it’s like you turn different. Like a stranger.

I felt gutted. I knew exactly what she was talking about and what it felt like to watch that in someone I loved and trusted.

Strangely, I was excited when she told me that, despite how much it hurt. I told her I saw it too and encouraged her to keep talking. (Only later did I recognize that this was easily a direct dialogue with my inner-child. I digress.)

She said: You get like a stranger and the stranger is a bully.

Me: Yeah! And that’s scary, right?

Her: Yeah. I don’t like it.

Me: Oh man, me neither.

I’d like to thank Mr. Rogers for the ability to talk about feelings.

So I told her that the next time she saw The Bully come out, she should tell me, and we’ll stop right there, hold hands, take a deep breath, count to ten, and then start our conversation over. She seemed really excited and asked, “ANY time?” and I said, “Of course”. Immediately, I could see her feeling more confident that she would have control over the situation.

“But I won’t call you a bully every day. Most days, you’re my sweet mommy.”

Dear Lord. This kid is going to change the world.