Tired

I started my new job today, and even though I wasn’t too busy I was still very nervous.

I know that the medication I’m taking is working for depression, but my anxiety is through the roof. I’m trying to train my brain to exist in the present, but I keep getting lost in the future.

I’m tired of feeling this way. I know that my anxiety and frantic thoughts will pass, but it’s taking too long.

My Last Trip to Houston

When I was in college, before MySpace or Facebook, there were bulletin boards. I don’t remember how I found out about them, but I decided one day to set up a profile.

My profile name? Eros Turannos.

I had just read the poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson in my poetry class and thought it would be a good username.

What I didn’t realize, because I was very naive, was that men stopped at “Eros” and immediately thought I was promiscuous. It was annoying and upsetting.

However, I did meet a few people online who were nice, and one who I thought hung the moon.

His name was Mike, and he lived in another state. Our first phone call lasted several hours. We found that we had the same sense of humor, liked the same books, and were in sync on many things.

He wanted to come visit me, but I couldn’t go through with it. I was too nervous. As much as I liked Mike, I was still an agoraphobic. Even if I didn’t really know it yet.

Mike decided to visit another bulletin-board friend and ended up having a layover in Houston. He asked me if I would come see him at the airport. This was before 9/11, so I would be able to meet him at the gate.

I said I would, but it took a heck of a time to get to Houston Intercontinental. I was so nervous and turned around to go back to Huntsville at least three times.

When I finally got there, I had to run to the gate. I recognized him immediately. He was sitting reading Jurassic Park and was wearing the fluorescent orange hat he told me to look for.

We had only a few minutes to say hello in person for the first time. There was already a boarding call announced. We quickly kissed and then he was gone. Our relationship, whatever it was, didn’t last, but that moment stands out in my mind.

I didn’t travel to Houston for several years after that whirlwind trip. But the fact that I had made it to Houston and back was an accomplishment, and that was all that mattered.

Best Actress Award

Many times that I’ve said to someone that I was nervous, he or she has said, “I had no idea! You looked so calm.”

I think a lot of people with anxiety hide it well. We have our internal symptoms, but on the surface we may seem cool and collected.

I used to see anxiety as a stigma. Now I find it tad easier to deal with if I let people know that I’m anxious.

How do you deal with anxiety? Do you lay all your cards out on the table, or do you keep it hidden?

Recovering

I finally found out where I’m going, and my job is changing. I’m happy that I’ll be in a position that is a good fit for me, but I will miss the people I’m currently working with.

My body still hasn’t fully recovered from this past week. My stomach is still in knots, and I’m exhausted yet restless.

Will this go on for weeks to come? I’m trying to look toward the future with excitement, but I am equally nervous because basically I’m starting a new job.

Please keep me in your thoughts.

25 Years Ago Today…

…my mom and I flew from Rochester, New York, back to my hometown of Houston, Texas. We were able to move in to the house I grew up in, with the same neighbors giving us support.

I remember how it felt to go to school with a lot of the same people, but noticing they saw me in a different light. I was no longer just “Merrie.” I was “Merrie, the one with divorcing parents.” It felt like a stigma.

It was around this time that I started having panic attacks. I know they appeared before we left upstate New York, but they became more prevalent in my life after we left.

Twenty-five years ago I was 13. I still can’t believe I’ve been dealing with panic disorder for this long, but I hope that things are finally taking a turn for the better.

I don’t want to experience panic attacks for another 25 years.

 

Off the Charts

Today was one of the worst days I’d had in a while.

It didn’t start out that way. It started like any other day. I got up, got dressed, and drove to work.

That’s when I found out that today was Layoff Day.

I thought I would be OK. I thought we would all be OK. But then a coworker was called into a supervisor’s office, and then you could cut the tension with a knife.

I was miserable. All of my anxiety/panic symptoms appeared. Nausea, heart palpitations, shaking, breathing difficulties, you name it. My anxiety level was off the charts.

