Author Archive

Friday, July 11th, 2014 | Author:

It’s been a little over two months since I stopped the Effexor and, while my major withdrawal symptoms have been gone for awhile, I’ve been struggling with a few that are still just as mind/time consuming. Primarily, I am irritable and my mini-wrath is on a short fuse. Luckily, I’m in no mindset for angry tirades or livid missives or my typical get-angry-and-stew-and-obsess-over-it M.O., but I’m snapping a lot at the Bear for just being a normal kid (read: loud and messy), and I’m just bitchy and grumpy and misanthropic a LOT recently, which I can tell is just withdrawally stuff and isn’t anything real. I do have brief flashes of really evil thoughts when the irritability strikes, but none are violent and I’m not feeling driven to perform anything more than just some light grumping, so no need to worry. Strangely, it seems to set in right about 3 p.m. (whether or not I’ve had coffee in the morning) which I’ve started referring to as “Bitch O’Clock”, and at which point I make arrangements to have a little quiet time and not put myself in a place where I’m likely to explode. So far so good.

I’m dealing with some light confusion, which is frustrating, especially when I go to say a word and a completely different one comes out. I’m forgetting a lot of things and am having trouble talking, which is embarrassing. (Please note: This entry has been heavily, heavily edited because the original draft was an English graduate’s nightmare. Rambling run-ons and dangling participles and misplaced modifiers! Oh my!)

Additionally, I’m finding that, because my brain is scrambling for endorphins that have always been supplemented by medication, I’m compulsive in heavily craving little “fixes” to the joy-receptors, which are mostly the constant urge to be on social media, buy unimportant crap I don’t need, or click on idiotic links as though feeding my soul McDonald’s. Of course I’m still constantly craving carby, sugary stuff, and I’m having to be hypervigilant about every decision I make and everything I’m putting into my face because my body is SCREAMING at me to indulge in anything that will give me superficial pleasure, and while I don’t believe in complete abstinence, at the moment, giving myself a little of anything turns into a bender regardless of what the particular vice is. Trying to regulate myself and have small meals or tiny snacks is proving to be impossible; I go ahead and accept that I’m going to fill up every time I eat and plan accordingly (letting myself binge-eat fresh produce is WAY better than being unable to stop eating Cheerios after dinner, I think.)

And if you’re wondering: yes, I’m pretty pissed that withdrawal is giving me a binge-eating disorder (that I hope will be temporary.) I properly freaked out about it a few weeks ago when I realized that my body wasn’t letting up with intense, compulsive cravings until I’ve eaten to the point of disgust and my best efforts to stop weren’t helping, but I think accepting it as a part of withdrawal and working on damage control instead of trying to deny that it’s happening is probably best. I’ve done a little research and am taking chromium picolinate and L-glutamine supplements to curb the carb cravings and help all of it metabolize so I don’t get prediabetic. Also, I’m eating a bunch of stuff to help me feel fuller (chia seeds, coffee, eggs, almonds) and trying to avoid sugars and pasta/bread. THIS HAS HELPED TREMENDOUSLY. Trying to healthily manage the beast seems like a more plausible solution than attempting to slay it at this juncture. Hopefully, my appetite will taper down as the withdrawal fades away, but cramming my body with healthy stuffs seems like an okay way to spend a couple months given the alternative.

In happier news, my muscles are finally coming back to life, and my energy levels are fantastic. As I’ve mentioned before, spending this whole spring lying in bed and crying with agony did nothing for my body, so the first couple weeks I was on my feet again, my entire lower half was aaaching at the end of every day from working under additional weight. I’ve been walking daily and doing yoga for the last month and I’m finally at a place where I can function all day and have plenty of energy without aches or pains, which, feels like a feat after the quarter I’ve just had. Just being able to go to bed without having to take an ibuprofen for my calves and ankles feels like a great accomplishment, and even though I haven’t lost a pound, I can tell things are shifting back into proper form. Whew.

