The Hardest Job You Will Ever Love

They say parenting is the hardest job you will ever love. Well they were at least half right in that it’s the hardest job I have ever had, but I have to admit there are days when I wonder how much I actually “love” it. This is not to say I don’t love my son because I do, more than I ever thought I would be able to, which is what makes the parenting process so damn painful. My son has been luke warm on me from the beginning. When he was an infant we could sit on the couch and when his mother handed him to me he would cry. When I handed him back he would stop. She could pass him to a friend or grandparent and he wouldn’t cry, back to me and the crying would start up. He was left alone with me about three nights a week for about an hour during his first couple months. The entire time we are alone together he would scream. He was completely inconsolable and would cry until he fell asleep every single night. It was, and remains, painful to be so fully invested in something and get so little back. I am aware of how selfish that sounds, but I see the relationship he has with his mother and wonder why I cant have just a piece of that. What did I do? Continue reading

Relationship Wisdom From Bob Marley

He’s not perfect. You aren’t either, and the two of you will never be perfect. But if he can make you laugh at least once, causes you to think twice, and if he admits to being human and making mistakes, hold onto him and give him the most you can. He isn’t going to quote poetry, he’s not thinking about you every moment, but he will give you a part of him that he knows you could break. Don’t hurt him, don’t change him, and don’t expect for more than he can give. Don’t analyze. Smile when he makes you happy, yell when he makes you mad, and miss him when he’s not there. Love hard when there is love to be had. Because perfect guys don’t exist, but there’s always one guy that is perfect for you. –Bob Marley

The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for. – Bob Marley

Going To Try Chem Free Living

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.

Tests and Choices

In my last entry I defended the idea that those that suffer from depression and anxiety are actually much stronger than they feel, and are certainly stronger than the general public gives them credit for. Last week I was challenged to believe all that about myself. It was a long bad week that left little time to do anything but get through it let alone do any writing.

Back in November I took a spill on the walk outside my house landing hard on my right elbow. It hurt like hell at the time and has continued to be painful as the weeks have passed. I finally saw a Doctor about it who thought I should see an orthopedic surgeon. When that appointment came around it was determined that I should have an MRI of the elbow. I wasn’t all that worried about it until I was asked during the registration if I was claustrophobic. I have had a couple encounters with actually being trapped in relatively small spaces that have stuck with me, but I have never considered myself claustrophobic. I am actually quite sure that anybody would have been scared in those previous circumstances. Of course if you ask a guy with an anxiety problem if he is claustrophobic you are going to get their brain moving and that is never a good thing.

I have had a creeping feeling that last couple weeks that I am slipping. I don’t want to face it head on because I have come to believe in self fulfilling prophecies. In my experience if I get worried about how I am going to deal with something the worst case scenario of those worries often ends up being the case. It is probably stupid and maybe even reckless, but I feel that if I admit I am slipping I will fall, and if I ignore it and try to keep on trudging it will go away. To be clear I am talking about anxiety here not depression.  

Back to the MRI story… In the days leading up to the appointment I was feeling generally uneasy about it but I kept telling myself it that it cant be that bad. I figured I would tell the technician about my background and play it by ear. I was sitting in the waiting room when the tech came to get me, and I pulled a typical guy stunt. The tech was young, female, and attractive. Why should this matter? It shouldn’t. I am happily married and well off the market, but I am a guy and pride or ego or whatever stepped in and I suddenly wasn’t so sure about confessing my insecurities. Stupid. Very stupid. She did eventually ask the claustrophobia question, and I muttered something about generalized anxiety.