I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t concentrate.

Then the meetings started. I was in two: One to tell the employees that layoffs had finished and the other to tell employees in my department that we would be hearing later in the week what would happen to us.

So the unknown will drag on for a bit, but I am learning how to deal with the edge of the unknown.

I just don’t like dealing with the known right now.

Tools for Anxiety

Tonight is the second time in a row that I’m hanging out with a friend. And, of course, I’m all kinds of nervous.

This is the first time J has been to our house, and I’ve never had dinner with him. That is, he has never seen me eat. I don’t know why that bothers me, but I have had people comment on how little I eat. I tend to pick at my food when I’m nervous.

It’s not that I’m dreading this dinner. On the contrary; I’m excited. J is hilarious. He and I have the same sense of humor, and I know that he and Lee will get along great. Plus, he and his partner are dog people. They will fall in love with Blue and Buddy.

I’m always anxious about people coming over. I don’t want to feel ill and leave Lee to be the entertainer. After all, I was the one to invite J and D over.

So, I’m using mental tools that my counselor has given me to handle my anxiety, and even diminish it a few points. (Remember the scale from yesterday?)

First, I look around and determine whether there is a justifiable threat. With the exception of a scorpion I killed earlier, there is no threat. The house is clean, Lee is cooking his favorite food, and the dogs are relaxing.

Then I determine what is causing my anxiety. Is it a physical sensation? No. Is it caused by thoughts? Yes. I’m having anticipatory anxiety.

What is my anticipatory anxiety about? Being ill while J and D are here.

Can I predict 100% that I will get sick while J and D are here? No.

Then I focus on my breathing. This will help me lower my anxiety.

These tools aren’t always foolproof. And it will take me a bit to take in that things are OK and that I need to live in the present moment. But I’m still looking forward to tonight.

It’s going to be a good night.

And the List Keeps Growing…

The picture in this post shows just a few of the medications I take. I don’t necessarily take everything on my list every day, but the number of pills I do take seems like a lot. If you are what you eat, then I’m a walking pharmacy.

Pills Pills Pills

Here’s my list:

  • Effexor XR (generic brand is Venlafaxine HCL ER): 150 mg every day. This is the antidepressant that I started on 10+ years ago. When I’ve been feeling lower than normal, my psychiatrist and I have decided twice to raise the level to 225 mg. It may help for a few days, but acid reflux attacks with a vengeance and I have to go back to 150. While it initially helped me break through some boundaries, missing one dosage or forgetting to take it with food will make me extremely sick. Many people have had horrible experiences with trying to taper off, even while ramping up with some similar drug, including me. I crash every time. I’m going to make another attempt in the future to switch, but it’s going to be a while before that happens again.
  • Clonazepam (also known as Kolonapin): 1.0-1.5 mg every night. This is an anti-anxiety drug that I started taking a few years ago. When I started on this medication, it was only as needed for panic attacks. I now take it at night to help me fall asleep, but I have developed such a high tolerance that it doesn’t work very well.
  • Zolpidem Tartrate (also known as Ambien): 10-20 mg every night. I started taking this sleeping aid when one of the other medications I tried for depression gave me insomnia. It is a very addictive drug that I have been taking for a few years. There have been stories of people doing crazy things on Ambien. The main side effect for me was late-night binge eating. One night I went into the kitchen, got a Pepsi and a bag of tortilla chips, and brought them into bed with me. According to Lee, I was shoving my hand down into the bag and then cramming the chips into my mouth. He asked me whether I should be eating all of the chips and I proceeded to glare at him. I don’t remember this. I have, however, gained a considerable amount of weight. Thanks, Ambien!
  • Omeprazole: 40 mg twice a day for acid reflux. This I can thank for Effexor and for a different drug that I tried to pair with Effexor to help my mood. Sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, I get terrible chest pains due to excessive gas.
  • Dicyclomine (also known as Bentyl): 20 mg tablets as needed. I’m supposed to take this for my chest pains, but it doesn’t help much. If the chest pain rears its ugly head, I usually take a combination of Dicyclomine, Pepto Bismol, GasX, and Ibuprofin. I usually feel like my chest is in a vise for several hours, even with all this “help.”
  • Loestrin 24: once a night for birth control. I take this more because I need it than want it. When I’m not on birth control, I have severe abdominal pain for more than a week. I tried Yaz, but ended up not having a period for five months which freaked me out. Not because I thought I could be pregnant, but because I didn’t think it was normal. My gynecologist wasn’t worried about it, but I switched because I was scared. There have been no problems since.
  • Zyrtec: Once a night for allergies. I don’t take this every night, but on the nights I do, I feel extremely hungover the next day.
  • Nasonex: I have to use this nasal spray once every morning for allergies. I’m fighting allergies all year round, according to my allergy skin test.
  • Xanax: 0.5-1.0 mg as needed for panic. I initially took this for going on trips. I haven’t left Texas since 2005.