So right now I’m just struggling with not being bitchy and curt. Again, it’s not wrathful, and I’m not deeply angry for no apparent reason (which also is a huge relief. THANKS, THERAPY!), but it’s just this ongoing irritability I hate. However, I’m finally getting around to doing some creative projects I’ve been wanting to for awhile and that makes my demeanor better.

Onward.

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014 | Author:

Apparently, spending two months barely mobile after an 18-month Effexor-induced weight-gain-and-lethargy/fatigue spree is a very efficient way to turn yourself into an 80-year-old practically overnight. Couple that with my system freaking out and craving ALLTHECARBSRIGHTNOW during withdrawal and my body is just a complete disaster at the moment, which is unfortunate because my mind is the calmest, most content and optimistic it has been in almost two decades.

That’s a first.

Obviously, I’ve been conscious of how my body was derailing in the last while, but I made up my mind at the beginning that figuring out an end to my psychiatric woes was far more important than freaking out over weight gain; I’ve lost this 50 lbs before when I had my daughter. No sweat. Now that my brain is feeling healthy and fantastic, and I’m eager to get my life back on track, I was all, “Alright! Let’s cut some calories and get to exercising! Game ooonn!” However, I wasn’t prepared for how unbelievably far gone I actually am at this juncture.

First of all, after being on a carb bender for the last two months (seriously, withdrawal is the worst. No wonder heroin addicts get fat in rehab…) my body was like, “Oh WHOA, dude; you’re not just gonna stop all this immediately.” So, while I’ve cut out bread and pasta, I’m still eating nonstop just so I don’t start feeling like I’m going to puke/faint/implode. This week’s goal is just to eat something fresh and natural (and preferably raw) when I’m craving food (which is literally still on the hour, pretty much) and not even worrying about caloric intake just yet. This feels ridiculous. I’ve never had cravings like this, even when I was pregnant…

Secondly, my muscular capabilities are nil. I’m doing about a 20-minute mile these days, and by the end of the second one, I’m exhausted. I’ve been increasingly active around the house, but by the end of the day, my feet and legs are aching from carrying all this extra weight when they’re barely used to working more than 40 minutes a day in 5-minute spurts. The fatigue and musculoskeletal aches and pains from withdrawal are gone, but now my body is having to remember what it’s like to generate its own power and it is crrreaking back to life.
I’m not even going to discuss upper body strength. Just don’t ask me to help carry your groceries inside.

Look, I realize that this could be worse – I could be in physical therapy from a car accident or recovering from cancer or paralyzed for life – but I still feel completely wrecked physically from an ailment that isn’t even addressed by doctors (SSRI withdrawal) after being put on these meds that wreaked havoc on every aspect of my life for a couple years, and I’m trying really, really hard not to be fucking pissed about it. Because I know that this is a lot more useless whining, but having to recover from what I thought/was supposed to be “recovery” is complete and utter horseshit.

Well, at least I can honestly state from experience that I would definitely rather be sane/happy and physically screwed up than skinny and mentally wrecked because, in the last 5 years, I have seen both extremes.
Mirth absolutely is all about how healthy your mind is; that’s where one’s paradise or hell exist.

Only took me 20 years, but that cliché totally checks out!

Monday, June 16th, 2014 | Author:

In honor of the LPGA U.S. Open starting today, I thought I’d share the story of the time I singlehandedly cost my high school the 1997 State Championship women’s golf title. It is a doooozy of spectacular proportions and is an ideal parable for both the perils of making expectations about other people and the beauty of perspective.

The public high school where I spent my freshman and sophomore years was brand new at the time and happened to have among us two of the best female players in the state; we just needed a third player to qualify as a team, and because my father made his career developing golf courses and I’d grown up in Pinehurst (the original self-proclaimed “Golf Capital of the World” outside of, you know, Scotland), the organizer was adamant that I’d make a perfect candidate. Said organizer was also my volleyball coach, which was a sport in which I was admittedly pretty awesome, so she straight-up refused to believe me when I said, “I really, really can’t play golf, Coach. Seriously, this is a terrible idea” and, I assume, just thought I was being modest. She was convinced that I could go out there and “hold [my] own” since I’d been raised in a golfing family, and so, after her relentless begging for almost a month, I acquiesced.