When we got in the room with the machine I was stunned at the size of it. Turns out upper extremities are about the most

The opening in a GE Signa MRI machine

Image via Wikipedia

difficult part of the body to scan. She lays me on my stomach with my arm out in front of me, and gets me all propped up on pillows. I am laying on the little gurney thing look at the hole thinking that the whole center of the machine is going to slide out as the gurney slides in. I mean it has too right? There is no fucking way my fat ass is going to fit in that little god damned hole. Imagine my surprise when  I was wrong. She tried three times to stuff me in there and it just wasn’t going to work. Now I am overweight, but were not talking obscene. I am 5’11” and weigh in at 250 pounds. I have wide shoulders probably from ten years of competitive swimming. I am big, but I am not out of control. There are plenty of folks fatter, and plenty of guys with bigger shoulders than me, but I was not going to fit head first. Her next attempt was to put me on my back. Of course that puts the bad arm at my waist meaning my waist is going to be in the center of the machine and I will be ALL THE WAY in. I get situated and she says I have to roll up on my side a little and raise my left are over my head.  When I asked why she said it was the only way she could get my shoulders in the machine. At this point I am still playing along, but the anxiety is at a very high level and the associated stomach upset is building. I get my arm over my head and she places a grid over my bad arm and ties it to me, which effectively ties me to the gurney. When it comes to me and small spaces I am fine if I feel like I can get out. It is not so much the tiny space as the feeling of being trapped that bothers me, but here I am getting ready to be wedged back in that tiny hole with one armed up over my head, and the other tied down. She begins to run me in slowly getting my up on my side a little more to squeeze me in. My shoulders are folding up and my head is sliding down the side of the tube. My nose is an inch from the top of the tube, and as I go in it is getting darker as my body mass closes the hole.  I have a sudden image of myself puking in the tube unable to move and I am done. Get me out of this thing!!

I was embarrassed and felt like shit. Many of my troubles mirror those of my mother. She cant even get in an elevator. She has had a couple MRIs but they always involved valium. When I was on my way home and told my wife what had happened her response was “you are your mother’s son” which wasn’t exactly the hug I was looking for. The remainder of the week I suffered through the anxiety hangover. When something like that happens it is not over when it is over. Once those chemicals get flowing in my brain they don’t just stop. I was low, easily angered, my stomach was a mess, and I was always on edge. Other events transpired over the week to reinforce all those feelings. I have been dealing with gradually decreasing levels of anxiety for the last seven or eight days. They are not decreasing fast enough.

The new plan is for me to go check out one of the larger bore MRI machines and see if I can hack being in that one before I make an appointment. Having just been through, and maybe still going through, the Klonopin withdrawal the last thing I want is to be drugged up for this test. It will probably be the end of this week before I can make that happen. I am trying not to schedule it and just do it when time allows to prevent any build up of anxiety.

I am not sure what I am going to do with this increased state of anxiety. I have written before that I feel like I am flying with no net, and that sensation is still strong. The Klonopin was my filter, and to a large extent my safety blanket, but it is gone. With my Coast Guard documents still in limbo I am in a tough spot. I see a few choices but they all blow. The first and most likely course is to hold steady and see what happens. I could always try a little talk therapy to see if it takes the edge of. Another option is to go back to the shrink and say I cant hack it, which will make me feel like a failure, and will likely lead to the loss of my documents. An alternative to this would be to get the medication from a different doctor and keep my mouth shut. The last option would be to go back to the SSRIs and all their associated side effects. The effects of this on my sex life and marriage make it the least likely course even if it is the one that would probably make me feel the best. I have written before about a life filled with unpleasant choices, and if that list doesn’t prove my point I don’t know what does.

I am at least back to believing that if I can go about my day to day life with all the above shit going on that I am actually stronger than people think.

The Last Pill

It has been a long week. Not bad necessarily, but long. The night of insomnia has stuck with me over the past week or so. I have had mixed success getting to sleep, but nothing as bad as that night last week. Still I cant seem to get the misery of it out of my head and every night as bedtime approaches I start to get all tight worrying about getting to sleep. Tonight is the final night of klonopin. I take a half a pill before bed and I am done. Tomorrow starts a new chapter of living, and sleeping, without the help of a benzodiazepine. I don’t really know what to think of it. I am glad I have a long weekend to get through the start of it, but so far my experience has been that the worst of the symptoms from each decrease take place Monday through Wednesday or Thursday of the following week. Things should just be getting interesting when it is time to return to work.

