Positive Changes

When I last posted here over two weeks ago there was a lot going on. I had just been informed about a new employment opportunity, my Coast Guard documents were moving again, and I had just had an epic failure in an MRI machine. There was a lot of turmoil and I wasn’t really feeling all the good. Over the past two weeks my wife and son had their winter break, and last week my son and I lived through a horrible flu like bug with fevers, chills, coughs, and snot that my wife brought home from her classroom. It has been a wild couple weeks, but I am happy to report that all the issues I listed above have been resolved. At the risk of having this read like a journal entry let me get you up to speed.

As I had written about before the plan for my elbow MRI was to make a trip to a facility that had a large bore machine just to take a look and see if I thought I could make it work. It took a week or so for me to find the time to pull that off, but about a week and a half ago I was finally able to get to their office and have a look. I had hoped that they would allow me give the machine a test run, but the just let me stand in the doorway and look at it. The truth was it didn’t look that much bigger. It was noticeably shorter, but it didn’t look like the opening was significantly larger. Without a whole lot of choice in the matter I went ahead and scheduled a time. Two days later I was again sitting in the waiting room when the same lady who showed me the machine before came to get me. She recognized me from the “tour”. They got me situated on my belly at which point the opening really didn’t look that much bigger. I almost bolted at that point, but I figured I would let them put in me in and see what happened. When the table slid into the machine I was pleasantly surprised. My shoulders fit in without touching the sides, and I could keep my head up which allowed me to see through the machine. I was tense but I closed my eyes and focused on pleasant thoughts. I was fishing with my dad. I could feel the sun on my skin; I could hear the rope in the hauler, and see the water spraying off the rope in the sunlight. It worked and in about twenty five minutes it was over. I felt like a new man with that weight off my shoulders.

I also posted here a couple weeks back that the sacrifices I had made relative to the Klonopin had paid off, and my Coast Guard documents were finally moving. There were a few minor post medical review hiccups, but last week I received an envelope from the National Maritime Center that contained my credentials with all the privileges I had asked for. The process took four and a half months, but it is over for another five years. There was a letter enclosed that I need to sign and return that explains my waiver for Major Depressive Disorder and states that chronic use of Klonopin will void my credentials, and that any use of the drug within 46 hours of exercising the privileges of my credentials is prohibited.

The final update involves my employment situation. As I expected my potential employer sent me a proposed outline for a job offer. It wasn’t and official offer, but it was the groundwork for putting something together we could both live with. They missed the mark financially by a little. They were talking about making an offer that would have be about $1,000 a year below by 2011 income which was my worst earning year since 2003. It was a starting place, but I wasn’t thrilled. I agreed to take to them last Monday. Over the weekend prior to the appointment I struggled with the potential decision. I was going to ask for a little more money, but even if they turned me down on the money the job was so much more secure. Should I take it anyway? It was a lot more driving and involved some things that I didn’t really want to do, but on the other hand they were asking me to take on some greater challenges in marketing and promotion that could be interesting. Over that weekend I began to come down with the crud my wife brought home from work and Sunday I had a mild fever. I got about two hours of sleep Sunday night. I couldn’t make my brain stop moving. I didn’t want to make this decision. There was no clear right answer.

Monday morning I was sitting at this computer doing a couple emails prior to leaving the house when at 7:30 my phone rings. I pick it up and the Caller ID shows the number for the salesperson’s cell phone at the company where I am going to discuss employment. It is the cell phone number that will be mine if I end up working there. What is strange is that the sales guy who was leaving is supposed to be starting his new job. Nobody should have that phone right now. When I answer I hear the voice of the guy who was supposed to be leaving. He never really wanted to go, and his bosses made him the same offer they made me. This amounted to a decent raise for him, and he was calling to let me know he took the offer. There was no longer going to be an opening.