I’ll keep this short: The three of us traveled four hours from Myrtle Beach (the other self-proclaimed “Golf Capital of the World”) across the state to the tournament, which was held in even-more-out-in-the-middle-of-Nowheresville, SC. The two girls on the team scored the best in the entire state, and we were an easy choice to take the whole thing, even if I shot an outlandish 120.

I shot 154.

I couldn’t stop laughing; it was too absurd… and then laughing about how unashamed I was about the whole thing.

Alright, wait.
I legitimately had done my best out there because I didn’t want to make a mockery of the thing deliberately. I was raised with manners, for God’s sake. And integrity.
Also, I felt genuinely sorry for the other two girls who were maybe hoping this whole thing would be a beautiful underdog story that would put our sparkling new high school on the map and possibly help them catch the eye of scouts for potential collegiate golf careers. But I’m not sure how they felt about it, really, because they made sure to never speak to me again.

However, the look of shock and horror that slowly crept across Coach’s face as she watched my swiftly-unraveling game was the funniest thing to happen on a golf course short of Bill Murray mumbling about a Cinderella story. I even told a few friends about the catastrophic ridiculousness of my game with a shrug and the honest assessment that, “I DID say it was a bad idea…”

What’s most interesting to me all these years later is this: At the time, I was of the age where I was shamed very, very easily.
Call me “overweight”? I’ll be a wreck of tears and starvation for a month.
Fart in mixed company? Not going to show my face for the next hour.
But grandly, publicly, comically botching a state championship in front of hundreds of people in a sport I absolutely don’t care about? Hilarious.

..and easily dismissed, too. This was something that not only never bothered me, but that I quickly forgot about. Telling people I played golf in a state title tournament is one of those pieces of personal trivia I reserve for games of “Two Truths and a Lie”, and people always assume that that’s the lie.

So there are two lessons here, really:
1) Shame and embarrassment are all relative to what we put value on and our individual perceptions of what “failure” actually means.
2) Don’t make assumptions on a person just because of their lifestyle’s circumstances.

Oh, and 3) I cannot effing play golf. So don’t ask.

NOTE: My sincere apologies to Katie B. and Serena (Selena?), wherever they are, who probably never found this whole thing as hilarious as I, but who never once said anything negative about it to me like total class acts. It would’ve been a real honor to play with you had I actually been playing golf that day.

Monday, June 09th, 2014 | Author:

When I decided to detox from psychiatric medication, I knew better than to put any sort of expectations on the process, so I didn’t. However, I absolutely wasn’t expecting this.

All the drugs are out of my body now, which is a relief because that was a seriously uncomfortable six-week span of time. (Not only did the withdrawal symptoms run the entire gamut, but the dryness in my earsnosethroat region lead to two separate infections that required no less than four antibiotic treatments – one of which was administered via needle into my butt at tooeffingearly o’clock. Grumblegrumblegrumble…) I’d read that many people were excited to be greeted with a gorgeous, beautiful reality in which everything was vivid and colorful and full of wonder, but my fears stopped me from anticipating that, and I secretly stayed nervous that I’d plunge back into the depths of that oily, dark, suicidal depression I’d battled with for the years before I started getting psychiatric aid. I didn’t sit around dreading it, but I wasn’t oblivious to the very real possibility that more awfulness was lurking just over the threshold. I just didn’t know what would happen when I was left to my own mental devices.

Instead, I got the one thing I’d not even thought about: I feel fine.

Let me clarify that. I don’t feel amazing or terrible or moody or, actually, anyplace specific. I’m fine. I feel fine. I’m content, but not overjoyed; I’m cautious, but not paranoid; I’m peaceful, but not euphoric. I’m just… I’m fine.