The symptoms over the last week have been all over the map. Sometimes a feel okay, but mostly I feel very edgy. My mind has been free to run, and I have moments where I feel hyperaware of myself and my progress through life. I will be looking at my two year old and suddenly he is seventeen and I am in my fifties. It is unsettling. I have spent way too much time inside this week which always makes my brain a little fuzzy. I actually had to go to work for a couple hours this morning which left me feeling a little better and more clearheaded when it was over, but during the drive itself I was feeling a little fuzzy and disoriented. I hate driving when I feel like that. It is as if I am on autopilot and I am acting without really thinking.

My wife has been great over the past week. There has been a lot of understanding and loving behavior. We have been intimate more in the past couple weeks than we have been in the last three months, which has helped keep me feeling balanced. It has also helped me sleep. I am grateful to her for all of the help she has provided. I have had a couple hours to myself this afternoon which has provided time to write this, and rest some. I really need some quiet private time each day, and I have gotten very little of that over the past couple weeks.

I apologize of the rambling nature of this post. More than anything trying to chronicle what it feels like withdraw from the Klonopin for myself and the benefit of any others who follow me an happen to find this. I hope after the first of the year to get some more regular and coherent posting out.

Happy New Year

The Most Miserable Time Of The Year

With each passing year I am learning to dislike the holidays more and more. Hate is getting to be the right word to describe my feelings towards the holiday season. It wasn’t always this way. I have never been a huge fan of Christmas, but Thanksgiving had been a long time favorite. I enjoyed spending time with my family over a good meal, and the day just felt like it filled its purpose of taking timeout to be with those closest to you. Christmas I didn’t particularly dislike, but we never had any money when I was a kid so when I was very young it was always a disappointment as I watched my friends get the coolest new toys while I got very little. I wasn’t very old before I came to understand why Christmas in my house was different than so many others, and I never held any animosity towards my folks for it. I saw how hard they worked, and I knew there was no money, but how I hated going back to school and answering the inevitable “what did you get for Christmas?”

With marriage comes the integration of two family’s holiday traditions. In our case these means trying to keep three different households, not counting our own, happy. My wife’s parents are split and her dad is remarried to arguably the most obnoxious human being on the planet. Her mom never remarried and brings a sense of need into the holidays that is suffocating, and then there are my folks who are by no means perfect, but are probably the most pliable of the three households. Who knows maybe I am just biased towards my own family. Hard to tell really. Two years ago we brought a son into the mix which has further complicated the season.

My wife and I have been together in some way or another since we were teenagers. I met her when I was fourteen, and took her out for the first time when I was sixteen she was fifteen, over 18 year ago. We have a lot of history, most of it great, but some better forgotten. One such forgettable moment occurred when my mother gave my then girlfriend a book on how to make pies. I don’t recall exactly when this happened. It was early in the relationship, but far enough along that the occasional holiday had been shared and there had been what I thought to be innocent conversation about the merits of our mother’s respective apple pie recipes. My mom had no idea these conversations had occurred, and to be fair the method in the book wasn’t even the method she used, but my future wife took the gift as an insult. Whether it was intended that way or not, which it wasn’t, she didn’t care.

