The picture says it all really…
I have always kept my music preferences to myself. To me it always just seemed like another way to be judged. Is it too popular or to obscure? Is the genre hot now? Or was it hot yesterday? The truth is I am not a true student of music. I cant “hear” notes or tell the difference between melody and harmony. I can tell when music sounds good and when it sounds bad, but because of the aforementioned deficiencies in musical aptitude I have no idea why it is good or bad.
When I am listening to music I key on lyrics. I am looking for a story. I want something that will resonate with my own experience. I don’t have to relate to the specifics of the story, but if I can relate the theme I am hooked.
So with that I would like to share with you a song that has really struck a cord with me over the past couple weeks. The video starts with some unnecessary dialogue, but the music is worth the wait. I hope you enjoy it.
I am officially spooked. Waiting for the other shoe to drop would be the appropriate cliché. About three weeks ago I posted the news that I was going to make an official stab at living my life free of psychotropic medications. The very day that I wrote that I spoke to my doctor, his nurse actually, and asked what the best way to proceeded would be. I had dropped my daily dose of Wellbutrin from 450mg to 300mg and under their direction I dropped from 300mg to 150mg.
I was told to do that for a month and monitor my mood closely. I had already scheduled an appointment with him for May 2nd so the timing was about right to be ending the pills when I see him next. I had a bunch of 150mg pills already, so I made the dosage drop immediately. Today is the twenty first day and I only have two pills left. I am not going to refill the prescription so by the start of next week I will be done. So what’s the problem? I feel really good. Not perfect by any means, but well. Sure when I stop my body will still have to process the remaining drug in my system before I will be really free of it, but I am doing ok. It just doesn’t seem possible that from December to now I could remove all these regulating forces from my life, and not have it turn into a disaster.
I actually started this blog in an attempt to avoid returning to SSRI’s. I had been off them for several months when I started writing here, but was having a hard time keeping myself out of the darkness. I needed a place to process my thoughts and I was desperate to avoid returning to that particular type of drug so with a little encouragement from the blogosphere I began to share my experience. I was only a month into it when I was faced with the challenge of not only staying off the SSRI, but dropping my ultimate crutch; the Klonopin. That experience was chronicled in a number of posts starting here. At the time I simply hoped to survive it. I never dreamed it could be the start of something much bigger. For years my shrink had been telling me that the Klonopin was a mood depressor and that I would do well to get off it, but he never really pushed the issue. As I began the withdrawals it became clear why he never really forced the idea. If you don’t come to the conclusion that you want off that drug on your own, if you’re not committed fully, I am not sure anyone would stick it out. It took awhile to feel normal again, but it appears he was right.
There have been definite changes as my body has adjusted to less and less medication. Most notably I have moods again. I get sad, happy, and angry. I used to just be mellow. I am cautiously excited by this new development. Of course feeling happy is a wonderful new experience, but anger is not as wonderful, and sadness I am all too familiar with. I am fearful of both these emotions. Sadness is natural, but when you have suffered from depression each time you feel it you wonder if this is the beginning of the end. Will I have to go back on the pills? With anger I just worry about managing it. I haven’t had too for so long that I fear I have forgotten how. It sounds strange to say, but I want to be angry. It is a natural emotion and it is healthy. On the other hand unchecked it can be very destructive. In the past I have become irritated, but rarely did I give voice to my angst. I didn’t want to fight with my wife, and I swallowed it down and carried on. Recently I have been more than irritated and my anger has boiled over and caused arguments. I am not comfortable with it yet, but after a short, but fiery exchange with the Mrs. last night I felt no more hostility when it ended. In the past after I would swallow it down I would be pissed for hours. Related to these arguments I have noted that my verbal filter seems to have bigger holes in it. In my teens I never lacked for an opinion. “Painfully honest” was the term once used to describe me. If I thought it I said it. I wasn’t entirely tactless, but I wasn’t afraid to speak my mind either. I never really noted the change, but as an adult I have been less that way. I chalked it up to maturity, but in the last couple weeks some of that directness has returned. Maybe this is related to the drugs and maybe not, but since I am still under their influence it will be interesting to see how that particular characteristic develops over the next several weeks.