Dude. I don’t think I’ve ever been “fine.”

I’ve always aaalways been at one extreme or another; I’ve even always said that “I feel things in technicolor.” I’m known for getting passionately angry about “silly things” (for example: I’ve been known to go on tirades about varied musical artists and pop culture in general for entirely too long… It’s sorta my thing… Or, it was) or wildly excited about things that ordinarily aren’t a huge deal… or even a “deal”…

Without the medicine in my system, I’m down to a range of “Oh, hey! Neat!” for things that are pleasing and “Well, that sucks.” for things I find disagreeable. And, a lot of the time, I don’t have any real feelings about stuff at all... which is a foreign concept to me altogether.

I feel like a part of this is what happens with age, but, noting the suddenness of it, I’m inclined to believe that it was the medicine holding me in that youthful intensity for so long, which, in turn, lead to a lot of my overanalyzing and grandly reacting to practically everything. I wasn’t unaware of the fact that I tended to be a Crazymaker at times, and, especially in the last couple years, I’ve found myself engaging in general Crazymaking behaviors, being completely aware of how I was acting, and still being entirely unable to stop myself. I never once thought that it could possibly be my medication perpetuating that sort of constantly-intense mindset I’d always assumed was a part of my natural makeup, and yet, as I’ve observed my thoughts and reactions wind slowly down as the chemicals have left my body, I’m more and more convinced that that is, in fact, what was happening.

So that sucks.

However.
It’s amazing to have such a welcome relief from the type of mind I thought I’d been cursed with. Honestly, this blog post is the most analyzing and regimented thought I’ve indulged in in about a week; whereas, before now, writing things down was my only means to the cacophany of thought going on in my head just fucking constantly.

I’m quiet. And calm. And I’m able to take time before reacting. And I don’t feel like talking so much. And I’m okay being still and not having to connect with people compulsively in order to feel alive (that was a huge thing for me. It’s why I’ve become so hopelessly addicted to social media in the years since I became homebound with a child.)
This is a new reality for me altogether. I really, really like it.

Making the sole, executive decision to get away from this medication I was repeatedly told I’d never be able to live without again and trying to figure out who I’ve actually become in the decade since I started psychological/psychiatric treatment is turning out to be the very best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

The next challenge is re-learning to generate my own energy. Every morning for the last howevermany years, I knew I wasn’t “on” until I heard/felt that little fizzy-crackle behind my ears that told me my medications were in my system and propelling me forward. In the last couple months, it’s been weird to get used to waking up and remembering that there is no “magic” pill that will power me up for the day (I’m not gonna start a caffeine addiction because I don’t wanna) and I’ve discovered that my body isn’t used to keeping itself energized on its own, so building my own strength has been a bit of an uphill battle, especially since I’ve been on antibiotics during this time. I’m trying not to be hard on myself because, again, I’ve been dependent on psychiatry for more than a decade now, so expecting myself to be able to jump back into full gear is a bit ridiculous. But I’m slowly getting myself more active and making sure to get all the nutrient support I need without stalling the process on booze or copious sugars. I have a feeling this crap would be easier if I was still in my early twenties, but whaddayagonnado? It’s slow going, but it’s happening.

Ultimately, what I’m finding is that I’m not just recovering the person I was when I first started Crazypills; I’m discovering that that person was able to heal and turn into someone else entirely, which is a far better story than what I’d anticipated at any point. I’m really, really glad my Inner Self has hesitated to crank out a memoir during these years (despite my frustrated desire to produce one), because a story of healing from mental illness and chronic depression [in this world where we are still being taught that this is impossible] is one I’d be much, much more passionate about and driven to share. In 12 years with therapists and counselors, nobody ever told me, “What if you tried to heal? What if you didn’t need this anymore?” until about 9 months ago, and I think working toward actually recovering (instead of being “in recovery” for the rest of my life like the majority of the industry teaches) is what has been the thing that helped me turn the corner. I know it seems ridiculous to say, “I didn’t know I could heal until someone told me I could”, but being that we’re still in what I consider to be the Dark Ages of Psychiatry, it’s been hard to know when to trust my gut, especially when my gut thought I should kill myself at one point.