About a year and a half ago I took over the cooking duties around our house. I work in over the road sales, and this crappy economy was having me home earlier than usual. I had been getting home well before my wife for a couple months, and was pulling a real asshole move. I hated cooking so I would leave the chore to her, but I was getting home at three in the afternoon and she was not getting home until nearly six with our infant in tow. I would ask what was for dinner, she would ask what I took out, I would say nothing because I didn’t know what she wanted to make, etc, etc. Looking back I can’t believe I was being that big a dick, but I figured it out and took over cooking. With Thanksgiving coming I wanted to prepare the meal and show off my new talents. I have learned to actually enjoy cooking and baking so I was ready to go. One of the things I wanted to do was make my mom’s apple pie recipe including the from scratch pie crust. The night before Thanksgiving after the boy went to bed I retired to the kitchen to make the pie. Not having any idea about the dough drying out I started there as it seemed the hardest step. When I had the dough made it just didn’t seem enough so, concerned I may have to make it twice, once for each crust, I called my mother to ask if it was a single or double crust recipe. My bride heard the conversation and was pissed. I hadn’t asked her the question because she had never used my mom’s dough recipe before so I figured she didn’t know the answer, but to her it was an attack on her ability to bake a pie and I was informed that I didn’t need to ask my “mommy” for help making the pie. Poof. There went all the fun from the entire process of making the meal and I was ten minutes in. I had managed to fuck up the pie crust, it was too dry, and rather than take any more chances I used crust from a box and let my wife show me how to put together the filling. In the end we made my mother in laws pie recipe. My enthusiasm for the project was dead and throughout the next day, despite having made a huge deal out my cooking the holiday meal, I let her lead me through the process and we together made the meal for her mother and my parents. The food was good, but the day was not what I had wished for.

The pie story was something of a side rant, but the point of this little essay is that even the once mellow Thanksgiving as become much too complicated. Where will it be? Will everybody be invited if we do it there? Didn’t they do it last year? Well if she comes, he will be pissed and might pout in the corner. If She doesn’t come than my Wife’s father won’t be here. What if we go nowhere? And on and on and on. Its enough to make you want to move across the continent, or maybe to a different one all together.

Christmas has gone from a manageable annoyance to a budget busting nightmare. My family had evolved the holiday into simple gifts and family time. My parents by virtue of working the same jobs for 30+ years are in a better place than they were when I was a kid, but they still spend comparatively little on the holiday. The other side of the family takes a completely different approach. It’s as if they feel they will be judged by both the quality and quantity of the gifts bought. If you spend $50 on one person for a single special gift and spend the same $50 on another for two or three gifts there is this sense that the person who only got one needs more so it will be equal. My wife and I will have five conversations about how much we are going to spend and what we are going to get, but it never works out the way we discuss. Extra things are bought here and there, and my opinion is continually asked for, like it is going to change as the money disappears, and ignored. Much like this years Thanksgiving dinner my life is easier if I don’t fight it so I don’t. Of course not fighting it has its traps too. My mom is admittedly bad at buying gifts in this system, and I have to hear her criticized for being cheap. She is a bargain bin shopper and rarely gets anybody anything they want or need, but I don’t want to hear about. This past summer I worked two jobs six or seven days a week, one of these jobs was physically punishing, trying to get our credit card paid off. I would have made it, but we needed a new bed this summer. That’s life, there is always something, but it kills me to watch the credit card balance grow during the holiday season and it is even more painful this year.

Christmas is another holiday where the frustration is compounded my son. We as family have made it clear we are not going anywhere for the holiday. If people want to see us they are welcome to stop by. The result of this has been the entire family rotating through my house over the course of the day, and a meal being prepared to feed everybody. In addition as if the gift buying wasn’t already out of control he wants for nothing. He gets more crap than he needs, and more crap than I can fit in this tiny house. Both grandmothers, and to an extent his own mother, contribute to this. No matter how we ask for them to tone it down has been obscene each year.

To me the holiday season is no longer a time of celebration, reflection, and family. It has simply become a matter of survival. I will enjoy Christmas morning with my son this year. He is two and knows something special is coming. He will be pleased with what Santa has in store for him. Christmas morning will also mark the end of the holiday nightmare which I am also looking forward to.