I was relieved that the job situation took care of itself, and I was spared making a difficult decision. Some good did end up coming from the conversations I had with my wife about the potential changes. We had never intended to live in our current home more than a couple years. The housing market had other plans, and we have been here seven years. Our son is 2 ½ and one thing we are in complete agreement on is that we don’t want him in this school system. Talking about all the potential professional changes for me led us to realize that we are only a year and a half from preschool. If we want to get out of here we better start figuring out how we are going to do it. The realtor that sold us this house came by Saturday, and thinks we can get out of here for what we owe, and maybe even a slight profit. We have been offered a piece of family land with enough value to provide instant equity on a new place which should prevent us from needing a down payment or PMI so getting out of here without much profit should work ok. The wheels are turning now and we are beginning to make progress in a new direction.

My head is doing well. With the MRI and job decision behind me my anxiety levels are noticeably lower. I have been sleeping pretty well, which leads me to believe that maybe the post Klonopin insomnia is finally over. Maybe the withdrawal is complete. Things are certainly looking up.

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Klonopin Free

It was a week ago tonight that I took the last Klonopin that I will hopefully ever have. With the previous reductions in dosage I didn’t feel any effects right away. I would drop the dose Friday night and start feeling a little off by Monday. Those feelings would generally last into Wednesday, but I was better by Wednesday afternoon and ready for the next drop Friday. This time I got hammered the very next day. I am sure that a lot of it was in my head, but Saturday was the worst day I have experienced in the last four or five years. It was terrible and included an unfortunate little display in front of my wife and child. The aftershocks of the day carried over into Sunday, and I was still pretty edgy on Monday. Tuesday was back to work after the long holiday week and after a rough start I was feeling pretty good in the afternoon. Things have improved at a fairly steady rate since.

Clonazepam tablets Klonopin 0.5mg.

Image via Wikipedia

I saw the shrink for a follow up appointment on Wednesday and he seemed pleased with the progress. He told me that if you consider the body and just a physical vessel the withdrawal symptoms from the Klonopin shold be gone in 5 -7 days. Apparently this is what they have observed in laboratory animals. Of course I have a brain that is guilty of over thinking makes the situation much more complex and he said  I could be feeling a little off for the next six months. Knowing that there is actually no physical effect from the drug left has been helpful to me in coping with what has been going on. I at least know that I am more in control of what is happening in my brain than it may feel like.

Through the past week I have been struggling some in two broad areas; sleep, and stomach upset. I wrote a couple weeks back about a horrid night of insomnia. I don’t kick an experience like that easily and predictably it has stuck with me. I haven’t been through anything as bad, but in the nights following I would take two are three hours to get to sleep each night. That carried into this first part of the week when about Wednesday night it only took about an hour. Last night I only recall tossing around a little and looking at the clock one time. I may have been to sleep in as little as twenty or thirty minutes, but staying asleep was an altogether different story. I was up every couple hours through the night. The other sleep oddity that popped up earlier in the week was the appearance of regular and strange dreams. On Klonopin dreams would occasionally happen, but they were rare and it was even rarer for me to remember any detail. Over the last few days I have had vivid and strange dreams every night. I still don’t recall a lot of detail as I write this, but I do remember having clear memories of some of the more bizarre dreams first thing in the morning. This isn’t really a problem, but some of the stranger scenes can be a little unsettling when you are already questioning how your brain is working. It will take some getting used to if it continues.

The stomach upset is at least as big a problem as the sleeping. When I was a teenager everybody quaintly referred to my nearly constant mild stomach upset as a “nervous stomach”. Sure. Apparently as an adult life makes me nervous as I have a stomach ache in the form of gas, cramping and diarrhea nearly everyday. The closest thing to a cure I have found is the SSRI type anti-depressant. Of course anybody who has been following this blog knows how much I hate those pills and why. Since the Klonopin has been gone my body has doubled down on the quantity and intensity of these stomach problems. When it really gets rolling I may have significant stomach pain eight or ten times throughout the day leading to five urgent trips to the bathroom. That number would be higher if I worked in a place that actually provided regular access to a restroom. There is nothing like driving down the road trying not to shit your pants multiple times a day. I discovered a product called Imodium AD Multi Symptom that treats both diarrhea and gas. I have taken it twice in the past two weeks, and it seems to bottle me up with little or no cramping for a couple days (no regular bathroom visits either) before the symptoms start to return. I don’t know what the long term effect would be of taking this shit (or anti shit?) a couple times a week would be, but I have a feeling I am going to find out.