The other emotion or feeling that I learning to live with again is anxiousness. I am not going through my days scared of nothing, which is an improvement over those days before the Klonopin, and the more recent withdrawal experience. That said when I was on the Klonopin I was rarely anxious about anything, and I never really worried about mild sensations of fear because the drug kept a lid on it. Now I no longer have the chemical buffer, and the only thing that keeps a lid on it is my own cognitive efforts. Before the need for the Klonopin arose I didn’t often feel scared. I was a pretty typical late teen early twenty male. I didn’t take as many chances as most, but nobody would have accused me of being a pussy either. Prior to taking the drug feelings of fear and panic consumed me, and now that I am off the drug, I find myself somewhere in the middle. I am certainly not feeling bullet proof, but I am not scared of living either. I suppose I should not expect to feel the same. While under the Klonopin umbrella I have matured from a 23 year old college student to a 35 year old father and husband.
I so hope that this experiment is successful. I have been off and on SSRI’s multiple time, but I was always on the Klonopin when I was trying to quit the SSRI. I don’t know for sure, but it has been about a year now without the SSRI’s which is without a doubt the longest stretch ever. I hope this works, and I hope my wife and I will both like the new me.
In my last post I briefly discussed my recent weight loss. My wife and started the process when she decided sometime in January that she needed to lose some weight. I followed her down the path a couple weeks later. I have struggled with my weight since I was in college. In my teen years I was extremely active. I was a competitive swimmer and we practiced twice a day for about six months out of the year from October through April. I swam 7,000 to 8,000 yards a day during these months. That averages out to about 4 ½ miles. When I wasn’t swimming I was running and lifting weight through the summer in preparation for football in the fall. During these years I was always hungry. I actually tried to gain weight for football, but it made no difference what I ate I weighed in at 160 pounds. I recall the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. I was determined to gain weight to make myself a better football player. I ran a lot, but I spent time each day in the weight room at the high school and drank these high calorie shakes a couple times a day. Between May and August I was able to gain about ten pounds and was a very fit and very strong 170 pounds on the first day of practice in mid August. The first week of practice was always two a days with a ton of running and drills in the morning with more running in the afternoon. After the first week I weighed 160 pounds. I have no way of knowing for sure, but looking back I would not be surprised if I was consuming in excess of 6000 calories a day, probably a lot more with those shakes, and I couldn’t gain a pound.
All that changed when I hit college. I went to a small school that had no athletics that were of interest to me. My activity level dropped sharply, but my calorie intake did not. I had learned some horrible eating habits in high school and they have haunted me constantly in the nearly twenty years since. I had a plan to enter the Marine Corps which kept me active the first year or so I was in school, but I had damaged my left elbow playing football, which brought a premature end to my military career. With that motivation for exercise gone I broke 200 pounds for the first time in the spring of my sophomore year of college. What I wouldn’t give to see that number on the scale again.
Over the years since I finished college there have been three separate attempts to lose weight. All have been successful, but eventually led to a weight that peaked out higher than the last. I was in the 230’s the first time I decided to stop and lose weight. That time I was able to get just under 200 for a brief spell, but I worked by ass of to get there. Five days or more of each week at the gym and eating like a rabbit was all that worked. Eventually I made it all the way back up to 250 a few years after I was married. My wife and I both put in a lot of effort and lost significant weight. I was back into the 220’s when she got pregnant. That changed our entire lives, and with my son at 2 ½ I peaked out this time in the mid 260’s. After working at my calorie intake for the last part of the winter I have made my way back to 240. I was under but Easter weekend was not kind and the remnants lying around the house, read jelly beans and chocolate bunnies, have continued to sabotage me.
The struggles I have faced over Easter pretty well highlight my biggest challenges with weight loss. I am not sure addiction is the right word, but maybe compulsion? I feel powerless around food. If it is there I will eat it. I cant help myself. In the weeks leading up to Easter my mother in law bought my son a bag of the Starburst jelly beans. I couldn’t stay out of them and ate the entire bag in less than two days. Sugar is my kryptonite. We will often make my son a little bag of “trail mix” to take in the car for the trip to day care. Typically it is just Cheerios and raisins. I had a purchased a bag of Special Dark chocolate chips for baking back around the holidays, but with our weight goals in mind I had not made any cookies. My wife opened the bag to sweeten the trail mix a little for my son, but once the bag was open I could stay out of it. Before it was opened I didn’t have a problem, but as soon as that seal was broken I was constantly eating handfuls of chips.