Anger Management

Over the short history of this blog I have repeatedly commented on the difficulty I have writing about depression. In order to keep things making any sense I said I would pick a single piece and focus on that. In the past week I spent a great deal of time talking about loss. I even experienced a small, but significant, loss last week that though I didn’t write about it specifically, highlighted in my own mind a lot of what I was trying to say. In this blog post I want to talk about the day to day consequences of feeling that you have lost so much. There is the obvious sadness that comes along with all this, but I am talking about anger.

A lot of people that experience depression and a sense of loss carry that “angry at the world” attitude, and having been down this path myself I can see how that could easily be. My anger has never really been focused in that direction. I learned lessons about fairness at an early age, the take away point basically being that there is no such thing. I could write an entire commentary on what I consider to be the lack of truth in the world’s most dangerous four letter words, fair and free, but that is probably not a topic for a surviving depression blog. The point here is that I developed an understanding of how the world works long ago, and my life has repeatedly reinforced this model. I accept this with resignation not anger. There are specific circumstances that have left me angered, but to generically focus my anger at the world has never been part of my depression.

The anger that I fight with comes mostly from the fatigue of making it through the days, months, and years of trying to live moment by moment, breath by breath. The fatigue of living a life filled with depression and anxiety. I am short tempered, but passive. I know that sentence makes little sense, but I feel a lot more anger than I show. I swallow much of it. Occasionally it will show itself in an argument, but I carry most of it in my guts. If I am alone I may release it in a shout or tirade of yelling and cursing, but even that is rare. I often have the urge to throw things. In the moment it feels like if I could grab something and heave it across the room all the pain inside me would be released through my hand and be sent traveling away attached to whatever object had the misfortune of being within reach. When I was a kid I have memories of going into my back yard and throwing rocks at a tree when I was upset about something. As adult throwing things is not an option. This is not a grown up way to deal with problems, and cleaning up whatever mess get made isn’t going to help my mood at all so I exercise restraint, and despite the urge have never thrown anything in anger as an adult.

Anger and short temperedness actually seem to be family traits. Most of the men in my family are short tempered, and can be flat out mean. My Dad was that way when I was a kid, and I swore I would never be like that. I have seen what it can cost a family unit and I refuse to put my wife and child through what I went through. I spent a lot of time trying to find alternative ways to argue, and learned to put on a calm passive front even when I was boiling inside. Before my wife and I were married she would get upset when we argued because I appeared not to care. The angrier she got the calmer I became. It made her feel as if whatever we were fighting about wasn’t important to me which would cause her to become even more upset. I hate fighting with my wife. My “what if” brain takes me too scary places having to do with the end of our marriage, which gives her all the power in every argument. Every fight is a failure in my mind, and we don’t fight very well. There are ways to fight in a marriage that are not as destructive as others, but I have never felt that we have been very good at that. The result is I avoid arguments at almost any cost. Those that I cannot avoid I seek to end as quickly as possible. A harmonious domestic life is more important to me that being right. Of course this has the obvious downfall of leaving one feeling like their opinions and feelings are insignificant in the relationship, leading to further sense of loss. The cycle of depression is cruel.

Like Sadness and loss are my nearly constant companions so too is anger a frequent visitor to my world. Some is an understandable result of my circumstances and some is undoubtedly genetic. The way I deal with it, or don’t deal with for that matter, is all learned behavior.  It has become increasingly clear over the years, and even more so as I have tried to write this, that I don’t deal with it well. I need to find some way to vent this energy and these feelings in a constructive rather than destructive way. The challenge is I am not sure I can tell which is which. So I will pose the question to anybody who may be reading this. Can you relate to what I have written? How do you manage anger and arguments in your relationships? How do you manage any generalized anger you may have at your circumstances? For many carrying around too much anger can be dangerous, making dialogue on the subject important. My availability to moderate and respond to comments is somewhat limited, but I would love to hear what people have to say about this, and will try to get comments and responses up quickly.