I know. I’m rambling. My point is that this is a far better ending to the memoir-in-progress than whatever I’d planned before now. I’m not done with this phase, but, if it continues giving me these unexpected surprises, I’ll be more than ecstatic to write about it when it’s time.

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014 | Author:

I’ll get the bad news out of the way first: shit got just godawful terrible for a brief spell last week. See, I didn’t know (or, rather, my fuzzy brain had forgotten) that intense crying spells of despair were also part of the withdrawal process, so when I was feeling the inherent need to violently sob for about four hours, I took it more seriously than I should’ve. Unfortunately, these withdrawal-induced crying jags are usually punctuated with seriously convincing, all-encompassing suicidal drives, which was another dynamic I absolutely did not see coming, so… I’ll just say things got very, very dark and scary last Tuesday evening. (It bears repeating that I am, once again, endlessly grateful to my husband and my daughter; the former for his patience and the latter for her existence.)

ANYWAY, once the air/my mind cleared the next day, and I was able to see that my emotions were founded in a problem that was absolutely surmountable, and were, in fact, identified as yet more of the withdrawal crap, things felt considerably more tolerable and I feel better prepared if I get attacked by another one. Apparently, crying spells are among the symptoms that crop up later in withdrawal, which could make me frustrated and pissy all over again if I let it…grumblegrumblegrumble…

HowEVER, things in the physical realm have been slowly getting better. I’m no longer having vertigo, so I’m not needing to shuffle around with a cane anymore, much to my daughter’s disappointment. I’m still experiencing fatigue, but every day, I’m able to get up and do more for longer spurts of time before I need to go lie down with exhaustion. The body aches were pretty terrible up until a couple days ago, and I was actually able to play Just Dance 3 at a small Memorial Day get-together we had at our house (this is kind of huge, actually.) The nausea has gone away; although the severe dryness in my ears/nose/throat has lead to two different infections in the last month (the first I treated with antibiotics. the second I’m just going to live with.) But the loud ringing in my ears and pressure changes in my head and cloudiness over my eyes and around my periphery are gone and, honestly, that’s the best thing that could happen. I can deal with other aches and pains, but feeling like I was underwater in a hurricane at night on top of all that was too much.

I don’t wanna get ahead of myself, but I think the worst may be over. Above everything is that my character is coming back and I’m having real joy and interest in things I know are true to myself, which, honestly is the entire reason I’m doing this in the first place. Seeing that what I’m doing is already having the intended results I want is enough to make that gigantic laundry list of withdrawal symptoms absolutely worth it. #Halleloo

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014 | Author:

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.

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 | Author:

No matter how many glassy-eyed people try to tell me that “Happiness is a CHOICE and I CHOOSE to be HAPPY!!!“, the real, hard truth of the matter is that emotions exist and denying/mishandling them is literally the cause of every single problem humanity has. However, this isn’t to say that I advocate living a life of gloom and cynicism all in the name of “being realistic” because that’s equally a load of shite.

The Truth is that Life is terrible and beautiful and heartbreaking and exhilarating and tragic and magical and wonderful and it is perfect because it is all those things. Trying to deny feeling any of that isn’t living a genuine existence, and you don’t have to believe that, but science and history prove that neglected emotion is gonna manifest into something uncontrollable in one facet or another.

Feelings are like tampons; they serve a purpose, but you gotta get them out of you or else they fester and get really, really disgusting and cause a whole host of problems that you never bargained for.

And look, I’m not a completely irrational idiot; I definitely recognize that emotions have a time and a place and there’s no good in being completely controlled by any one of them. When shit gets bad, I definitely understand that letting myself get destroyed by grief or anger is useless and only hurts myself. I get that.