The second challenge I face is that I genuinely like to eat. I don’t eat just to provide my body with the nutrients required to sustain life, but also as a recreation. I love the sensation of flavor. I crave it. I recently told a friend that the two most important activities in life were eating and sex. It was suggested that breathing might out rank both, but I replied that without food and sex there was little point in breathing. An exaggeration? Maybe. But it makes my point.
At the end of the day for those of us lucky enough to be relatively young and relatively healthy weight loss boils down to a simple mathematical formula:
Calories In > Calories Out = Weight Gain
Calories In < Calories Out = Weight Loss
All the fad diets in the world don’t change the simplicity of the above truth. Sure it can be more complicated, but if you eat fewer calories than you burn you will lose weight. Of course anybody who has ever actually counted every single calorie consumed in a day knows that it is shocking how fast they can add up to that 2000 – 2500 recommended daily intake.
It is 4:00 in the afternoon as I write this and I have eaten everything I will eat today prior to dinner. I was bad at lunch, and will be at a meeting for dinner that will really blow up the daily calorie count. So far today I have consumed the following:
½ of a 20oz Can of Dole chunked Pineapple with half the juice also = 160 Calories
6 Dove Dark Chocolate Eggs (more Easter Sabotage) = 220 Calories
Subway 6” Chicken Pizzioli Sandwich with Provlone cheese = 550 Calories
1 bag of Baked Lays BBQ Chips with the above sandwich = 140 Calories
6 sticks of Extra Gum = 30 Calories
Total Calories before dinner = 1100 Calories
Had I been good at lunch I would have had a 300 calorie sandwich without the BBQ chips making the total calories only 710. If we had a reasonable dinner to this you can maintain or lose weight pretty easily. I only drink water all day. It is shocking how many calories you can drink in a day if you stray from water. We often squeeze cut up lemons into our water in the evenings.
All this sounds so easy, but as most reading this know all too well it is not. When I eat what I listed above I am hungry all damn day. I do alright staying out of the snacks until the evening, but the hours between dinnertime and bedtime are the hours that destroy my weight loss. I find it frustrating that little additions can screw up everything. A couple hundred extra calories in the form of fruit or veggies is not likely to show up on the scale, but the same number of calories in cookies, meat, or candy will destroy and entire days healthy eating.
I hope to lose another 15 pounds and then find a way to keep my weight under 230 pounds indefinitely. It is a battle maintaining healthy calorie counts. The other problem I often run into is that if I allow myself a single day to cheat I cant shut it off. I had one of those Chicken Pizzioli subs for dinner about a week and a half ago and I loved it. The problem is that instead of my nice healthy 300 Calorie sandwiches I have had three of the 6” chicken Pizziolis in the last four days. I cant seem to force myself to go back to the healthier sandwiches. The truth is even the 500 calorie lunch is significantly healthier than anything I was eating before. The problem is my weight doesn’t seem to ever balance. If I am good I lose weight pretty steadily, but if I am not quite as good my weight doesn’t just stay the same it goes up.
The bottom line is that a thinner waist equals a better mood, better health, better sex, pretty much better everything I want. The challenge will remain, as it is with everything, finding some balance that will work inside the complicated confines of my life for the long term. That is a balance that I have yet to find.
Forgive me blogosphere for it has been thirty two days since my last entry. It has been an amazing month, and with the notable exception of my employment circumstances things are looking up around here. The truth is my urge to write peters out when I am feeling good. When I have no real angst I have no inspiration.
A regular theme throughout the life of this blog has been my experience with the medications used to treat depression and anxiety. Anybody who has done much reading here knows I hate these drugs with some passion, but have also relied on them to get through the last twelve or thirteen years of my life. In that time I have never been completely drug free. For over a decade I have gone through each and every day of my life under the influence of at least one and most often two or more drugs designed to effect my mood. I hardly remember what it feels like to function without these pills.
Over the winter I went through the long ordeal of withdrawing from over ten years of daily Klonopin use. The last pill was taken December 30th and it was probably the third week in February before I began to feel in anyway normal again. At the end of February I had an appointment with the shrink and I asked about the possibility of getting off the Buspar and Wellbutrin. He told me I could drop the Buspar anytime and drop my Wellbutrin dose by a third from 450mg daily to 300mg if I felt up to it. I had been taking the Buspar twice a day prior to this appointment, but beginning to next day I only took it at night. After a week of the “only at night” dosage I quit altogether. Other than a mild hiccup in my sleep, which was probably all in my head, I didn’t even notice the drug was missing.