Let’s face it. My purse sounds like a maraca. The funny thing is that I don’t take a multivitamin. But I digress…

Here’s a list of medications I have tried to either replace or pair with Effexor and failed: Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro, Lamictil, Wellbutrin, Cymbalta, Pristiq. There may have been others that I can’t remember. But you get the gist.

I told my psychiatrist that every time I have tried to move on from Effexor to another medication, Effexor physically and emotionally hurts me. It doesn’t want to let go.

It makes me shaky, nervous, nauseated. It drains me emotionally to where I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of hopelessness.

And I end up coming back. Over and over.

“But maybe,” I said, “I haven’t given these other medications long enough to take hold. Maybe I have realize that I will have to go through hell before I can get back to some normalcy.”

Some breakups are like that. It takes a long time for the heart to heal, and even then there’s the occasional sting.

But I want to breakup with Effexor. Initially I thought it was a wonder drug. And it was. It helped me make the biggest move of my life. I actually changed zip and area codes. I was impressed.

There is no love between us anymore, however. I think it sustains me like oil sustains an engine. It keeps me going just enough to keep going.

My psychiatrist believes that such a drastic change would not be good for me right now. I agree. So before I leave Effexor behind, hopefully for good, I’ve been given a plan of attack to aid my sleep and boost my mood.

By adding more medication.

This is also to help taper off of Ambien at some point, so I’m not complaining.

  1. Night 1: Take 50 mg of Trazadone 30-45 minutes before bed, along with the Clonezapam and Zolpidem.
  2. Night 2: If 50 mg of Trazadone doesn’t work (it didn’t), try 2 Trazadone. I did this and believe I got some sleep. I definitely didn’t feel as shaky as I did yesterday and I wasn’t stuck on one song lyric all night.
  3. 3 to 4 days later: After I know how Trazadone affects me, add 2 mg Abilify at night (1/2 tab for first three nights, then one tab each night). This is to boost my mood. Ever seen the commercial with the gray cloud that follows the depressed woman and then she takes Abilify and she’s all better? That’s me. Hopefully.
  4. Reduce Clonezapam by 50 percent. I hope this will be easy to taper off of. We’ll see.

I have a follow-up appointment in three weeks. I hope I have a little skip in my step by then. But whatever the steps are now, they all lead to my ultimate goal.

To not sound like part of a marachi band every time I dig in my purse. Ay yi yi.

She’s In There, Somewhere

Fighting for truth and justice

That’s me. I rocked the Wonder Woman Underoos, didn’t I?

I wouldn’t say I was fearless, but up until puberty I went on plane rides by myself, put on lip-synched Alvin and the Chipmunks concerts for my neighbors, and defeated Carrot Man with my bare hands. (Thanks for putting up with me, Uncle George.)

