Zoloft

The increase in anxiety after dropping the Mirtazapine quickly became intolerable. I have grown weary of the daily struggle to go about my life. It feels like every moment of the day when I am outside my home is a battle. It’s not quite that bad in reality, but anxiety attacks were become a daily occurrence, and after a while the fight simply wears you down. It was becoming obvious that things were getting worse, and the rate of decline was accelerating. It was time to put the brakes on. This is where I was when I called the doctor last Tuesday to ask for a Zoloft prescription. Continue reading

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

Weighing Changes

It has been ten days since I have taken any medication for depression or anxiety. I saw the doctor a week ago, and asked him how long it would take for the Wellbutrin to be completely out of my system. For some reason I need to know when it is really gone. He replied that it would take about two weeks. So by the start of next week I will be really living without anything flowing through my brain to keep things in check. By now I am sure that whatever the levels of medication are in my system they have become pretty low and things are going pretty well.

I found this visit to the shrink a little peculiar. After I asked about how long it would take to be completely rid of the drug he launched into this whole speech about how it shouldn’t be considered a failure if I need to go back on the Wellbutrin. He must have said it three or four times over the course of the appointment. He pointed out that depression is an episodic illness and in future years I may have a reoccurrence. At first I just figured he was trying to be sure that if things do slip I will not be afraid to seek some help and get back on the medication, but after the second or third time it started to sound like he was expecting failure. I am sure he is not but this is a sensitive time and I would have liked a little more positive energy from him.

He was curious about how I was feeling off both the Klonopin and at the reduced doses of Wellbutrin. How I feel is of course the best part of this so I have him the list:

–          My Energy levels are higher

–          I Have lost a bunch of weight

–          My Sex drive is through the roof

–          My General Outlook is brighter

Of course if you are going to look at one side of the coin you need to look at the other, and there have been some significant challenges as well. I have written about them here before and they continue to be a challenge. I am still learning to have a wider range of emotions. I never got angry before and I have struggled some to manage it. The truth is that “getting angry” could also fit up on the list of positives. I have learned over the last couple months that by offering an outlet to my feelings the angst becomes much more fleeting. I don’t harbor negative thoughts for hours or days. I let them out and they are gone.

Another change that could be on both sides of the coin is already listed in with the positives and that is the changes in my sex drive. I love having it back, but when I was just chugging along with limited libido frequency was a problem inside my marriage, and now that I am feeling better the problem has been magnified significantly. I had hope that things were getting better, and they did for awhile, but it continues to be a major concern for me.

The last negative is the general increase in day to day anxiousness. The Klonopin and even the higher doses of SSRI’s and Wellbutrin kept a lot of the anxious feelings in check, but they are now back at low levels. Sometimes this anxiousness builds up to the point of causing discomfort for me, but I have been able to manage it thus far. This is the one I need to watch the closest as it could turn for the worst the quickest. It is almost as if once my brain chemicals begin to flow a certain way they always take that path. Right now things are on and even keel, but if I let too much anxiety into my life I am concerned my brain will magnify what I feel out of habit. I am not sure this makes a lot whole lot of sense, but it is a concern for me.

If I were putting marbles on a scale the anxiety would be a Shooter while the others would be your regular sized marbles. Even so with sex and anger basically canceling themselves on both sides I think the scale tips pretty solidly to the positive side of the equation. I have been feeling good. I am happy. Most of all I am hopeful that this may be my new reality for awhile.

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

Sweet Relief

After the previous nights torment I was exhausted when it came time to turn in last night. I was careful about caffeine and sugar intake in the afternoon, and tried to generally disengage from things as the evening wore on. I had a terrible headache but a couple Advil quieted that down, and my amazing wife saw to it that I got the previously mentioned endorphin rush just before lights out. The result was a blissful eight hours of sleep.

As I have gone through the day I have been feeling tired and am generally unmotivated. Either as a side effect of the antibiotic for the sinusitis or as a withdrawal symptom from the Klonopin my lower GI has not been my friend all week. Yesterday was particularly bad, and today everything is all gurgley (is that a word?) and on edge. I am done working for a week so hopefully that all works itself out before I go back on the road. Of course stomach upset and diarrhea are a couple of the daily physical symptoms I have dealt with for years so that might be hoping for too much. I have not had any real significant reoccurrence of the anxiety symptoms I was feeling Tuesday which I will take as a good sign.

Tomorrow I drop another step in my Klonopin dose. It is not a great day for that as Christmas Eve night involves a lot of time out of my house doing family things. I can feel myself tightening up a bit just writing about it so it should be fun. I have a way out and may just take it. This drop will leave me taking only a half a dose before bed, 25% of the daily dose I took for a decade. If all continues to go well next Friday at bedtime will be the last time I take any Klonopin. At this point I am sort of looking forward to it. The doctor swears I will feel like a new person once I am off the stuff and the withdrawal effects are gone. I feel like I might have gotten a glimpse of that yesterday. Other than the stomach upset and fatigue I felt really good. It was better than I remember feeling in a while. The only other change I have noticed is that I have been a bit more emotional lately. I have felt that emotion pushing up towards my tear ducts several times over the past week. That is not something that is “normal” for me.

Being home with my wife and child all week will make it very hard to write much. I will check in if I can but no promises. I hope everybody has a very merry Christmas, and survives the day unscathed.