But I still want to punch people when they say things like, “Well, there’s no use getting mad/sad/whatever about it.” Sure, there’s no logical reason, but humans aren’t entirely logic-based creatures; that’s why we fall in love. I’m not going to show up at someone’s birthday party and proclaim, “Well, there’s no use in having TOO good a time here because life is going to be the same thing tomorrow…”
See how insufferably ridiculous that is?

I absolutely believe in seeking happiness throughout our lives. That’s one of the Woodcraft Laws I live by.
However, that doesn’t mean that sadness or anger or loneliness or even misery are things to fear and avoid. There’s a lot of learning to be done in those emotions; that’s where life actually exists.

Unfortunately, I’m one of those people who tends to get consumed by emotion if there’s something serious I’m struggling with. It’s all I can think about; it dominates my mind and my interactions and my energy and it makes me its puppet. I’ve tried suppressing my overwhelming emotions, but that backfires tremendously every time and leaves me in a worse state than before on a number of levels.

A number of years ago, I went through a really godawful breakup that coincided with (and probably contributed to, if I’m being serious) a humongous personal life crisis in which everything sort of just fell the fuck apart. It was awful. At the time, I was in a place in my life where I had momentum going in other areas and I couldn’t afford to just completely lose my shit entirely; however, the overwhelming pain of everything was interfering with literally every aspect of my life.

So I started allotting myself a set period of time every day to completely embrace the pain. (I think that’s sort of what that “lean in” crap I keep hearing about advocates in a way, right?) I would find a space to go and throw myself an over-the-top, no-holds-barred, flaming pity party. I’d do it sober, so I wasn’t trying to deaden any of the emotions and I’d sit there and dwell on every terrible, awful feeling I was having and just sob and sob like a crazy person. I’d look at pictures and go through memories and yell at inanimate stuff and write a bunch of letters I never intended to send and just sat there, reeeaaally letting out all the Crazy and then steeping in my misery without projecting it anywhere.

And what I found was that, when doing this, I’d literally exhaust my emotion to the point where it wasn’t nagging me to entertain it and I could get back to my life. At first, it took about an hour of absolute wallowing. And then the next day, when the feelings started nagging me at the beginning of the day, I could think, “Nope. You can deal with this crap at 2 p.m! Right now, let’s do this task in front of us.” and it would totally work! By consciously knowing that I’d have a chance every day to feel whatever it was my emotions needed to, I wasn’t distracted by them at inopportune times. Within a week, I was down to crying about it for about 15 minutes. Within two weeks, I was just sort of sad for a small amount of time each day, but I found myself being free to feel other feelings, like how really, really happy I was to be young and single and how there were so many things I’d never tried when I was busy being plugged up someone else’s ass that I suddenly had plenty of time to do. By taking care of the grief, I cleared room for other emotions to come in and play.

I stopped doing this after this one incident because things in my life got significantly better and my lifestyle with a child and husband didn’t really facilitate me sitting down and thinking about bad stuff once a day. After all, that’s what Oprah and all these other tireless optimists keep screaming at us; that it does no good to feel anything but happy! ALL THE TIME!! Anything else is useless and self-defeating and selfish. Right?

Well, that’s the Flavor-Aid I’ve been drinking (BTW, “Kool-Aid” gets a terrible rap because that wasn’t even the brand used at Jonestown. Get your facts straight, pop culture. Gawd.) and, the more I try to convince myself that I can be perpetually happy all the time and it’s a choice and blah, the more I see how completely idiotic and numbing such a lifestyle is. (This is highlighted heavily in the brilliant work “The Antidote: Happiness for People who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking”, which I highly recommend.) I feel sad. I feel angry. Acting like those are “wrong” or should be avoidable is only hurting me and making things more complicated than they need to be.