I’ve been the opposite of that girl for a long time. I thought she would reemerge when Effexor initially worked for me and I was able to leave Huntsville.

For a while I’ve been hiding out, the complete opposite of the carefree girl and her crazy poses. I’ve lost interest in everything.

Sure, I’ve started going to a pub quiz once a week and I’ve found a bit of comfort in playing the piano again, but otherwise I don’t do anything.

Nothing.

No knitting, spinning, dyeing, writing. No helping my husband with cleaning our beautiful home. No taking pride in myself.

On the weekends, I sleep. During the week, I can’t get to sleep at night.

I feel overmedicated and undermedicated at the same time.

I said that to my psychiatrist yesterday. I also talked about symptoms that I hadn’t admitted to before.

Obssessive Compulsive Disorder symptoms, such as getting a song lyric stuck in my head…running over and over like my iPod is on repeat. Another symptom I deal with is called “morbid obsessions,” where in one instant I can look at something or someone and see myself doing something terrible. Images that horrify me.

We’ve come up with a plan that will hopefully help me with sleep and lift my mood, but it’s started rough. I was up for most of the night. When I was able to sleep, I had awful images of my ex not leaving me alone.

When I got to work this morning, I was shaky and nauseated. I didn’t know if I could make it through the day. I wanted to. I needed to. And I did.

Having work to focus on has been my saving grace. Yes, I’m grateful for the time Lee and I spend together, but to be totally immersed in a project has helped me get through each week as well. There are times when I don’t want to get out of bed, but I know I have to because I have coworkers who are confident in my abilities and let me know I’m appreciated.

Today of all days I needed something to distract me, and being around my coworkers helped.

There was also a phone call from my dad. I had let him know that I had gone to the psychiatrist and he called to check up on me. I got to hear the joy in his voice when he talked about his puppy, Wally, and the sadness when he talked about me.

“I just wonder what happened to that girl who was happy and lived life to the fullest,” he said.

“She’s in there, somewhere, Dad. I just have to find a way to bring her back.”

Love Lost and Weight Gained

My hypnotherapist suggested for future sessions to find a photo of me at a time when I was happy with my weight. For me, that would be around 2001-2002, so I started looking through photos to find one that I could post on my bathroom mirror. The problem with this time frame is that most about that part of my life I would rather forget. Going through those photos made me very emotional, but at the same time I am glad I brought those memories forth.

Obligatory Sears posed photo. My ex had a matching outfit.

Most of my life I was underweight. I believe I was around 80 pounds in high school. It wasn’t that I wanted to be that skinny. I had a high metabolism and could basically eat anything I wanted. My parents were like sticks, too. I was teased about it, but I was also teased about my first and last names, so it wasn’t too big of a deal to me.

The only time it did bother me was when I went to Planned Parenthood to get birth control pills. I was constantly harassed about my weight, and kept being asked, “Do you like yourself? Are you anorexic? Do you want to throw up?” I felt like I was part of the Spanish Inquisition. I thought, “If I had great self esteem when I came in, I’m certainly feeling pretty ugly right now.” When I came to get my thyroid test results, I was told they were normal. However, the receptionist looked me up and down and told me I should eat some ice cream every night.

One of the main symptoms of my anxiety is nausea, so junior high through 2000, I didn’t eat much. If I went out to eat, I would be the nibbler. People would ask me if I didn’t like my food. I would have to have the “It’s not the chef, it’s me” conversation with the waiter. Sometimes I would have to leave the restaurant early because I would have a panic attack. I would just tell people I didn’t feel well. That was the easiest way to put it.

Once I started taking Effexor, things started looking up. As I’ve said in an earlier post, I started taking chances in my life. However, that does not mean that I made all the right decisions.

On Valentine’s Day in 2000, I came out to my car to find that someone had left me a rose and a balloon but no note. I had an idea of who left me these gifts, but I still asked my neighbor’s son if he had seen anyone. When I got to work, there was another rose, another balloon, and a Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal on my desk. A lot of people knew that I was a WP fan at the time, but I already knew who left these tokens of affection. It made me uneasy, especially since this person didn’t leave any hint as to who he was.