I was feeling very encouraged by the successful drop of Buspar. For many years I had used the Klonopin as my crutch. I never forgot the way the panic and anxiety felt, and I was fearful of returning to those days. During the withdrawal I was reminded of why I was scared as the experience was highlighted by two months of increased anxiety with several days spread out over the period that were nearly intolerable. With the Buspar gone I was living clear of any drug whose sole purpose was to control my anxiety, and I was functioning fine. For some time now I have been nagged by a vague awareness that the Wellbutrin isn’t really doing anything for me. With the Buspar gone it was time for the next hurdle so I cut the Wellbutrin dose as I had been directed. It has been about three weeks since I dropped the dose. I don’t remember the exact date/day, which I honestly consider a good sigh unto itself, if I can’t remember exactly when than I must not have been obsessing over it too badly. I am feeling very good, better than I remember feeling in a very very long time. Truthfully I feel better than I ever remember feeling. I left a message with the shrink this afternoon asking how to make the next drop. I am scheduled to see him May 2nd and I would like to have made the next drop a few weeks before then so if things do start to get weird I will have the checkup already on the calendar.
My wife and I committed to another change a couple months ago as well. Somewhere on this blog I once listed my weight at 250 pounds. I was lying. You know you are self conscious when you put the things in print I have put on this blog, and you can’t tell the truth about your weight. My weight maxed out at 266.6 pounds on my 5’11” frame. I remember the weight because the last three numbers struck me. I am not a terribly religious person, but I knew I was too heavy and the 666 stuck in my head as a bad sign. I had settled to 263ish when my wife decided she needed to drop some weight. I watched her get started and she was doing well. She bemoaned my cooking constantly as she struggled to lose, but lose she did. A couple weeks after she started I followed. I didn’t make a lot of noise about, and didn’t even tell her. My motivation was twofold. First my son is 2 ½. If I am going to be able to play and participate in his life I better get some of this weight off. The second is probably the greatest motivator for all men. Sex. My wife and I have always had mismatched sex drives, and one of the effects of dropping the Klonopin was a sharp increase in my drive which was already way ahead of hers. I had heard complaints from her that my weight made sex uncomfortable, but for some reason it took the light bulb a while to go off in my head. I finally decided if I wanted more sex I needed to take responsibility for making myself more appealing, and the act for comfortable for her. By the time I last posted a month ago I was down to the 250 number I had claimed to be. I wanted to brag, but how do you brag about being at the weight you told people you were already at? This morning marked two consecutive days at 238 pounds making my total weight loss from the start weight 25 pounds, and from my max weight almost thirty pounds. My pants used to fall down my ass like they do on all fat guys. They are still falling down my ass, but now it is because they don’t fit.
Weight loss is a real chore for me. I don’t want to get into all the details here so maybe I will put together another entry talking about that, but I can say the work is paying off. When I hit 245 my wife commented that the sex was better, and she was right. She has dropped about 17 pounds and the combination has made for a noticeable improvement. With the Buspar gone and Weight and Wellbutrin lower the biggest change I can see other than my general mood is my sex drive is off the charts. The mismatched desire has always been a problem in our marriage, but recently she has made more effort to participate and I tried to do some little things to keep her interested. We talked about it last weekend and I told her that in a perfect world I would be looking for sex four times a week. She was a little taken aback by this. Last year we averaged every 10 -14 days with several instances where we approached 30 days between sexual encounters. This year has been once every 7 -10 days, and lately I am noticing we are pretty steady on a once on the weekend pace with the occasional extra thrown in. This is an amazing improvement over where we have been, but I think she was shocked to discover that I am only getting about 25% of the sex I actually want. Will this foster more understanding of where I am coming from? The drug free me is finding the urge stronger than ever so I certainly hope so. I am hopeful that this rapid change in my desire wont cause us any problems.
The past month has seen many more changes as well that I simply don’t have time for here, but maybe they will give me an excuse to write here a little more often. As a parting word I would ask for forgiveness for any typos you may find in this entry. I really want to get something posted, and I am rapidly running out of time so my editing will be quick and sloppy.