So I’m all in favor of self-thrown pity parties when needed. Things have been very, very frustrating recently and I kept finding myself wanting to get actively frustrated and sad and angry about things, and then trying to cram that all down with the positive-thinking shame-based brain reform and it’s driving me even more insane than I need to be.

Fuck that.

I’m sitting down and treating those emotions like they’re small children trying to get my attention, because they’re there for a reason. They’re my subconscious alerting me to the fact that I need to pay attention to something going on in me and trying to swat away negative feelings is just causing them to get worse. I’m sitting with the feelings and I’m not doing anything about them except feeling them, soberly, completely, and all by myself. I’m not deadening the pain with any outside substances; I’m not projecting it outward onto anyone or anything; I’m not feeding it with crappy food or tobacco or whatever other vices I have access to… I’m just inviting them to have their say completely and feeling them for exactly what they are. I’m not trying to “figure out” what they mean or try to “fix” them; I don’t try to apply reason to them or try to calm myself down into “rational” thinking. I just let them get out.

And, sure enough, once I recognize them and let them have their say, my mind magically clears itself up and I feel light and full of room and energy to focus on the positive things again. Not only that, I feel a little more fearless with each practice. So many times, I think people reject their feelings because they’re terrified of them, but the truth is that, once you see that you can’t die from them and that they actually go away, they’re not so scary. They just need a little attention and understanding that this is part of the human condition. Having feelings (no matter how irrational) is part of paying rent to live here in this body. It’s part of being alive and experiencing dichotomies of emotion. It’s pretty much one of the most special parts of being human.

I used to have a really hard time “letting go” of emotions; I consciously knew that’s what I was supposed to do in order to heal, but I just didn’t know how. I can’t even tell you how many frustrated hours I meditated just trying to rid myself of leftover garbage I didn’t want. However, every time I’ve done this practice, I’ve been amazed at how clear and light I feel afterward, and the progression of how I feel over the course of greater expanses of time is astonishing with regards to feeling released from my emotions. By feeling whatever I do without trying to “solve” them, I find that my mind is much less judgmental about my problems in general, which allows me to work on them on a more relaxed, organic level.

After returning to this method after having put it aside for so long, I’m more convinced than ever that this is the style of meditation I most believe in. I know “mindfulness” is all about observing feelings, but I believe I’m a proponent of taking that one step further and letting oneself become engulfed without any distraction or apology and then letting your mind carry you safely to the other side, which it’s designed to do. That’s what healing is; I can’t heal from something if I’m trying to ignore the pain alerting me to the thing that’s damaged.

So there you go. Throw yourself a pity party. Invite only one person and make it super exclusive with no gift bags. Keep it clean and sober, but pull out all the stops and feel every single thing your brain has been nagging you with.
And don’t even stress about what to do with those feelings when you’re done; they’ll show themselves out.

Monday, May 12th, 2014 | Author:

Wellll…

Things were uncomfortable, but they were slowly getting better. Every day was a little less godawful, and, by Friday, I was pretty sure I was through the thick of it. Saturday I was out and about and feeling peachy keen! I went and worked at the yoga studio and was getting excited about getting my house back together and finally catching up on, you know, my entire life.

Then, Sunday, I was all dressed up and ready to go out and suddenly, I was just… not…

And I dizzily fell into bed and immediately to sleep, in which I sweated as though I was sprinting through a tropical rainforest wearing a latex bodysuit… and had unbelievably effed-up, vivid dreams. This continued for the entirety of the day, thus robbing me of any Mother’s Day joy or festivities while my poor family sort of just hung out and did whatever. I was completely comatose All. Day.