He finally came clean and asked me out. I said I wasn’t interested in being anything other than friends. Truth be told, I was interested in someone else. Plus I felt E’s behavior was a bit stalker-like and it made me nervous.

But E kept fighting back. He would bring me flowers; he would ask me to lunch. When I finally relented, he asked me while we were eating, “Would you rather kiss a dog’s ass than me?” I didn’t know how to answer. I told my dad about the conversation, and his answer was, “What kind of dog?”

I guess I’m a sucker for determination, because I gave E a chance. But the whole time I felt it was wrong. When he called me drunk saying that he wouldn’t bother me anymore, I shouldn’t have called back. But I was mad, and I was also worried about E having alcohol poisoning. He initially answered the phone, but passed out halfway through. I called the police, and the information, of course, was played on the police scanner in the newsroom. Everyone knew my business. It was embarrassing.

Yet I let E back in again. It was as though since I felt a new lease on life, I could take on this challenge. E had been in an emotionally abusive relationship before, and anything could set him off. If I made one peep about breaking up, or that I needed space, he went ballistic. He would threaten suicide and ask me to hit him because he said he deserved it. He was broken. And for some reason I wanted to try to fix him.

So he came with me to Austin. E didn’t have a job, but luckily I did, so we were able to find a nice apartment. For a while it was nice, and the natural recourse was to get married. We ended up having a ceremony in Dallas, so that my grandmother would be able to attend.

After the ceremony. E's face has been blurred to my satisfaction.

Since E and I had settled into a nice routine, I was enjoying life more and more, including the food that went with it. Both of us were picky eaters, so it was mostly carbohydrates for me. That, along with me getting older, slowed down my metabolism and I started gaining weight. I thought it was also because I was happy and in love.

There were some bumps in the road. E had to have his thyroid removed because it was the size of Texas. Once it was removed and the doctor was trying to even out his hormones, E gained weight. He was a gymnast when he was younger and a cheerleader in high school, so he was very conscious about what he looked like. E became very depressed and started working out…all the time.

I decided to try to get healthy with him, especially since our apartment complex had a gym. The first time I went he worked me on the elliptical machine so much that I threw up when I got home. At the time I was proud of myself, but I didn’t keep up the routine. E did and got in shape. And sometime during this transformation, he lost interest in me.

It’s not all E’s fault. I didn’t really take good care of myself. I found myself thinking that E should love me for who I was, with all I did for him, that hygiene and weight shouldn’t matter. Instead, I found out it mattered very much, and it included a shouting match with E calling me “fat” and “a slob.” It went downhill from there.

By the time E asked for a divorce, which he once swore he would never do, I was in shambles. We had switched self-esteem places from the beginning of the relationship. I was the one pleading with E to stay. Even though I knew in the back of my mind that this was the right thing for both of us, I was afraid to be alone again.

I lost a few pounds after the marriage ended, but have since gained them all back, plus a few more. I know part of it is because I am very comfortable now with the way my life is going, but I also know part of it is because I don’t know how to eat right and I’m not exercising. Both, I’ve been told, can help my mood and my anxiety levels.

I’ve stopped and started many times, but so far nothing has stuck. So now I’m going to try weight release with the hypnotherapist. I have found a photo, one where E does not have to be cut out.

The last time I talked with E I found out that he had remarried and had children. I found out from his stepfather a year later that E’s mother had died. I am grateful that J told me because E’s mother was a wonderful woman who I think of often. I knew that she had Lupus and was in pain most of the time, but she always had a positive outlook on life.

I think of E from time to time, and wonder if he ever thinks of me. It’s not that I want to see him again, but I feel our time together was important and something I’ll never forget.

Now I just need to remember “me.”

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