So that is where it stands at this point. I don’t feel a lot different than I did on the medication other than the problems described above, and none of those problems are new. This Withdrawal has been unpleasant, but the serotonin withdrawal syndrome I experienced the last time I stopped the lexapro may have been worse overall. As far as the Coast Guard is concerned when I have been off the klonopin “four to six weeks” I provide them a letter from the doctor and records from the pharmacist, and they will reevaluate my application. Lets hope for a good month.

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.

Insomnia

Yesterday I had an appointment to discuss where I stand in the process of discontinuing the Klonopin. Prior to the appointment the day had been going very well. The antibiotic from for the sinusitis is working well, and after two doses I was feeling much better on that front. It seems the sinus infection may have been exacerbating the withdrawal symptoms. Other than feeling uneasy and strangely emotional I was doing pretty well. Still after Monday and Tuesday I wanted to talk about the steepness of the taper. He advised me that slowing the taper would probably just prolong the misery and my best course of action would be to continue as we originally discussed. Given that I did feel much better yesterday I agreed.

Last night I was struck with the worst case of insomnia I have had since I started taking the Klonopin ten years ago. One of the worst symptoms of the anxiety was the inability to sleep. I don’t know how it goes for other folks, but for me the inability to sleep becomes like a snowball rolling down a hill. As it becomes apparent that I am not going to get to sleep easily it becomes harder and harder to get to sleep. The anxiousness begins to take over as I calculate the decreasing number of hours between the current time and the time I need to get up. Will I be able t function through the day? What if this happens again tomorrow? Jesus I need some fucking sleep!! And on it goes until some ungodly time in the wee hours of the morning.

When I was using Klonopin on the rare occasions that this process got started I would get up and take another pill. The double dose was always enough to put an end to the problem. Last night that was not an option. I tried everything under the sun. I always find holding my wife in the spoons position to be very comforting. It has helped before, but I recently developed tendonitis in my shoulder and took a fall on the elbow on the same side making lying in the position painful. I tried it for awhile anyway, but it was clear the pain was too distracting. When my mind began racing I tried some deep breathing relaxation exercises. Nope. Then I tried counting, something that seems to keep my mind focused, but I couldn’t seem to make that work. I got up and took some advil to ease the discomfort in my arm, and the mild headache I still had from the sinusitis. Nope. About 1:00 I woke my wife to tell her what was up. I don’t know why, but I was feeling very alone and needed to share. Really kind of a dickhead move on my part. Like a typical guy I am always ready for a nap after sex so for a long time I considered masturbating. My wife was sleeping next to me, and something about that just didn’t feel right so I let that go for awhile. At 2:30 I took anothe dose of Buspar. It doesn’t have the same sedative effect as the Klonopin, but anything was worth a shot.  By 2:50 I had been in bed and awake for nearly five hours and was getting desperate. I pushed the covers back and began to try a little self pleasuring. I figured the endorphin rush from an orgasm would be relaxing enough to lessen my anxiety and let me sleep. How clinical off me. I had hardly gotten started when my wife who had slept through the entire process so far picked up her head and asked if that noise was me. Busted. Shit. I said it was and she was snoring again instantly, but the moment was lost so I rolled over put my head into my pillow and began counting again. It was 2:53 and I resolved to not look at the clock again. I got all the way to 661 before I began losing my place. My mind would wander some, but I could bring myself back. This was a good sign. I think I began to doze but would quickly reawaken and begin counting again. I recall getting over 700, but nothing after until the alarm went off at six. My wife kindly took our son into the bathroom with her while she showered letting me get a little more rest, but by 6:45 I was reading “Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel” to a bright eyed and bushy tailed two year old.

Now it is time to get cleaned up some and go to work for the first time all week. I feel pretty good about it though I have a lot to do after taking the first three days off to look after the boy. I am obviously exhausted, but it is a sunny day here so hopefully I can get through the driving, stay awake, and get home before it gets dark. Something that happens way to early around here, but at least we are starting to go the right direction with that. Let s hope for decent night’s sleep tonight, and continued easing of the withdrawal effects.