I’m not as exhausted today, but I’m still dizzy and disconnected and disoriented. I’m hungry, but I feel like barfing… or sneezing… or breaking into sobs. The light hurts. Sounds make me want to cry. In fact, I’ve lost my cell phone, so I called my husband because I just needed to hear someone’s loving, patient voice and I ended up crying “I’m so sorry this has been going on for forever and I’m worthless and unreliable and I thought I’d be feeling better by now and I’m so sorry.” at him while he was patiently trying to get back to work at the place where he’s not a babysitter for an adult woman but is, instead, a respected leader of a highly-successful design department.
Also, I’m confused pretty much constantly, which is making writing this much harder than it should be. Forget doing anything productive; I can barely remember what I’m doing from one minute to the next. And I keep losing track of time. It’s weird and not fun.

I thought I was pretty much done with this! Things were doing so much better for a couple days there! This was going to be the week I started getting back to living and I was gonna see some sunshine and work in my garden and get out and go to yoga classes and take walks and see people and junk.

I’m not depressed, though, which is a good sign. I’m just getting frustrated because I’m ready to be back on the horse. I’ve been ready, actually. This is getting really, really stale.

Dammit.

So, right now, I’m sort of just waiting and doing tiny, boring things around the house. Like laundry. And petting my kitties. That’s it. I don’t actually know how long this phase of going off Effexor is supposed to last, but I’m getting pretty tired of being useless. It’s doing nothing for my self-esteem.

And I still have no idea where my phone is…

Thursday, May 08th, 2014 | Author:

Updates in Bullet Points (that are a little rambly in and of themselves):

~ My spirit feels really serene and good. You know that place right in the center of your chest that drops when you find out about someone dying or your lover leaves you and feels excited when something good is about to happen? It’s been light and calm during everything going on right now, and that’s a first… in general, actually. So, if someone were to ask, I’d have to say, “I’m wonderful”.

~However, OMGthisisthewaaaoooorst I have ever physically felt. Ever. And I’ve been in Pitocin-induced labor after 26 hours of doing it naturally… Luckily, I’m not gonna list all my ailments because 1) it’d be really long and 2) it’d hurt to do so and 3) I don’t want to bore you, but yes. Oww. And aaaauuuuuuugggghhh.

~ Oh man, thank God for my ability to go back on my original full dose of Lamictal, because that definitely stopped the mania before it got out of hand. In fact, it brought it all back in to “reasonable” mode, which is more than I expected.

~ That being said, the Emotions are all here and they’re into making the most of their visit. I kind of blew off the reports other people had about mood swings during withdrawal because I’ve gotten really good at observing my own, but ohman. First there was the “FAAAACK AAAVAAARYYTHIIIING!!!” type of Rage which was the worst because my sick brain could totally justify all of it. Needless to say, I quickly adopted a Buddhist/meditate-y approach and allowed myself to stand back and “observe” the emotions… like clouds wafting across a clear blue sky… aaahhh… which meant telling Greg and the Bear to leave me alone until I’m done being a beast. Since then, aaaalll the rest of the feelings have come out to play and go digging for memories and it’s the worst. I can’t even go to sleep without vivid flashbacks of people and situations cropping up to make me feel old stuff again and again and again. I’ve been working overtime to distract myself with things that will do the thinking for me, like movies or books. (Gardening doesn’t work at this juncture, unfortunately.)

~ On the other hand, though, I AM rather glad I’ve spent so much time learning about mindfulness, so while the emotions are all righthererightnow (and in technicolor!), I’m not acting on any of them. Also! I can recognize that they’re artificial at this point and don’t have anything to do with me or my immediate life. It’s kind of a weird sensation, but I’m glad I’m not volatile and outwardly crazy like usual. For now, I’m just cordoning myself off until the noise blows over so I don’t risk biting anyone’s head off or ruining my relationship with anyone. And I’m distracting myself mentally so I’m not sitting around crying about whoevenknowswhat like my brain seems to want me to.

~Things are slowly getting better day by day. And all the supplements are helping AMAZINGLY with the brain flashes and other weirdness. I realize this could actually be a lot worse, and I’m grateful that it isn’t. I think by the end of next week I’ll be a fully functioning human being again. Huzzah!

Sunday, May 04th, 2014 | Author:

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.